Obituary – Katsumi Hino

Katsumi Hino, who died at the age of 68 on 4 December 2017, was one of the most memorable of the many Japanese students who have studied at St Antony‘s College since the college was founded. When he arrived in September 1992 to undertake a thesis comparing Japanese and British education funded by a Swire scholarship, he was already 42 years old and came with his wife, Yoko, and four children all under the age of nine. The family lived in a tiny apartment in Summertown House, which quickly became a centre for the Japanese community across the whole city. In retrospect, it was probably also the period when the Japanese students collectively enjoyed their greatest influence on the St Antony’s college community and the larger-than-life Hino-san was at the centre of it.
Hino-san was born in July 1949 in a small town in northern Japan as the youngest of five children. After graduating from a local high school, he studied English, first at Dokkyo University and then at International Christian University in Tokyo, before becoming a Senior High School English teacher in his home prefecture of Miyagi. In the early 1980s, he undertook a two-year Masters course in Area Studies at Tsukuba University before becoming a high school teacher at a nearby private internationally-oriented high school for the following ten years until he came to St Antony’s.

Hino-san’s thesis examined some of the subtle differences between Japanese and British education at a time when both countries were looking for ideas from overseas to introduce into their own system. It uncovered many of the underlying assumptions behind both British and Japanese educational thought while demonstrating the difficulty in importing those ideas wholesale into systems based on completely different educational philosophies. While the thesis was submitted to the Department of Educational Studies, it was anthropological in approach and therefore it was not so surprising that when Hino-san returned to Japan he was soon appointed as an associate professor in the department of anthropology at a new university in Kyoto. He subsequently worked as a full professor at Miyagi University (his home town) before, in 2008, taking up a Professorship at his alma mater, Dokkyo University.

At the very beginning of 2010, Hino-san was diagnosed with leukemia. During much of the next decade, he underwent multiple treatments including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from one of his daughters, which – while to his amusement changed his blood type from A to O – never affected his positive outlook on life. Aided by his wonderfully supportive wife Yoko and his children, he continued to teach his devoted students at Dokkyo until the end. Only a month before he died, he sang – from the midst of the 1000 strong audience in his local town hall, as he was unable to get up on the stage itself – a beautiful solo rendition of Moon River.

Hino-san published multiple books and wrote many articles and blogs in Japanese and English on English language education, on foreign and Japanese cultural practices and on the problems of cultural translation (especially of humour). He gave numerous talks to audiences across Japan interested in how Japan compared with other societies. He was a natural anthropologist who liked to demonstrate the coherence of different cultural practices while always emphasising that what societies have in common in much greater than that which makes them different. In that sense, he was a true example of what the Japanese call a kokusaijin (an international person). He had been a member of the Japanese Red Cross Language Service Volunteers since the early 1970s and engaged in, and encouraged his students to engage in, volunteer activities throughout his life; he spoke numerous foreign languages (and was a fine mimic in particular of different English accents); he had a network of friends across the world. He will be much missed by them all.

Roger Goodman