Joseph Kitagawa

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Joseph Mitsuo Kitagawa
Mitsuo Kitagawa

(1915-03-08)March 8, 1915
DiedOctober 7, 1992(1992-10-07) (aged 77)
NationalityUnited States
EducationPh.D., University of Chicago
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
Notable work
On Understanding Japanese Religion, Religions of the East, Religion in Japanese History, The History of Religions
Notable ideas
a world of meaning

Joseph Mitsuo Kitagawa (March 8, 1915 – October 7, 1992) was an eminent Japanese American scholar in religious studies. He was Professor Emeritus and Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is considered as one of the founders of the field of the history of religions. He is particularly known for his outstanding contributions to the study of religious traditions in Asia and intercultural understanding of the East and the West.[1]

Kitagawa was born in Osaka Prefecture. He graduated from Rikkyo University in Tokyo in 1937. He came to the United States to study theology in 1941. During World War II, Kitagawa was interned at the Minidoka War Relocation Center at Hunt, Idaho, where he remained until October 1945. He received his B.D. from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 1947. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and joined the faculty of the Divinity School in 1951. He became a U.S. citizen in 1955.[2]

Kitagawa was a founding editor of the History of Religion. He served as President of the American Society for the Study of Religions from 1960 to 1972 and Vice President of the International Association for the History of Religions from 1975 to 1985. He was Visiting Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Tokyo, and Koyasan University.[3]

His wife, Evelyn M. Kitagawa, was a renowned sociologist, and his daughter, Anne Rose Kitagawa, became a notable curator of Asian art.


  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1966). Religion in Japanese history. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1968). Religions of the East. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1987). On understanding Japanese religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1987). The history of religions: Understanding human experience. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1990). Spiritual liberation and human freedom in contemporary Asia. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1990). The quest for human unity: A religious history. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1992). Religious studies, theological studies, and the university-divinity school. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (1992). The Christian tradition: Beyond European captivity. Philadelphia, PA: Trinity Press International.

Edited books[edit]

  • Kitagawa, J. M. (Ed.). (1959). Modern trends in world religions. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (Ed.). (1969). Understanding modern China. Chicago, IL: Quadrangle Books.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (Ed.). (1984). American refugee policy: Ethical and religious reflections. Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (Ed.). (1985). The history of religions: Retrospect and prospect. New York, NY: Macmillan.
  • Kitagawa, J. M. (Ed.). (1989). The religious traditions of Asia. New York, NY: Macmillan.
  • Kitagawa, J. M., & Cummings, M. D. (Eds.). (1989). Buddhism and Asian history. New York, NY: Macmillan.
  • Kitagawa, J. M., & Long, C. H. (Eds.). (1969). Myths and symbols: Studies in honor of Mircea Eliade. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Eliade, M., & Kitagawa, J. M. (Eds.). (1959). The history of religions: Essays in methodology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


  1. ^ "Joseph M. Kitagawa, Ex-Dean Of Divinity School at U. of C." Chicago Sun-Times. October 9, 1992. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2010.
  2. ^ Goldman, Ari L. (October 9, 1992), "No Headline", The New York Times
  3. ^ Frank E. Reynolds and Theodore M. Ludwig (Eds.), Transitions and Transformations in the History of Religions: Essays in Honor of Joseph M. Kitagawa, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1980, pp. 1–9.