On March 26, 2021, Sheila K. Johnson passed away peacefully in her home. Although she resisted accepting the honorary title “JPRI co-founder,” she was every bit that and more. As she recently reflected, “My 50s began with our move from Berkeley to San Diego and my serving as editor, printer, and mail-girl of JPRI—the grandiosely named Japan Policy Research Institute, which I prefer to think of as Chal’s and my mom-and-pop think-tank.” Officially, she served as editor of JPRI from its inception in 1994 until 2009.
She was born Sheila Knipscheer in 1937 in The Hague, Holland, and emigrated to the United States in 1947. She received an A.B. and a Ph.D. in Anthropology, and an M.A. in English, from the University of California, Berkeley. She specialized in cross-cultural gerontology, and her dissertation, Idle Haven: Community-Building Among the Working-Class Retired, was published by the University of California Press in 1972. After teaching at San Francisco, Hayward, and Sonoma State Universities, she became a free-lance writer and published numerous articles in The New York Times Magazine, Commentary, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. In 1975, she published American Attitudes Toward Japan, 1941-1975—a book that she first updated and revised in 1986 for the Simul Press in Tokyo, which published it as Amerika jin no nihon kan. In 1988, Stanford University Press published a still further revised edition as The Japanese Through American Eyes, which appeared as a paperback in 1991.
Sheila Johnson was married to Chalmers Johnson, and first traveled to Japan with him in 1961. She made numerous trips to Japan between 1961 and 1993, and thereafter continued to publish articles and book reviews about women and aging in Japan as well as other topics. Please see the links below for a sampling of her publications at JPRI.
Critique, Vol. I, No. 1: Perspective on Violence: Explaining America to the Japanese
Critique, Vol. II, No. 1: Denying History: Cancelling the A-Bomb Stamp and Prospects for U.S.-Japan Relations in 1995
Critique, Vol. II, No. 4: Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor
Critique, Vol. II, No. 7: Aum Shinrikyo and Oklahoma
Critique, Vol. III, No. 5: Role Narcissism and Suicide in Japan
Critique, Vol. IV, No. 4: The Nasty Japs Again: War Memories and the Movies
Critique, Vol. IV, No. 9: The Chrysanthemum Club Seizes the American Embassy, Tokyo
Critique, Vol. VI, No. 2: Do Asian Women Count?
Critique, Vol. VI, No. 9: Flag Anthems and National Symbols
Critique, Vol. VII, No. 6: Zhang Yimou’s “Not One Less”: Art, Propaganda, or Both?
Critique, Vol. VIII, No. 6: All Art is Propaganda, but Not All Propaganda is Art
Critique, Vol. XIX, No. 5: Review: Patrick Smith’s Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century
Critique, Vol. XXI, No. 12: In the Land of the Brokenhearted
Critique, Vol. XXI, No. 11: Review of Battle Rattle: A Last Memoir of World War II by Roger Boas
Critique, Vol. XXII, No. 1: A Love Letter to Japan
Critique, Vol. XXII, No. 3: Who Will Mind the Children
Critique, Vol. XXII, No. 9: Whither Hong Kong?
Critique, Vol. XXV, No. 2: Chalmers Johnson and Ozaki Hotsumi: A Life-Long Intellectual Love Affair
Occasional Paper No. 23: Of Sex, Okinawa, and American Foreign Policy
Occasional Paper No. 40: Chal: An intellectual Memoir
Occasional Paper No. 42: Remembering Chalmers Johnson