In Memoriam: Prof. Saiichiro Nakatani

In March, less than two weeks after his final visit to Swansea, we lost our dear colleague, friend and alumnus, Saiichiro Nakatani. The news was devastating for all of us. Today would have been his 51st birthday which he would, no doubt, have celebrated in his inimitable style, with friends, excellent conversation, food and drink, and much cheer.

East Asian man with glasses, suit and tie standing at a lectern at the left edge of the image, in front of a vividly green wall. Next t him, taking up most of the picture is the title screen of his talk. 

Slide shows in one corner a romantic scene (Graecian shepherd and a woman sitting at his feet, under a tree) 

Title: 135 Years of Japanese Reception of Daphnis and Chloe. 

NAKATANI Saiichiro, Keio University, Japan/Universiteit Gent, Belgie.
Sai’s last visit to Swansea: his talk on 17th February 2023

John Morgan, Sai’s PhD supervisor writes:

We are in a state of shock on hearing of the sudden and completely unexpected death of Saiichiro Nakatani. Sai, as he was known to his any friends, came to Swansea in 2001, after taking his first degree in Tokyo and a Masters at Cambridge. He completed his PhD in 2005 and stayed in Swansea for a further period as a Visiting Researcher. He held several academic positions after returning to Japan, culminating in a Professorship in the Department of Foreign Languages at the prestigious Keio University in Tokyo. For the last year of his life he was a visiting research fellow at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

Man in academic robes (teal, with red and teal sleeves), a black suit and a mortarboard.
Saiichiro Nakatani on the day of his graduation.

Sai’s main interest was in the reception of Greek and Latin fiction, and he was in at the beginning of KYKNOS, the research group working on ancient narrative. His PhD thesis traced the use of the novel by Achilles Tatius in the French theatre. He produced the first translation of Achilles Tatius into Japanese and was working on translating the novels of Longus and Heliodorus.

So much for the formalities, but it is as a remarkable person and lovable friend that we most remember Sai. Outwardly unassuming and reserved, he radiated happiness and kindness. Once seen, his beaming smile could never be forgotten, and it was fully on display when he graduated in the Brangwyn Hall, proudly wearing his PhD gown (University of Wales in those days!). He loved Swansea, which he referred to as his second home, and displayed a huge Welsh flag in his university office in Tokyo, probably the only one in Keio. He made regular visits back to his old haunts, and it is both fitting and sad that his last research presentation was at a seminar here just a few weeks ago, when he was full of his plans for the future and in general high spirits.

Sai had an enormous zest for life and made the most of all the places that his career took him to. He became a connoisseur of real ale in Swansea, and was putting his time in Belgium to good use by trying to sample every Belgian beer – a Herculean task staunchly and selflessly undertaken. He had acquired a huge archive of pictures of virtually every dinner he ate and could apparently summon up any particular one instantly on his phone, giggling infectiously as he did so. He made sure to attend concerts and visit every art gallery and place of interest within reach. His last day was devoted to the historic Belgian city of Leuven, and we hope that it was a good one for him.

A man of immense good humour, quiet enthusiasm and lightly-worn learning, he is remembered with great affection by everyone here in Swansea who had the good fortune to know him.

Sai Nakatani at a table surrounded by friends from the Swansea Classics department. On the table: Indian food, drinks.
Our last dinner with Sai Nakatani – 17th February 2023.