Basic Information




Associate Professor



Research Fields, Keywords

Japanese history, popular culture, cinema

Homepage URL


I arrived at AIU in September, 2015, and have found it a wonderful place to teach! The unique international mixing of students in AIU classes has informed my pedagogical approach and also inspired my research into Japanese film history.

After graduating from college, I traveled abroad--to Japan, as a matter of fact!--and ended up staying for four years before returning to the U.S. to enter graduate school, studying Japanese history. I returned to Japan in 2012-2013 for doctoral research, and graduated in May 2015 with a dissertation on Japanese history as told on film. Specifically, the incredible and enduring popularity of the Bakumatsu period in the cinema continues to fascinate me. Come to my office hours and I'll tell you all about it!

Research Field

Soon after entering graduate school, I began an interdisciplinary research project combining Japanese history and film studies, and I have never looked back! For my doctoral research I watched dozens, perhaps hundreds of Bakumatsu history films (rekishi eiga) from Japan's interwar and wartime periods, analyzing how such films used their Bakumatsu setting to comment on the (prewar or wartime) present. With the completion of that project, my interests have shifted to postwar Japan, the so-called golden age of cinema, and Japanese popular culture's persistent interest in Bakumatsu history--now inflected by the trauma of the war.

Recent Activities

Publication (Bloomsbury, 2018) of my first monograph, "Re-Viewing the Past: the Uses of History in the Cinema of Imperial Japan."

My current (ongoing) research project is on the Other in Japanese cinema.

Message to Students

Hello! I look forward to meeting and getting to know you, and watching you progress in your scholarship. You are always welcome to visit me during my office hours or (by appointment) any other time, to talk about whatever you would like; I hope you will see me as a resource for your academic success, not (at all!) intimidating. I became a professor, after all, because I wanted to mentor young people and learn together with them: I am at AIU to help you. So (to quote Jerry Maguire) I hope you will "help me help you!"

Academic Background (Undergraduate Level) 【 display / non-display

  • Davidson College, Faculty of Arts and Letters, Department of Philosophy, Department of Classics

    University, 2002/05, Graduated, UNITED STATES

Academic Background (Graduate Level) 【 display / non-display

  • Harvard University, History and East Asian Languages

    Doctor's Course, 2015/05, Completed, UNITED STATES

Degree Earned 【 display / non-display

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Japanese history, Harvard University, 2015/05

  • Master of Arts, Japanese history, Harvard University, 2009/05

  • Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy and Classics, Davidson College, 2002/05

Professional Career On-Campus 【 display / non-display

  • Akita International University Faculty of International Liberal Arts Global Connectivity Program, Associate Professor, 2021/04 -

  • Akita International University Faculty of International Liberal Arts Japan Studies Center (Formerly Japan Studies Program), Coordinator, Japan Studies Program, 2019/04 -

  • Akita International University, Coordinator, Themed House Promotion (Komachi Hall), 2019/04 -

  • Akita International University Faculty of International Liberal Arts Japan Studies Center (Formerly Japan Studies Program), Associate Professor, 2019/04 -

Academic Society Affiliations 【 display / non-display

  • American Historical Association, 2014/11 - , UNITED STATES

  • Association for Asian Studies, 2014/12 - , UNITED STATES


Academic Papers 【 display / non-display

  • Choshu: Heart and Soul of the Meiji Restoration, Akita International University Global Review, 2017/03, Sean O'Reilly

    Research paper (university, research institution), Single Author, English

  • Japan's Forgotten Eighteenth Century: Kimura Kenkadō and the Case for Biographical History, Princeton Journal of East Asian Studies, vol.3 (p.18 - 31) , 2012/09, Sean O'Reilly

    Research paper (university, research institution), Single Author, English

Books 【 display / non-display

  • Re-Viewing the Past: the Uses of History in the Cinema of Imperial Japan, Bloomsbury, 2018/08, Sean O'Reilly

    Scholarly Book, Single Author, English

Other Research Activities 【 display / non-display

  • Doctoral completion fellowship, 2014/09 - 2015/05


  • Supplementary Research Grant, 2013/10 - 2014/09


  • Fulbright Grant, 2012/08 - 2013/10



On-Campus Classes/Subjects In Charge of 【 display / non-display

  • 2023, Fall, JAS201-1_F, Japanese History I: Premodern Japan

  • 2023, Fall, JAS370-1_F, Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture: Anime

  • 2023, Spring, JAS202-1_S, Japanese History II: Modern Japan

  • 2023, Spring, JAS375-1_S, Japanese Cinema II: The History Film

  • 2023, Spring, JAS390-1_S, Once Upon a Time in Japan: Traveling Seminar in Japanese History

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