With GEN Douglas MacArthur, Tokyo, 1946
A graduate of Columbia University ('35) and Juilliard Graduate School of Music ('39), Bowers had taught at Hosei University in Tokyo (1940-41), and was tapped for Japanese language training at the Presidio, San Francisco and Camp Savage. Posted to ATIS, Brisbane, he served in the Pacific theater and, at war's end, was the interpreter for the Advance Party, which landed at Atsugi airfield on 28 Aug 45. As personal interpreter for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and as the general's aide-de-camp (1946-48), he lived at the American Embassy with the MacArthur family, and served as interpreter at the initial meeting of MacArthur with the Emperor. While acting as censor of the Japanese theater from 1948-49, he became its sponsor; and in the process gained renown as the savior of the kabuki theater. He was awarded the Bronze Star (1944) and Oak Leaf Cluster (1945), and was decorated by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Sacred Treasure (1985).
Following Occupation duties, Bowers taught at the New School for Social Research, and at Kansas University as Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies. He has also served as music editor or reviewer for House and Garden, Musical America, and American Record Guide. He has appeared in, written or produced more than 50 television programs devoted to the arts and travel in Asia for CBS, ABC, WNET, and PBS. His The Cruelty of Beauty (PBS, 1981)
was the first full length documentary on kabuki and bushido, starring Koshiro VIII and Utaemon VI. Giselle, for which he wrote the script, was awarded the "Golden Eagle" in 1982. He provided simultaneous voice/over translations during stage performances for six tours of the Grand Kabuki throughout the U.S., and provided the same services for performances of Ninagawa Macbeth (1990), Suzuki Dionysius (1991), and other stage productions.
On January 7,1992, he lectured at the Scriabin Museum, Moscow, on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of Scriabin's birth. In August-September 1993, he was the keynote speaker at the International Theatre Institute on Kabuki in Tokyo.
A prolific writer with thousands of articles published in major publications -- The New Yorker, Saturday Review, New York Times, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc. -- Bowers is also the author of Japanese Theatre (1952), Dance in India (1954), Theatre in the East (1956), Broadway: USSR (1963), Islands of the Rising Sun (1965), Scriabin (1969), The New Scriabin (1975; Japanese translation, 1994), as well as the translator of Egyptian Book of the Dead and Primer of Hinduism.
Among his languages, Bowers counts Japanese, Indonesian, Russian, and French.