John Gouverneur Mosher

November 23, 1934September 27, 2012

John Gouverneur Mosher, who wrote extensively on Japanese culture, died on September 27, 2012 at his home in Arlington, Virginia. He was 77. The cause was cardiac arrest.

Mr. Mosher graduated cum laude from South Kent School. He entered Princeton University and enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. Upon graduation from Princeton, he went on active duty at the U.S. Naval Communications Station at Kamiseya in Japan where he developed a love of Japanese language, history and culture. He became proficient in Japanese and married Nadeshiko Yamaguchi. His most important work was Kyoto, A Contemplative Guide which remained in print continuously from 1964 to 1999. He was motivated by his disappointment in the books available at that time on Kyoto. It told the story of Kyoto’s history through studying a succession of temples and palaces. One reader called the book “the best guide to anything, anywhere.” Other works included Japan Caught Passing, Japanische Postamter in China und der Mandschurei mit Kwantung 1876-1922 (in German) and Japanese Post Offices in China and Manchuria. Mr. Mosher became a recognized expert on Japanese postage stamps and over the years wrote 22 articles on this subject for a German Philatelic magazine – all in German.

Mr. Mosher lived for nearly 20 years near Salzburg, Austria where he taught skiing and sang in the Salzburg Opera. On his return to the United States in 1983, he joined USIA where he directed overseas cultural and policy programs. He and one staffer, Saul Gefter, arranged for one Afghan per province to be taught print, video and voice media skills. The International Herald Tribune reported in 1989 nine “dirty tricks” by the Americans which forced the Soviets to leave Afghanistan. One of the “dirty tricks” was his project which the Soviets called a “Dirty American propaganda campaign against the peaceful intentions of the Soviet Union . . .”

While at USIA, Mr. Mosher also served as United States member, U.S. Olympic Committee. In 1988 he became International Director, Special Olympics International. He negotiated official recognition by National Olympic Committees on site in many countries such as Brazil, USSR, Germany, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Austria and Latvia. Traveling to many parts of the world with Sargent Shriver, he helped expand the Special Olympics program from 57 to 119 countries. He retired in 1992. Mr. Mosher continued to write extensively in retirement. He authored Unavoidable Germans: Art vs. Politics, and the Consequences which described how a man such as Hitler could become the dictator of a country known for its philosophers, artists and musicians. He also contributed editorial columns under the banner, desde Washington, for the newspaper El Informador in in Guadalajara, Mexico. A selection of these columns was later published in his book, 2000 desde Washington. Mr. Mosher was a founding board member of Post-Classical Ensemble. He worked closely with Music Director Angel Gil-Ordonez and Artistic Director Joseph Horowitz to make the ensemble a highly successful pioneering experimental musical laboratory in the Washington, DC cultural arena.

Mr. Mosher’s first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by Diane Lewis, his wife of 27 years.


John Gouverneur Mosher

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted

Keiko in Kyoto

October 6, 2014

It has been two years since Mr. Mosher passed away. Yet, everyday, I realize how great, talented, generous, kind and exceptional person he was. The world is just not the same without Mr. Mosher; the ultimate gentleman who understood Kyoto so deeply.

Lucey Bowen

February 25, 2014

As I complete a three year study to become a docent at SF Asian Art Museum, I reread Kyoto, A Contemplative Guide, and am so grateful for the life and work of Gouveneur Mosher.
He brings to life the art and the history of the heart of Japan.

Martha Sneed

October 15, 2012

Our sincere condolences are extended to Diane Lewis in her loss.
Horace and Martha Sneed

Carol Smith

October 14, 2012

What a privilege to have know John.

Barry Passett

October 14, 2012

Diane--Too bad he's not closer to Wagner, who went the other way. Margery and I are thinking of you and offering sincere condolences.
Barry Passett

William Sandrik

October 12, 2012

John was a very kind and generous man, and he will be missed by all who knew him. I knew John through his knowledge of the Japanese language and philately, which he had a profound interest in, and was ever so helpful in our translation project many years ago. His many interests in Japanese culture and his remembrance of time spent in Austria will always be remembered.

Waimea Williams

October 9, 2012

John was quite a scholar of the gentlemanly variety, with a sly wit, who bore his learning and blue-blood heritage lightly, and had a wonderful appreciation of music. A sportsman as well. What great stories he told about Japan, and dogs, and why we should visit a certain restaurant on the way to Vienna because it still knew how to prepare and serve tea the right way.

Sally Betts

October 7, 2012

Gouv, to all who knew you, you were 'one off' - a special one-of-a-kind person. There was never a moment in our nearly fifty years together when you were not there. You will be much missed, but never forgotten.

We hold you in our hearts and memories.
Love always,
Roger and Sally

Roger Betts

October 6, 2012

On Graduation from Princeton, Gouv was awarded his Naval Officer's sword in recognition of his excellent performance as a Midshipman. Commissioned Ensign in the Naval Reserve. He first was stationed at the Naval Communications headquarters in Washington, DC. Seeking adventure he asked for and was granted overseas duty in Japan as noted above. There, he was assigned duty as a Division Officer and performed superbly winning recognition for his Division and himself. He eventually resigned his Commission having been promoted to Lieutenant.
He was very proud of the fact that he had served his country as an officer in the United States Navy.
At the age of 8 Gouv was building models of US Navy aircraft and followed the progress of the War in the Pacific where his father (a Commander in the Navy) served. At South Kent School, he prepped for a Navy career by (among other things) studying celestial navigation. As a young boy and man he sailed small boats from Chatham, MA. He was a sailor with a great love for the sea.
Gouv was my friend for 70 years. He was a leader and inspiration for all who knew him. He was a man of many talents with a great heart and mind. He enriched our lives. Though his flesh is gone the memory of him lives on in our hearts.
I would like to think that he would say to us, if he could -
"Miss me, but let me go for I came to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me.
I want no rites in a gloom filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for too long and not with your head held low.
Remember the love that we once shared:
miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
and each must go it alone.
It's part of the Master's plan,
a step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart,
go to the friends we know, and bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me, but let me go."

Rest your oars, Gouv. Your voyage is ended safe and Home at last.

October 6, 2012

Because we loved,
There will be tears.
Because we laughed,
There will be memories.
Because John Mosher lived,
There will still be joy.

Deepest condolences,
Charlie and Maya Magee