Brian Powell was a Scholar of St. Antony's College from 1962-5 writing a thesis on Japanese political theatre. He was a Research Fellow 1965-6, Faculty Fellow 1966-88, Senior Common Room Member 1988-2009 and Emeritus Fellow 2009 to the present. He was Sub-Warden 1985-6.
He is the author of Japan’s Modern Theatre, a century of continuity and change (Routledge/Curzon 2002) and other books and articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japanese theatre. Translations of Japanese plays include Requiem on the Great Meridian and selected essays by Kinoshita Junji, (jointly with Jason Daniel, Nan’undō 2000). At present he is engaged on a translation project with two collaborators: Mayama Seika’s Genroku Chūshingura, a modern ten-play cycle on an eighteenth century vendetta that has attracted the attention of multiple Japanese media from the time it happened until the present day. In 1996 he was awarded a prize by the Yamamoto Yasue no Kai Kinen Kikin for 'outstanding cultural activity relating to theatre.'
He was President of the British Association for Japanese Studies (1988-9) and of the European Association for Japanese Studies (2003-5). He is now an Emeritus Fellow of the former and an Honorary Member of the latter. He was Lecturer in Japanese at the Oriental Institute 1966-2004 and a Tutorial Fellow of Keble College 1988-2004.