Japan expert, writer Donald Richie dies at 88


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Richie, from Lima, Ohio, came to Japan in 1947 during the American occupation.

Has the American occupation of Japan actually ended, then...?

-18 ( +8 / -24 )

A charming, generous, gifted man. A very sad loss, indeed.

18 ( +19 / -2 )

"When you come over here, or anyplace, and you get your eyes opened, you can never get them shut again."

Donald Richie


23 ( +23 / -1 )

Richie was the Roger Ebert of Japan-focused writers. The dean of the genre.

One great thing about his writing is that it shows the individual humanity of his subjects, and is not so concerned with taking up political stances. Thus, an answer to Geoff's question would be difficult to make based on Richie's books. However, for Richie personally, the "occupation" must have ended when he was no longer assigned the (seemingly miserable) job of interviewing P.O.W.s, and could spend as much time at the cinema as he liked.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I've got to give Richie credit, at least he made an effort to take the Japanese seriously. It's actually quite useful to have "experts" like him available to explain Japan to me. I've tried watching their films (at the rate of about one a decade) and was seldom able to sit through to the end. RIP

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

He was able to describe both the good and bad aspects of Japan in a straightforward way.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

How sad.

When I first came over (90's, before the internet), the English newspaper was kind of a big deal, especially if you lived in inaka. I remember reading his weekly book review in the Japan Times. Full of insight of a lifetime living here, and reading all sorts of things jpn-related, asia-related and so on, those reviews were full of information and anecdotes that really gave me perspective on a lot of things, and were one of the things I looked forward to, whether enjoying myself living life, or lonely from culture shock, or "only-gaijin-around syndrome", and a way to also have perspective on myself and my situation. I kept reading them all the way along, and was sad the last 5 or 7 years when they stopped being published by the Japan Times. I really respect him.

I read a couple of his books too. There's two or three with similar titles, "Partial Views" is one, (others are some other kind of view title), that are collections of essays about travel in Japan, acquaintances, various observations, and interviews of famous screen actors/ directors. REally astute, humanistic observations, I highly recommend them to anyone wondering who this guy is, or wishing to scratch beneath the surface of this country.

RIP Donal Richie.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

japan times obit link

1 ( +1 / -0 )

His book on the films of Kurosawa is still the gold standard. A fascinating scholar and writer -- he will be missed.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

One man who knew what he was talking about

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ah, not Donald Keene. Still sad though. Jack Seward went a few years ago, too.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Accomplished man.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@David Reinke

You're right, nobody will be able to surpass Donald Richie's reviews of Kurosawa's films. It wasn't only authoritative knowledge of the director, actors and plots, but also a knack for getting us to relate to his own struggles to understand what he (and we) watched.

For example, here's a paragraph that I like from his introduction to the Seven Samurai film script published in 1970:

"Besides technique, there is something else about this film (and about most of Kurosawa's pictures) that defies analysis because there are no words to describe the effect. What I mean might be called the irrational rightness of an apparently gratuitous image in its proper place, and the image that I always think of is that wonderful and mysterious scene in Zero de conduite where it is apparently Sunday, Papa is reading the paper, and the boy's little sister moves the fishbowl (hanging on a chain from its stand) so that when the brother removes his blindfold he can see the sun touching it. The scene moves me to tears and I have no idea why. It was not economical of Vigo to have included it, it "means" nothing--and it is beautiful beyond words."

After reading this, I started looking for and enjoying what Richie calls the "thrown away" scenes that have been allowed against reason to remain in movies.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Excellent writer- great insight into the intricacies of Japanese ways . . . I learned a lot from him works - - -May he rest in peace.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japan needs more people like Donald Richie and Alex Kerr whose insight and nuance bring balance to any analysis of Japan and its somethimes confusing ways... something more recent commentators with personal axes to grind could learn from....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Don't know too much about the man, but I know he was a man deserving of the utmost respect for his open-mindedness towards other cultures despite living in a culture often closed to outsiders, and for his open-minded and knowledgable criticism of films and Japanese culture in general. Living to 88 is an important number here as well, and nothing to scoff at. RIP.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

His "Scenes from Japanese Lives" is an excellent collection of portraits on celebrities and average people. Lots of great insights into Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree with Lowly. Reading his column in The Japan Times was something of a lifeline in my early years in Japan. An intelligent man with deep insight, a pleasure to read what he wrote. Rest in Peace.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

He seemed to have a thing for the demi-monde; I always wondered what was up with that.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

His "The Image Factory" is very interesting too. I exactly don't agree with its tone and general conclusion, that Japanese fads and fashions are a form of conformism, but he some nails on the head.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, Nessie, I believe Mr Richie was at least bi-sexual if not gay. This is pretty clear from "The Inland Sea". Personally, I think this gave him a unique and extremely valuable insight into the below-the-surface aspects of Japanese life and movies. I shall miss him.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I loved his writings. Rest in peace, Mr. Richie.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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