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Donald Richie
Donald Richie began writing regularly for The Japan Times in 1954, initially writing film and stage reviews. In the early '70s he began writing book reviews and continued contributing until 2009. He wrote more than 40 books on Japanese aesthetics, and he is widely considered the pre-eminent expert on Japanese cinema.
For Donald Richie's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jan 25, 2009
Buddhism: a religion for death
Japan is so successfully ecumenical, the various religions of Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam happily living side by side, that one is tempted to doubt Japanese belief in any of them.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jan 11, 2009
Blood, sweat and tears of Zen
Here is an unusually fine translation of a most unusual best-seller: the 1996 "Ku Neru Suwaru: Eiheiji Shugyoki," Kaoru Nonomura's account of the rigors and rewards of hard Zen training.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jan 11, 2009
Blood, sweat and tears of Zen
EAT SLEEP SIT: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple, by Kaoru Nonomura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Kodansha International, 2008, 324 pp., ¥2,600 (cloth) Here is an unusually fine translation of a most unusual best-seller: the 1996 "Ku Neru Suwaru: Eiheiji Shugyoki," Kaoru Nonomura's account of the rigors and rewards of hard Zen training.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Dec 28, 2008
The swift strokes of 'no-brush' calligraphy
KEN-ZEN-SHO: Zen Calligraphy and Painting of Yamaoka Tesshu, with a foreword by Rupert Faulkner, introductions by Sarah Moate and Alex Bennett, an essay by Terayama Tanchu and an afterword by Takemura Eiji. Bunkashi International (Kendo World Publications), 2008, 200 pp., 33 color plates, 67 b/w pictures, ¥6,000 (cloth) Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-1888) was a lay Zen master famous for, among other things, his statement that swordsmanship, Zen Buddhism, and calligraphy were identical in that they aspired to a state he described as "no-mind."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Dec 21, 2008
A trove of fiction, all for the love of women
SPARKLING RAIN and Other Fiction From Japan of Women Who Love Women, edited by Barbara Summerhawk and Kimberly Hughes, with introductions by Hitomi Sawabe and Mieko Watanabe. Chicago: New Victoria Publishers, Inc., 2008, 216 pp., $16.95 (paper) As editor Barbara Summerhawk writes in her introduction to this interesting collection: "In Japan's notoriously patriarchal culture — combined with pejorative notions of homosexuality that are rooted in more recent Western sources — women who love other women have continued to struggle against overwhelming odds."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / BEST OF BOOKS: 2008
Dec 14, 2008
Ready for a little Yuletide reading?
BASHO: The Complete Haiku, translated by Jane Reichhold (Kodansha International)
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Nov 30, 2008
Kabuki rescued by national defeat
KABUKI'S FORGOTTEN WAR: 1931-1945, by James R. Brandon. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, 466 pp., with photographs, $52 (cloth) The role that Japan's "classic" drama, kabuki, played during the 15-year "Sacred War" is largely undiscussed, and even in Japan itself it is usually ignored. Indeed, as the author of this fascinating account says, "that era of military horrors is so embarrassing or painful, even after some seventy years, that most Japanese do not wish to confront it."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Nov 16, 2008
What's between sex and gender?
GENDER GYMNASTICS: Performing and Consuming Japan's Takarazuka Revue, by Leonie R. Stickland. Melbourne, Australia: Trans Pacific Press, 2008, 282 pp., with five plates (I through V). A$49.95 (cloth) The Takarazuka Revue is one of the several entertainment anomalies of Japan. It is an all-female presentation, one that — in the words of the author of this interesting account — "consists of a large stage, numerous cast members, bright lights, huge sets, colorful costumes and spot-lit stars."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Nov 2, 2008
Some 19th-century blood and gore
THE STRAW SANDAL OR THE SCROLL OF THE HUNDRED CRABS by Santo Kyoden, translated by Carmen Blacker, introduction by P.F. Kornicki. Global Oriental, 2008, 116 pp., 28 b/w illustrations by Utagawa Toyokuni, £35 (cloth) Santo Kyoden (pen name Iwase Samuru, 1761-1816) was among the most popular authors of his day and one of his best-sellers was "Mukashi-gatari Inazuma-byoshi," published in 1806 and here translated as "The Straw Sandal."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Oct 19, 2008
A video archive that is music to the ears
JAPANESE VOICES: A Video Archive of Singing Styles and Techniques in the Japanese Language. Compiled, written and edited by Ichiro Nakayama. English translation by Mika Kimula under the supervision of Christopher Yohmei Blasdel. Osaka: Ad Popolo, 2008, Vol. I, 148 pp. (paper); Vol. II, Musical Examples, 4 DVDs; ¥30,000. All the Japanese arts were somewhat mistreated after Japan's 19th-century collision with the West. Temples, shrines, pagodas were threatened with destruction, and the classical noh drama all but vanished. Worst hit was hogaku, Japanese traditional music. In the pathologies that followed Japan's chase after Western ways, native music was neglected and then, to an extent, suppressed.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Sep 21, 2008
Simplicity restored by poetic license
SONG AND STORIES OF THE "KOJIKI" as retold by Yoko Danno, illustrated by Horaku Nakamura. Tokyo/Ontario: Ahadada Books, 2008, 162 pp. $14.95 (paper)
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Sep 7, 2008
Multiple interpretations of a tale told in many forms
ENVISIONING "THE TALE OF GENJI": Media, Gender, and Cultural Production, edited by Haruo Shirane. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008, 400 pp., 11 color plates, 66 b/w illustrations, $32.50 (paper) "The Tale of Genji," Murasaki Shikibu's long monogatari, upwards of a thousand pages in translation, or some three- quarters of a million words, was written in the early 11th century and is often called the world's first novel.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Aug 17, 2008
'One scene/one shot,' one director
KENJI MIZOGUCHI and the Art of Japanese Cinema by Tadao Sato, translated by Brij Tankha, edited by Aruna Vasudev and Latika Padgaonkar. Oxford: Berg Books, 2008, 196 pp., with 35 photographs, £17.99 (paper) This is the English translation of Tadao Sato's defining study of the director, originally published as "Mizoguchi Kenji no Sekai" (1982). It is to be welcomed for a number of reasons.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Aug 10, 2008
Best notes for the bamboo flute
THE SHAKUHACHI MANUAL FOR LEARNING, Revised Edition, by Christopher Yohmei Blasdel. Printed Matter Press, 2008, 202 pp. with many illustrations, musical notations, and an attached CD of practice exercises. ¥3,990 (paper) The shakuhachi is a vertical bamboo flute with five finger holes and a notched mouthpiece. Originally imported from China in the late seventh century, it early assumed its Japanese province.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Aug 3, 2008
The new language of translated films
CINEMA BABEL: Translating Global Cinema, by Abe Mark Nornes. Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2008, 304 pp.,$22.50 (paper) Though foreign film is now seen by all, we are still dependent on translation to discover what is going on up on the big screen or on the little tube. This translation of dialogue can be either graphic text (subtitling) or substituted speech (dubbing).
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jul 27, 2008
Zeami's notes: appreciating blossoming performances
ZEAMI: Performance Notes, translated by Tom Hare. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008, 528 pp., $45 (cloth) Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), the actor, playwright and aesthetic theorist who established the Noh drama as a classical theatrical art, left behind some 21 treatises.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jul 20, 2008
Tokyo: A guide for a certain type of resident
TOKYO: The Complete Residents' Guide, by Andy Sharp, Beau Miller, Frank Spignese, Jennifer Geaconne-Cruz, Julian Satterthwaite, Karryn Cartelle, Tamsin Bradshaw. Dubai: Explorer Group, Ltd., 2008, 444 pp., profusely illustrated, $14.99 (paper) This book, says the introduction, "is going to help you to get to know the city, its people, their culture and customs, and much more." It is not, it avers, just another tourist guidebook. Rather, it is "filled with everything you need to know to make the most of life in Tokyo." In fact, "from local festivals to finding your dream home, we'll tell you how and where to do it."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jul 13, 2008
Beauty of the beasts: mythological and real
A BRUSH WITH ANIMALS: Japanese Paintings 1700-1950, by Robert Schaap, with essays by Willem van Gulik, Henk Herwig, Arendie Herwig-Kempers, Daniel McKee and Andrew Thompson. Leiden: Society of Japanese Arts (distributed by Hotei/Brill), 2007, 206 pp. with 275 color illustrations, $117 (cloth), $81 (paper) This is the catalog of an exhibition at the Rotterdam Kunstahl organized to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the International Society of Japanese Arts, most members of which are museums or private collectors. The theme was Japanese animal imagery, some 250 years of it, with an emphasis on works by artists of the naturalistic Shijo School. Many of the works have never before been reproduced.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jul 6, 2008
Fearless bluestockings in Japan
THE BLUESTOCKINGS OF JAPAN: New Woman Essays and Fiction From Seito, 1911-16, edited by Jan Bardsley. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2007; xii + 308 pp., $70 (cloth), $26 (paper) In 1911 a new publication appeared in Japan. It was singular in that it was written, edited and published entirely by women, and that it was named after an 18th-century English all-women salon (Seito is the translation of Blue Stocking). Few Japanese readers could have appreciated this connection, but this did not prevent the response to the new journal from being surprising.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jun 29, 2008
Having faith in traveling
EXCURSIONS IN IDENTITY: Travel and the Intersection of Place, Gender and Status in Edo Japan, by Laura Nenzi. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, 267 pp., illustrations IX, $57 (cloth) During Japan's Edo Period (1603-1867), Dr. Laura Nenzi tells us, "physical mobility (traveling along horizontal lines) was tightly regulated and social mobility (traveling along vertical lines) . . . was not always a viable option."

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on