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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
Jun 15, 2008
War and propaganda: a Japanese narrative
CERTAIN VICTORY: Images of World War II in the Japanese Media, by David C. Earhart. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 2008, 552 pp., with photographs, maps, illustrations, $74.95 (cloth) One way to induce people to kill other people is to dehumanize "the enemy." And one of the ways to do this is through propaganda. This is a device that propagates information that is often biased or misleading, and is used to promote a political cause or point of view. The consumption of war is made possible through its use.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jun 8, 2008
Passionate romance in old Japan
THE LAST CONCUBINE by Leslie Downer. London: Bantam Press, 2008, 480 pp., £12.99 (cloth) The beautiful young Sachi grew up in the mountains of rural Japan, but she always seemed to herself more than a mere farm girl, samurai stock though she was. As the book jacket puts it: "Sachi has always felt different, her pale skin and fine features setting her apart from her friends and family."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jun 1, 2008
Old Royal Siam revisited
TRAVELER IN SIAM IN THE YEAR 1655: Extracts from the Journal of Gijsbert Heeck, translated and introduced by Barend Jan Terwiel. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2008, 124 pp., with b/w pictures and drawings, full-color maps and illustrations, 2008, 595 Bahts (paper) In 1903, the 1655 manuscript of Gijsbert Heeck (or Heecq) was discovered in a Utrecht collection. Thus an important part of the past was, some 350 years later, restored.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 25, 2008
The poetic power of skepticism
AMERICA AND OTHER POEMS by Nobuo Ayukawa, selected and translated by Shogo Oketani and Leza Lowitz. New York: Kaya Press, 2008, 152 pp. $14.95 (paper) Nobuo Ayukawa (1920-1986) has in the West remained a relatively unknown poet. Though included in the "Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature" (as translated by J. Thomas Rimer), he is given only a footnote in Donald Keene's multivolume history of Japanese literature.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 18, 2008
Nature naturalized in Japanese gardens
INCOMPARABLE JAPANESE GARDENS, photographs by Gorazd Vilhar, text by Charlotte Anderson. Tokyo: IBC Publishing, 2008, 192 pp., with 159 full-color plates, ¥5,500 (cloth) If we compare the "incomparable," we will discover that the difference of the Japanese garden depends upon the Japanese, very different, attitude toward nature. Two attitudes toward nature are everywhere possible: you confront it or you accept it. This is illustrated in gardens West and East. In the former (think Versailles), nature is but the rawest of materials to do with as you will. Trees are in ordered ranks, paths are straightened, a form is imposed.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 11, 2008
Brushwork ethereal as the London mists
YOSHIO MARKINO: A Japanese Artist in Edwardian London, revised edition, by Sammy I. Tsunematsu, preface by Ross S. Kilpatrick. London: The Soseki Museum, 2008, 208 pp. ¥1,850 (paper) Born in 1869, died in 1956, Yoshio Markino, an artist better remembered in England than in Japan, spent much of his life abroad. Though he had lived in San Francisco, New York, and Paris, it was London that he most loved.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 4, 2008
Bringing beauty to all through surprisingly unrefined language
BASHO: The Complete Haiku, translated, annotated and with an introduction by Jane Reichhold; artwork by Shiro Tsujimura. Kodansha International, 2008, 432 pp., ¥2,600 (cloth) Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is not only Japan's most revered poet, he is also the one most translated into other languages. Yet, until now, no one has gathered into one volume, translated into English, the complete works.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 27, 2008
Taking readers back to the Occupation
FROM JAPAN WITH LOVE, text and photos by Mary Ruggieri, foreword by Richard Ruggieri. San Rafael, CA: Portsmouth Publishing, 2008, 264 pp., 400 monochrome photos, $24.95 (paper) From the autumn of 1946 to the spring of 1948 Mary Ruggieri was stationed in the Women's Army Corps as a member of the Allied Occupation of Japan. During this time she kept a journal, wrote many letters home, and took 4,000 photos. This activity was not demanded by her position. She had no particular position and was temporarily stuck in a clerical slot in Yokohama. But she had a real interest in where she was and what was happening around her.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 20, 2008
Helping newcomers settle in Japan
HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN, by Arudou Debito and Higuchi Akira, 2008, 376 pp. ¥2,300 (paper) In this important and necessary book the authors address migrants and immigrants to Japan in saying that "we believe that your life in Japan should be under as much of your control as legally possible." That it sometimes seems not to be, is the reason for their having written this handbook.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 13, 2008
Mishima's literary mistress
MISHIMA ON STAGE: The Black Lizard and Other Plays, edited and with an introduction by Laurence Kominz, foreword by Donald Keene. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2007, xii + 328 pp., with photographs, $70.00 (cloth), $26.00 (paper) Though most famous as a novelist, Mishima was also a prolific dramatist. From 1949 to the year before his death, 1969, he wrote numerous plays, nearly all of them staged in his lifetime. He found their composition easier than that demanded by his novels and once said that drama was his "mistress," as compared with his "wife," the novel.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 6, 2008
Getting younger, getting older
I HAVEN'T DREAMED OF FLYING FOR A WHILE by Taichi Yamada, translated by David James Karashima. London: Faber & Faber, 2008, 195 pp., £10.99 (paper). He is in bed with her. "Take my nipple in your mouth," she says. "Just like nobody can console a person who is getting old — a person who is getting closer and closer to death — nobody can console me as I get younger and disappear. It's not your fault. This nipple next."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 30, 2008
The big mysteries behind small things
THE ART OF SMALL THINGS by John Mack. London: British Museum Press, 2007, 224 pp., with 200 color illustrations, £19.99 (cloth) Here is a splendid catalog of the world made small — miniature works in the collection of the British Museum: Elizabethan rings, Benin masks, Netherlandish rosary beads, Chinese jade carvings, Japanese netsuke (kimono ornaments).
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 23, 2008
Utamaro, the women's brand name
UTAMARO AND THE SPECTACLE OF BEAUTY by Julie Nelson Davis. London: Reaktion Books, 2008, 269 pp., 114 illustrations, 66 color plates. £35 (cloth) Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) is widely known as one of the most creative and influential artists of the ukiyo-e, those "pictures of the floating world" that delineated, in particular, the good looks of the women of Edo. These have, in fact, been called among the most accomplished and eloquent expressions of feminine beauty in Japanese art.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 16, 2008
Poetic reasons to take a card game seriously
ONE HUNDRED POETS, ONE POEM EACH: A Translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, by Peter McMillan with a foreword by Donald Keene and an afterword by Eileen Kato. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, 280 pp., with line drawings, $39.50 (cloth) This is a new translation of one of Japan's most famous poetry collections — one hundred waka (31 syllable poems), each by a different poet, arranged chronologically from the Emperor Tenji (626-671) to the retired Emperor Juntoku (1197-1242). The noted poet known as Teika (Fujiwara no Sadaie) is believed to have edited this collection and its creation is commonly dated as around 1240.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 9, 2008
The art of Frances Blakemore: a love affair with Japan
AN AMERICAN ARTIST IN TOKYO: Frances Blakemore — 1906-1997, by Michiyo Morioka. Seattle: The Blakemore Foundation/University of Washington Press, 2007, 200 pp., profusely illustrated, $35 (cloth) Living more than 50 years of her life in Japan, artist Frances Blakemore was a close and sympathetic observer of the country. She left a record of what she saw — prints, drawings, paintings — and how she felt about what she saw. Her affection for the country and its people never wavered, but wartime vagaries tested what patience she might have had for its government.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 2, 2008
'Kusamakura': What's the story?
KUSAMAKURA by Natsume Soseki, translated by Meredith McKinney. Penguin Classics, 2008, 152 pp., £9.99 (paper) In this early work (also known as "Grass Pillow") by one of Japan's best-known authors, the narrator is with a mysterious woman he meets at the hot spring. They are talking about reading, about skipping pages. He says there is nothing wrong with it if you "want to know about the story." To which she answers "What do you read if it isn't the story? Is there anything else to read?" And this in a work notorious for having no "story" at all.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Feb 24, 2008
Asian art for art's sake
WHAT'S THE USE OF ART? — Asian Visual and Material Culture in Context, edited by Jan Mrazek and Morgan Pitelka. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, 314 pp., with illustrations, $58 (cloth) The question is rhetorical, that is, uttered for effect, to make a statement rather than to obtain an answer. It was first heard in 2001 during a discussion of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Asian Studies when Jan Mrazek suggested bringing together Asia experts to produce papers on the relationship between the function and the objectification of Asian art.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jan 27, 2008
Making Japan 'borderless'
JAPAN AND ITS WORLDS: Marius B. Jansen and the Internationalization of Japanese Studies, edited by Martin Collcutt, Kato Mikio and Ronald P. Toby. I-House Press, 2007, 300 pp., ¥2,858 (cloth) The late Marius Jansen was America's most eminent historian of modern Japan. Admired in Japan and Europe, he not only contributed to the study of Japanese history but also connected that history to the worlds outside this archipelago.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jan 20, 2008
The Utagawa brand name
COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION: Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School, by Laura J. Mueller, with essays by Fujisawa Akane, Kobayashi Tadashi, and Ellis Tinios. Leiden/Boston: Hotei Publishing, 2007, 232 pp., 200 illustrations, $120 (cloth) The Utagawa school, founded in the 18th century and active throughout the 19th, dominated all Japanese print production. It decided the genres and controlled the economics. It was responsible for half of all extant prints and hired hundreds of designers who worked under the Utagawa name.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jan 13, 2008
Preferring to show and not to tell
AKIRA KUROSAWA: Interviews, edited by Burt Cardullo. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008, 196 pp., $20 (paper) Once, when I asked Akira Kurosawa about the meaning of one of his films he answered: "If I could have said it in words, I would have — then I wouldn't have needed to make the picture." Quite true, yet here is a number of words, all extracted from him by numerous interviewers, most of them bent on discovering the "meaning" of his work.

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