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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 6, 2008
Social realism enhanced by the pastoral
MOUNTAINS PAINTED WITH TURMERIC by Lil Bahadur Chettri, translated from Nepali by Michael J. Hutt. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, $22.50 (cloth) Originally published in the late 1950s, this novel — says the blurb — "is one of the few books almost every Nepali knows well." The reason is that it "struck a chord in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Nepali readers." And the reason for this occurrence is that the novel is regarded by Nepali literary scholars as a work of social realism, a reflection of actual peasant life.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Dec 23, 2007
The many faces of a complex city
TOKYO TOKYO TOKYO, photographs by Gorazd Vilhar, text by Charlotte Anderson. IBC Publishing Co., 2007, 144 pp., ¥3,300 (cloth) The very title of this new collection by Gorazd Vilhar and Charlotte Anderson suggests multiple Tokyos. It posits a city so multifaceted that only various versions of it can suggest the complexity of the metropolis itself.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Dec 9, 2007
Finding the self and losing others
Losing Keiby Suzanne Kamata. Wellfleet, Mass.: Leapfrog Press, 2007, 196 pp., $14.95 (¥1,554) Like France, after World War II Japan has hosted a varied group of expatriate writers. Though no Hemingways or Gertrude Steins have yet emerged, expectation remains.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Dec 2, 2007
Forever passing on ancient secrets of strategy
The Art of War: Sun Zi's Military Methods, foreword by Arthur Waldron. New York: Columbia University Press, 208 pp., with frontispiece, 2007, $19.95 (cloth) Here is a new translation of the sixth-century-B.C. Chinese military manual that has been long seen as the definitive work on strategies and tactics. It is said to have influenced the better decisions of Napoleon and played its part in the planning of the much later Operation Desert Storm.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Nov 25, 2007
Muso Soseki's garden of Zen
A Zen Life in Nature: Muso Soseki in His Gardens by Keir Davidson. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2007, 298 pp. with 28 illustrations, $28.00 (paper) Muso Soseki (1275-1351), one of the most prominent Zen masters of the Muromachi Period, was also twice abbot of Nanzenji. He is also remembered as a landscape architect, in 1339 having created the garden at Kyoto's Saihoji, also known as Kokedera, or the "Moss Temple."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Nov 11, 2007
The poetry of women's emotions
Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology, translated and with an introduction by Hiroaki Sato. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2007, 548 pp., with photos, chronology, bibliography and index, $34.95 (paper) About lyric poetry, Wordsworth said that it was "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." He implied that something repressed builds and breaks, and that the faster the flow, the fuller the stress.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Nov 4, 2007
Rural living of an old man who does as he pleases
Late Poems Of Lu You, The Old Man Who Does As He Pleases: New Translations by Burton Watson. Burlington, Ontario: Ahadada Books, 2007, 74 pp., $12, ¥2,000 (paper) Lu You (Yu) (1125-1210), often referred to by his literary name of Lu Fangweng ("The Old Man Who Does as He Pleases"), is one of China's most famous poets.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Oct 28, 2007
Young, curious and adventurous: the 17th-century backpacker
The Travels and Journal of Ambrosio Bembo, translated from the Italian by Clara Bargellini; edited and annotated, with an introduction by Anthony Welch; with the original illustrations by G.J. Grelot; and maps. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007, 452 pp. $24.95 (paper) In the summer of 1671 young Ambrosio Bembo decided to leave his hometown, Venice. At 19 he was too young to take up any position and he did not want to hang around doing nothing until he had reached 25, the day he could enter public service. So he decided to spend the interim traveling.
LIFE / Travel
Oct 18, 2007
A country caught in the grip of a regime
MYANMAR — Rangoon (or Yangon as it is now called) seen from the air seems subdued, at least after brilliant nighttime Bangkok. Just a light here and there, otherwise a carpet of darkness. This extends even down into the new and otherwise imposing "national" airport where the light is so dim that officials squint to read my visa.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Oct 14, 2007
Nagai Kafu's geisha: expurgated, revised, then finally fully exposed
Rivalry: A Geisha's Tale, translated by Stephen Snyder. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, 166 pp., $24.95 (cloth) Komayo, widowed young, resumes her life as a geisha, taking up with a former patron who wants to redeem her. She, however, falls in love with a young actor specializing in female roles, and at the same time (for financial reasons) has to take on an unattractive older man. In the end three lovers prove disastrous.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Oct 7, 2007
The first and last foreigner to see Laotians as they were
TRAVELS IN LAOS: The Fate of the Sup Song Pana and the Muong Sing (1894-1896), by Dr. E. Lefevre, translated with an introduction by Walter Tips. Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 1995 (orig. edition), 224 pp., with contemporary photos and map, 725 Bahts (paper) During that late 19th-century feeding frenzy known as colonial expansion, one of the most dramatic sites was what was then called Indochina. There was great rivalry between British imperialism and French colonial ambitions, particularly in upper Laos. There, the several small states that had been able to preserve their relative independence by paying tribute to all the surrounding regional powers were finally subjugated.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Sep 30, 2007
Sophistication from improvisation
Kitano Takeshi. London: British Film Institute, 2007, 272 pp., with photos. £16.99 (paper) This is a brilliant book on a mercurial subject. Takeshi Kitano is an actor and film director, ubiquitous on television as well, who has become a media event. His persona has splintered and he stands Janus-faced over Japanese entertainment. He has two names (Beat Takeshi and Takeshi Kitano), is both a clown and a sage, a radical renegade and a conservative artist, a raggle-taggle TV comic and a maker of admired art-films. Protean, shape-shifting, he seems to defy description.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Sep 23, 2007
Yasodharapura, revived in literature
A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People, by Zhou Daguan, translated with an introduction and notes by Peter Harris, foreword by David Chandler, and photographs by Julian Circo. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2007, 150 pp., 595 bhats (paper) In 1295, the same year that Marco Polo arrived back in Venice after his travels in China, a young Chinese — Zhou Daguan (circa 1270-1350) — set out on a shorter but no less interesting voyage to territories only somewhat less unknown.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Sep 16, 2007
Finding Confucius as a friend
The Analects of Confucius, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, 162 pp., $19.95 (cloth) Confucius (551-479 B.C.) came from low-ranking nobility and grew up in considerable poverty. Perhaps that is why he seemed so sensitive to matters of class and wealth and so devoted to education as one of the means of rising in these realms.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Sep 9, 2007
Taking a good look at Tokyo's eclectic fashion
The Tokyo Look Book: Stylish To Spectacular, Goth To Gyaru, Sidewalk To Catwalk by Philomena Keet, photographs by Yuri Manabe. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2007, 224 pp., profusely illustrated, ¥3,000 (paper). It was the philosopher George Santayana who penned these wise words: "Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit." This is as true now as it was then, and if you do not believe me, go and wander the streets of Shibuya.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Sep 2, 2007
Filmmaker, writer, little boy
Boy, by Takeshi Kitano, translated by David James Karashima. New York: Vertical Inc., 80 pp., $17.95 (cloth). These three stories by one of Japan's most popular film directors (aka Beat Takeshi, one of Japan's most popular TV comedians) were originally published in 1987. They thus antedate the first of the films ("Violent Cop," 1989) and the most extreme of the TV appearances, but they are made of the same material — the childhood and youth of Kitano himself.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Aug 26, 2007
It's ladies first now in Japanese love hotels
Japanese Love Hotels: A Cultural History, by Sarah Chaplin. London/New York: Routledge, 2007, 242 pp. with photos, figures and tables, £85 (cloth) The love-hotel industry is one of Japan's most profitable. It accounts for more than ¥4 trillion a year, a figure nearly four times than that of the profit of Toyota Motors, double that of the anime market, and a trillion yen more than the annual takings of the Japan Racing Association.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Aug 19, 2007
New translations reveal new depths of classic works
Mandarins: Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Translated by Charles De Wolf. New York: Archipelago Books, 2007, 255 pp., $16.00 (paper) Good, new and much needed translations of the stories of Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) have recently begun to appear. Last year there was the Penguin edition of 18 stories, translated by Jay Rubin, and now comes this Archipelago edition of 15, translated by Charles De Wolf.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Aug 12, 2007
Lauded in the West, ignored in the East
Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom, by Daisuke Miyao. Duke University Press, 2007, 380 pp., with 23 illustrations, $23.95 (paper) Kintaro Hayakawa (1886-1973), born in modest circumstances in Chiba, went on to have an extraordinary and unexpected life elsewhere. Now renamed Sesshu (Sessue) Hayakawa, he became an internationally known Hollywood actor, one of the three "most famous and celebrated," along with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Aug 5, 2007
Keeping the horror of Hiroshima alive
Masako's Story: Surviving the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, by Kikuko Otake, edited by Dr. Jesse Glass. Tokyo/Toronto: Ahadada Books, 2007, 94 pp. with photos and maps, $15 (paper) The cenotaph for the Hiroshima victims reads "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil," but war goes on incessantly in what promises to be the most bloody of decades and the evil here referenced, the atomic bomb, is commonly flaunted as a threat. How then can the souls of the Hiroshima dead rest in peace?

Longform

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin,” once the victim of high waves that dragged it into the sea, sits at the end of a pier on the south side of Naoshima.
Why is the most exciting art in Japan so hard to get to?