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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
Jul 29, 2007
Not all nonsense is silly
Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times, by Miriam Silverberg. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007, 370 pp., with many illustrations $49.95 (cloth) From the late 1920s on, the impact of the modern on traditional Japan had become so noticeable that some new terminology was required. It took the form of a slogan: "ero guro nansensu."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jul 22, 2007
Welcome additions to the newest anthology of Japanese literature
The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature: From 1945 to the Present, edited by J. Thomas Rimer and Van C. Gessel, with additional selections by poetry editors Amy Vladeck Heinrich and Hiroaki Sato. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, 864 pp., $59.50 (cloth). Anthologists must consider not only who to put in (and who to leave out) but also why. Excellence, certainly, but whose excellence? That of the anthologist or those of the common reader, or both?
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jul 15, 2007
Place for the dead in our living world
THE BUDDHIST DEAD: Practices, Discourses, Representations, edited by Bryan J. Cuevas and Jacqueline I. Stone. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2007, 492 pp., with illustrations, $65 (cloth) Buddhism has, at least in the public mind, monopolized death. In Japan, birth and marriage are usually Shinto sponsored, while Buddhism officiates at the less popular but equally inevitable funeral. Elsewhere, Buddhism may sponsor many a happier ritual, but from Sri Lanka through Tibet and China to Japan, it also holds hegemony over death. So much so that one Japanese lay Buddhist, Chigaku Tanaka, lamented that in the eyes of the laity the Buddhist clergy were little more than undertakers.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jun 17, 2007
First woman was the sun, then there came man
IN THE BEGINNING, WOMAN WAS THE SUN: The Autobiography of a Japanese Feminist — Hiratsuka Raicho, translated with an introduction and notes by Teruko Craig. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006, 432 pp., $35 (cloth) One of the earliest among those who battled to reform the social and legal position of Japanese women, Raicho Hiratsuka (1896-1971), toward the end of her life wrote the story of her eventful, inspirational life. This was "Genshi josei wa taiyo de atta," published 1971-73 and translated here into English for the first time.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jun 10, 2007
Bunroku Shishi: Finding humor in a recovering postwar Japan
SCHOOL OF FREEDOM, by Bunroku Shishi, translated and with an afterword by Lynne E. Riggs. Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, 2006, 256 pp., $29.95 (cloth). Bunroku Shishi (1893-1969), who was born as Toyoo Iwata, had two occupations, just as he had two names. He was a theatrical director who organized the Bungakuza theatrical company and helped introduce modern foreign drama into Japan. He was also, under his pen-name, a popular humorous novelist.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Jun 3, 2007
Oishi Seinosuke: the trial and its outcome
THE LIFE OF SEINOSUKE: Dr. Oishi and the High Treason Incident, by Joseph Cronin. Kyoto: White Tiger Press, 2007, 128 pp., with photographs and drawings, 1,800 yen (paper) The High Treason Incident (Taigyaku Jiken) was an anarchist plot to assassinate the Meiji emperor, one that led to the 1910 mass arrests of a number of socialist activists and concluded with 26 people being charged. Twelve of these were hanged.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 27, 2007
Japan's first cosmopolitan in the face of nationalism
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF YUKICHI FUKUZAWA, revised translation by Eiichi Kiyooka, preface by Kammei Ishikawa, with a foreword and afterword by Albert M. Craig. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, (1966), 480 pp., with frontispiece photo, $30 (paper) The political scientist Masao Maruyama wrote in 1943 (at the very height of wartime nationalism) that Yukichi Fukuzawa "was a Meiji thinker, but at the same time he is a thinker of the present day."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 20, 2007
It is in the places in between that cultures truly merge
THE PLACES IN BETWEEN by Rory Stewart. New York: Harcourt Books. 300 pp., with 26 photos and numerous drawings, 2006, $14.00 (paper) In 2002 Rory Stewart, author and former British diplomat, walked across Afghanistan. The country had been at war for 25 years, its government in place for just two weeks, there was no electricity, no TV, and nothing on the road between Herat and Kabul, Stewart's intended route.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 13, 2007
Combining East and West in dramaturgy
AN ACTOR'S TRICKS by Yoshi Oida and Lorna Marshall, foreword by Peter Brook. London: Methuen Drama, A&A Black Ltd., 2007, 102 pp., £10.99 (paper) Yoshi Oida, born in 1933, is one of Japan's most interesting actor-directors. Trained in the classical stage disciplines, particularly that of the Kyogen, Oida went to France in 1968, becoming a founding member of Peter Brook's celebrated international theater company.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
May 6, 2007
The different cases of Inspector Hanshichi
THE CURIOUS CASEBOOK OF INSPECTOR HANSHICHI: Detective Stories of Old Edo, by Kido Okamoto, translated by Ian MacDonald. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007, 335 pp., $24 (paper) Between 1916 and 1937 the critic and playwright Kido Okamoto (1872-1939) published the "Hanshichi Torimonocho"; stories, devoted to the activities of a fictional detective, Inspector Hanshichi. These tales the author claimed to have heard straight from the aging informant himself, born, he says, in 1823 in Nihonbashi. The various deductions were presumed to have occurred around 1850 and Hanshichi was supposed to be telling these to Okamoto in the 1890s. Ian MacDonald here translates 14 of the original 68 stories, mostly from the first year of serialization.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 29, 2007
Gorilla snot and Tokyo sauce
TABLOID TOKYO 2, by Geoff Botting, Ryann Connell, Michael Hoffman, Masuo Kamiyama, Mark Schreiber; Illustrations by Hirosuke Ueno; foreword by Mark Schreiber. Toyko: Kodansha International, 2007, 288 pp., profusely illustrated, 1,400 yen (paper) The success of the first volume of "Tabloid Tokyo" has encouraged the publisher to issue a second. Comprised of translations from those of Japan's weekly magazines devoted to sensationalism and titillation, both books aim at a foreign audience that, like its Japanese counterpart, is ready for something slightly shocking and somewhat sexually stimulating.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 22, 2007
The man behind the woman
AN AMERICAN DIARY OF A JAPANESE GIRL, by Yone Noguchi, with an introduction by Laura E. Franey, an afterword by Edward Marx and illustrations by Genjiro Yeto. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007, 202 pp., $23.95 (paper) Yonejiro Noguchi (1875-1947) adopted the pen name of Yone when he left Japan at the age of 19 to make his fortune in the United States. After he had done so, he returned, a published poet and essayist, later to become a respected professor of English at Keio University. While in America, however, he had also cultivated a persona quite different from that of a man of letters.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 15, 2007
A great naturalist, and a pretty good shot
BORNEO, CELEBES, ARU, by Alfred Russel Wallace. London: Penguin Books, 2007, 112 pp., with maps, £4.99 (paper) The great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) traveled widely in what was then called the East Indies and which we now know as Malaysia and Indonesia. Between 1854 and 1862 he wandered from Sumatra to New Guinea, earning his living as a bird-skin collector. He was also taking notes and keeping journals, and in 1869 he published "The Malay Archipelago," one of the most delightful of travel accounts.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 8, 2007
New look for Japan's oldest book
THE KOJIKI, edited by Yoshinobu Hirata, illustrated by Yuko Mori. Tokyo: Kumon Shuppan (5-bancho, Chiyoda-ku), 2004, 160 pp., 951 yen (cloth) "The birth of Japan. The gods give us a story of love and violence." Thus is introduced this Japanese-language manga-illustrated edition of the "Kojiki" (Record of Ancient Matters) dating from 712 and Japan's oldest book. The publication is intended for primary-school children and all of the kanji comes with its furigana for easy reading.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Apr 1, 2007
Buddha's fighting soldiers
THE TEETH AND CLAWS OF BUDDHISM: Monastic Warriors and Sohei in Japanese History, by Mikael S. Adolphson. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2007, 214 pp., with 32 illustrations and maps, $36 (cloth) Buddha with fangs and claws is an unexpected image, if only because religions so often express themselves as benign. Actually, however, they are also belligerent and can often be detected flexing their muscles. Among such examples are Japan's monastic warriors, Buddha's soldiers, fighting their way through the Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura (1185-1333) periods.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 25, 2007
The fanned flames of fashion
Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno: Tokyo Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook, by Patrick Macias and Izumi Evers, illustrations by Kazumi Nonaka. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2007, 148 pp., profusely illustrated, $16.95 (paper) Fashionable clothing on young women is often seen as an indication of the state of society itself, and is hence to be celebrated or deplored. In any event, it is to be emulated until the ensemble of the week successfully adorns just everyone -- at which time the outfit is no longer fashionable.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 18, 2007
From profession to prostitution
Selling Songs and Smiles: The Sex Trade in Heian and Kamakura Japan, by Janet R. Goodwin. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2007, 208 pp. with maps, $48 (cloth) Prince Genji was apparently among the few to resist the charms of those bands of young women who made a living by offering themselves. Upon seeing such a group at Sumiyoshi Shrine, the hero of the "The Tale of Genji" agreed that there were a number of courtiers who might find them interesting but that he was after bigger game and saw no advantage "to getting oneself in a casual affair with someone a bit inconstant."
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 11, 2007
What made Japan join the fast-food nations?
Modern Japanese Cuisine: Food, Power and National Identity, by Katarzyna J. Cwiertka. London: Reaktion Books, 2006, 240 pp., 89 b/w illustrations, £22.50 (cloth) While it is true that we are what we eat, it is equally true that we eat what we are -- that is, our cuisine often mirrors our condition. Though Japan is credited with having a "native" gastronomy, what it consists of and how it is consumed depends on ideas additional to those of taste and nutrition.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Mar 4, 2007
Shooting arrows to the end of the universe
Zen Bow, Zen Arrow: The Life and Teachings of Awa Kenzo, the Archery Master from "Zen in the Art of Archery", by John Stevens. Boston/London: Shambahala, 2007, 104 pp. with photographs, $12.95 (paper). Archery, or kyudo, "the Way of the bow," has a venerable Asian history. Confucius recommended it as one of the Six Arts, Siddhartha (later, the Buddha) was an adept who used the "bow of meditation" to draw the "arrow of wisdom," and Japan's Amaterasu, the sun goddess, was said to have carried a bow along with quivers containing a thousand arrows.
CULTURE / Books / THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
Feb 18, 2007
Yoshu Chikanobu: the neglected master of Japanese prints
Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, by Bruce A. Coats, with essays by Allen Hockley, Kyoko Kurita and Joshua S. Mostow. Leiden: Hotei/Brill Publishing, 2006, 208 pp., 280 color illustrations, $99 (cloth) This is the first monograph in English on the Meiji Era print-maker Yoshu Chikanobu (1838-1912), an artist about whom little has been previously written. He is not listed, for example, in the most general English-language source, the nine-volume "Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan." But that's a 1983 publication and Chikanobu's rise to fame and (according to the press release for this volume) his position as "one of the most collected artists among collectors of Japanese prints" is relatively recent.

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?