Donald Richie is regarded as the leading Western authority on Japanese film. He first came to Japan in 1947 as a civilian typist for the U.S. Occupational forces -- an intelligent, restless 22-year-old in search of purpose.

Richie, 78, began his career writing features and film reviews for the Pacific Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. military, after serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II. "Going to the movies -- off-limits to most other Occupation personnel -- was sort of a skeleton key to the country," says Richie. "Into understanding where I was and who these people were."

After a stint back in the United States, where he earned a degree in English from Columbia University in 1953, Richie returned to Japan the following year.