Writer, commentator and film specialist Donald Richie has had a good year, on that saw, among other things, the publication of "The Japan Journals" and his receipt of the Rising Sun With Gold Rays, a prestigious award honoring a lifetime of achievement in the arts. Here he shares his thoughts.

Other writers have come and gone. In the "Journals" you've provided us with the longest expatriate account of Japan ever written. What has sustained your interest for so long?

I've often thought about that, but never for very long. I think it's partly educational. The potential here is just so great. I'm still convinced every morning when I wake up that I'm going to learn something new today. And to be an eternal student, to never be filled up intellectually is a great privilege. Everything here is in flux. So what I learned yesterday I have to amend today. In Japan you are required to be attentive. I wonder how I would have reacted in Baltimore or Pittsburgh? I probably wouldn't have been this alert. I would have taken things for granted. This is something the Japanese never allow you the luxury of. This is one of the reasons I stayed.