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Donald Richie was my friend and mentor for more than 20 years and my inspiration before that. When I was preparing to come to Japan for the first time in 1975, I read many books about the place, but Donald’s masterpiece “The Inland Sea” was the one that entranced me. My first long trip after my arrival was to — where else? — the Inland Sea, with the woman who would become my wife.

I didn’t meet Donald until 1991, however. I had been writing film reviews for The Japan Times for about two years, with him very much in mind, when he sent me a complimentary note about one — my first-ever fan letter. I was over the moon: My hero had validated me, though he was similarly generous with many other younger film writers and scholars, I was later to realize. Donald was hardly a saint, but territoriality and the competitiveness that goes with it were foreign to his makeup. (What did the writer of “The Films of Akira Kurosawa” and “Ozu: His Life and Films,” as well as other seminal texts on Japanese cinema, have to fear from the latest successor to his old reviewing gig?)

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