February 19, 2013


For many fans of Japanese cinema, Donald Richie was the leading voice of Japanese film journalism for fifty years. His book, The Films of Akira Kurosawa, adorned coffee tables everywhere, and Richie tirelessly worked to bring a deeper awareness and understanding of Japanese movies to the rest of the world. Richie first traveled to Japan during the occupation in 1947, where he worked for Pacific Stars and Stripes. He attended Cornell University when he returned stateside, but his love of Japanese culture and film drew him back to Tokyo after graduation. Richie landed a job as a film reviewer for The Japan Times, and his growing relationships with directors Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, and others afforded him a unique perspective. He published his first book in 1959 and many books, articles, essay anthologies, and film projects followed throughout the years. Fans of the Criterion Collection will also be familiar with Richie's film commentaries and introductions to the great Japanese films and directors. Criterion remembers Donald Richie here.

Donald Richie lived in Japan for most of his life, speaking the language fluently. Like me, he focused on verbal studies, rather than committing to memorizing thousands of kanji characters. When I became interested in Japanese culture as a kid, Richie became a kind of distant mentor. The images in his books fueled my fascination and his work as a journalist inspired me to major in Japanese Studies/Sociology in college and to move there after graduation. I taught in the far north and published some pieces in The Japan Times. Although our circles mingled in Japan, I never did get a chance to meet him in person. Donald Richie died in Tokyo today at the age of 88. Amazon author page here. Essential books: Films of Akira Kurosawa, Image Factory: Fads and Fashions in Japan, The Donald Richie Reader, Japan Journals 1947-2004, Ozu: His Life and Films, Inland Sea.

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