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The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 Hardcover – October 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-1880656914 ISBN-10: 1880656914

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880656914
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880656914
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Since moving to Japan in 1947, Richie has written hundreds of books, directed several films and befriended dozens of Japanese celebrities, including composer Taru Takemitsu, novelist-icon Yukio Mishima and filmmaker Akira Kurasawa. Richie has also been the point of contact for non-Japanese artists such as Francis Ford Coppola, Truman Capote and Igor Stravinsky. But what will interest most readers are not so much Richie’s erudite observations on Japanese cultural life as his rather saucy descriptions of his experiences in the country. A self-confessed "sexaholic," Richie declares that he’s slept with "thousands" of people, and sex and sexual relationships are themes that dominate the journals. Richie does give some sense of how Japan has changed in the 50-odd years that he has lived there, but this perspective is constrained because Richie’s context rarely transcends his immediate surroundings. As such, the entries sometimes read like a series of cryptic pieces. There are moments where Richie shines, such as when he describes his divorce and his experiences with Mishima. His views on the intersections of xenophobia, racism "and all the rest" are both poignant and disturbing. For example, after being solicited by a couple of schoolgirls, Ritchie wonders how anyone could think prostitution is wrong, except "if the person does not want to sell, well maybe." But the journals live up to his reputation as a charming wit, and if the erratic narrative sometimes seems surreal, enough bits and pieces come together to inform readers of the Japan Richie experienced as an American insider. 75 b&w photos.
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Review

"No writer about Japan matches Richie's breadth of knowledge, depth and variety of experience, and his love of the people he writes about." -- Ian Buruma

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Customer Reviews

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Ah, Donald Richie, you certainly lived an interesting life.
Zack Davisson
The value of writing down things you want to remember becomes oh so clear.
Philip Suh
A fine read, particularly recommended to those with an interest in Japan.
David Bonesteel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Philip Suh on June 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Donald Richie is someone who always floated on the periphery of my awareness. When I went to Japan for the first time, my first feelings and observations were already captured in Richie's writings 40 years before. He recorded for the first time what we all fell for the first time. He was Gaijin Prime, the one who came, and stayed, and made a life.

Leafing through this book, and encountering Richie's acquaintances a couple hundred pages apart, as he experienced them a few decades apart, you get the benefit of this long view, the way experiences echo back and forth across the years. The value of writing down things you want to remember becomes oh so clear. Richie has had an extraordinarily rich life, but perhaps that is because he has taken time to pen his thoughts. He had a remarkable range of acquaintances, and the book is filled with mundane glimpses into the lives of fame and accomplishment. But more than those glimpses of celebrity, I love Richie's eye for the changes and subtleties of daily life: the homeless, the protitutes, the policemen in the park, and the rude youth on their cell phones.

Perhaps we all enjoy similar riches, and would know it, if we stopped to capture them.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Bonesteel on October 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
Writer Donald Ritchie, an expert on Japanese film and a keen observer of that interesting country, has distilled nearly sixty years of life as an expatriate into these fascinating journals. Ritchie emerges as a deep thinker and lover of high culture who derives equal satisfaction from indulging his "taste for the mud" (it sounds much more poetic in French), which takes him to sex clubs, prostitutes, and other similarly disreputable places for which he holds a healthy admiration. His endless curiosity about matters and people both high and low is a strong point of this book, providing a well-rounded portrait of both a society and a man's life.

I enjoyed seeing Japan through Ritchie's eyes from his first days in the country during the American occupation up through the years of reconstruction, the boom years of the 80s, and the bursting of the bubble. He notes the many changes in the people and is quite honest about his own feelings concerning his privileged position as a foreigner, never fully accepted but also not subject to the same severe social strictures to which Japanese hold each other. Among the many highlights of this fine book are the long train trip across the country that Ritchie takes during the days of the occupation, his friendship with Yukio Mishima as well as many other distinguished people, and his closely observed opinions on the evolution of Japan's stance toward the foreigner. A fine read, particularly recommended to those with an interest in Japan.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Takeuchi on April 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have only known Donal Richie as a film scholar having admired his commentaries on Bresson and Ozu DVDs. Naturally, I bacame interested in the man himself who continues to live in Japan. In this journal, he meets such notables as Kawabata, Kurosawa, Takemitsu, but what is more interesting is his interaction and friendship with regular people. Mr. Richie goes to a park in Tokyo (his usual hang out) and talks to a homeless, gives him his hamburger. He also befriends local prostitutes while he is also a guest of honor at emperors's palace. What is unique about this journal is that he tells as it is. Unlike some autobiography, Mr. Richie does not try to convince readers, does not explain, does not try to defend his actions, or does not offer advice. He simply dscribes his observation both his own personal life and what he sees and happens to him living in Japan as it moves from war destruction to economic bubble, and to decay.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Sanchez VINE VOICE on July 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
What a life lived. For almost sixty years, Richie, born and raised in Ohio, watched one of the most fascinating countries in the world, Japan, change from a defeated enemy to a global powerhouse. As a writer, he had the wisdom in his youth to begin keeping detailed journals of his thoughts and adventures in Tokyo and beyond. Unlike many of my journal entries, Richie's are beautifully written and thoughtful, and the people he met and the insights he provides on Japan make for good reading. Although some of the journal entries are truly gems, others can be dull, if not too personal. It was in search for Richie's telling observations regarding Japan and its people that compelled me to continue reading. I would recommend this book for those who are knowledgeable of Japan, its people, language and history. Without such background, the book would not be as interesting. Overall, though, this is a good book by a man who lived life the way he wanted to and lived to write about it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Smith on August 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Japan Journals 1947-2005 covers the more than fifty years Donald Richie spent living in Japan. Seeing Japan in defeat on his arrival with the American occupation forces, Richie stayed on and witnessed the rebuilding of the 1960's, the economic peaks of the 1980's and the sobering recessions of more recent years. During that time Richie became a renowned film critic, a valued commentator on Japanese culture and a prodigious author of more than forty books. These journals are full of interesting anecdotes about the Japanese, both Richie's famous and not so famous friends. For me the most interesting is Tano Hiroaki who enters the story as a student and becomes a wealthy business man without really changing very much. There are also the famous Western visitors Richie escorted during their visits to Japan. For me the most interesting is Lincoln Kirstein though there are lots to choose from. The personal glimpses of Richie as he defines life and love in a culture so different from the one he left are perhaps the most captivating aspect of the journals. Richie's easy manner and honesty about himself and others are very engaging. Anyone interested in Japan, literature or life will find Japan Journals a worthwhile read.
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