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The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 Paperback – September 1, 2005
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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 Richies erudite observations on Japanese cultural life as his rather saucy descriptions of his experiences in the country. A self-confessed "sexaholic," Richie declares that hes 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 Richies 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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"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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Top customer reviews
His writing is rich, evocative, sometimes a little too precious, often hysterically funny. He had a tendency to use phrases such as: "And so it was." "And so it did." "And so I am." etc. I found that annoying, but it was a stylistic choice and considering the incredible scope of what he covers (1947-2004), this is a very, very minor complaint.
Richie was gay before it was "acceptable" to be so. But in Japan it was clear that no one really cared. Being a homosexual in Japan did not carry the religious, psychological and social stigma it once did in the U.S. (and sometimes still does). It was one of the reasons Richie stayed in Japan. As such, on occasion, he will share a somewhat veiled recollection of his interactions with some of the locals. I am convinced there were many, many more of these stories and he may not have felt they were appropriate and/or that they had value. I so wish he had kept them or published them. When he does take us into that world, it's only briefly, and we often have to read between the lines to know that, in fact, he is actually sharing with us a very intimate experience with another man.
Richie was able to experience Japan in a way that few other Westerners did and he shares with us some observations that, had you not known they were written years ago, would still resonate today. These are the hidden gems in this book, which sometimes must be sought out amidst endless parties and dinners and meetings with celebrities of the day. I did find some of those stories interesting, but nowhere as much as his keen eye detailing what he was seeing on the street, in the train stations, on the faces of the people he encountered.
I will kick myself to the end knowing this man was here and alive when I came to Japan and yet, I did not understand his importance or value until after he died. I really wish I could have met him.
To anyone who has a strong interest in postwar Japan, this is a must-read. Again, sometimes he goes off on tangents and is occasionally a bit full of himself. But all is forgiven because he will often have you glued to the page with his spot-on observations of what was, what is, what works, what doesn't, in the Japan of yesterday... and yet, it really could be today. He will also have you laughing so hard you will not be able to read the book in a public place.
Donald Richie---you were one of a kind. This book proves it.
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.