Donald Richie Tribute Page

DONALD RICHIE  

April 17, 1924 - February 19, 2013

        Lima, OH              Tokyo, Japan        

 

 

Donald always said that life was only lifelike if it was chronicled and commented upon. So please share your favorite memories and stories with us here as we pay tribute to Donald's life and legacy.

 

Friends of Donald Richie

 

ドナルド・リチー

1924年4月17日、米国オハイオ州ライマで生まれ、

2013年2月19日、東京都文京区で亡くなりました。

 

ドナルドは、人生は、それが記録され、批評されてはじめて、人生になると言っていました。ドナルドの人生とレガシーを祝い、ぜひ、あなたのメッセージを共有してください。

 

ドナルド・リチーさんの友人

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Comments: 36

  • #1

    Chris MaGee (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 02:45)

    There wouldn't be people like us [Japanese film lovers, distributors, scholars, etc.] if it wasn't for people like Donald Richie. Everything leads back to Donald for us. Now we just have to figure out how to best continue the work that he started.

    Chris MaGee

  • #2

    John Junkerman (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 02:55)

    He was everyone's grandfather. A lovely, loving man.

  • #3

    Antonio Santos (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 03:25)

    There was a teacher. Thanks so much, Mr. Richie. Have a good trip. Oh, Captain, my Captain!

  • #4

    Glynford Hatfield (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 06:36)

    I never had the pleasure of meeting him or going to his adopted country but I feel like I know both through his writings and the pleasure the films he covered gave me.

  • #5

    John S. Cairns (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 10:42)

    Had the bounty of meeting him thanks to the wonderful series of lectures he did via Temple University. At one event there was this very oddly out-of-place heckler, if anyone remembers, who actually was heckling the entire event and audience as well. I'll never forget how deftly Mr. Richie handled the situation, somehow elevating the fellow up to a more dignified level rather than reducing him in any way.

  • #6

    Max Tessier (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 13:17)



    As a former deshi of Donald Richie, I am truly sad at the news of his decease, even though I had feared the worst for a few years now.

    He was my true mentor when I started to feel a passion for Japanese cinema in the 1960s, through the works of K.Mizoguchi, A.Kurosawa, or later Y.Ozu, among many other great directors. I had read his book "Japanese film- Art and Industry", with Joseph Anderson) in the 1959 edition, when it was the main reliable source of knowledge for a still relatively unknown cinema.
    Donald-San was of course one of the first persons I met in Tokyo in 1973, when I got a grant form the Japan Foundation (thanks to Mrs Kawakita Kashiko), and he took me to many place unknown to me at the time, and introduced me to a number of important persons of the Japanese film world. I spent one year in Japan, doing research on Japanese film at the Japan Film Center (with Mr M.Ohba) , and met Donald quite a few times. His body of work (books, articles, films) is so impressive that I really feel like a dwarf in the French domaine of books on Japanese films. Even though I went less often to Japan after I quit working for the Cannes festival after 2000, I tried as much as possible to visit him in his condo in Ueno. Last time was a few years ago, in 2008. He was always so nice and friendly to me, as ever, and we discussed many topics with his grew sense of humor.
    As I am getting older, I can see more clearly how truly important his work was to me, and why it sparkled my own work in France.

    Dear Donald, rest in peace for ever, and I hope you are now somewhere with Akira and Yasujiro, and all the great personalities of Japanese cinema you contributed so much to popularize in the West. We all owe you.

    Max Tessier (Film critic and historian in Japanese film, a French Deshi of Donald Richie)

  • #7

    Joel Neville Anderson (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 14:47)

    As with the majority of cineastes approaching Japanese film from abroad, Donald Richie's works were a rite of passage for me. I'm certain I'll return to his writings again and again, and continue to benefit from his life's work.

    Seeing the picture above, Mr. Richie at the steps of Engaku-ji in Kamakura where Ozu-san rests, I realize I'd likely never have felt compelled to travel there to pay my respects if it weren't for this truly intrepid film lover.

    Thank you. Rest in peace.


    JNA

  • #8

    Robert Ensign (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:30)

    I first met Donald in Japan a few years ago while visiting Japan. We were both from Lima, Ohio and shared a bithday even though we were years apart in age. During our visits we shared photos of Lima, he from his generation and my more recent pictures. We spoke about how two boys from Ohio could end up caring about Japan the way we did. I will miss him but can imagine his voice as I read his books. Godspeed Donald.

  • #9

    John Williams (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:42)


    Occasionally when I get round to trying to organize my bookshelves I’ll have great difficulty with the Donald Richie section. There are the film books, the books about Japan, the diaries, the fiction. They could all be kept in the Japanese section I suppose, but that never seems like the right choice. There’s one in particular I love, his book on Ozu, a red second hand paperback I bought in a bookshop in Chicago. It’s not just a film book at all and yet it’s not so well known among his works. You have to read it to understand.

    I only met him on a couple of occasions, when he helped me tremendously by writing a nice review of my first film and talking to people about me behind the scenes. Later, in Pusan airport, I saw him sitting on the other side of the departure lounge. I was too shy to go and intrude. I should have. I’m sure the young Donald Richie would not have hesitated to talk to anyone. I regret that now. I’m sure he would have been happy to talk to me. It was me that lost the moment. I wonder what we’d have talked about.

    I’m glad there were few lost moments in his life.

  • #10

    Fujioka Asako (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 17:39)

    Knowing only his prestige and his wonderful writing, I hesitated to summon up the courage to speak to him one year in the lobby of Tokyo Filmex as he drank a coffee. But I will never forget the boyish way his face lightened up when I told him how much I enjoyed Japan Journals. He was open, generous, and fair to me, and it seems sure, to everyone.

  • #11

    Jasper Sharp (Wednesday, 20 February 2013 23:51)

    The world of Japanese cinema has seen a number of significant losses over the past six months, but for me this is genuinely the saddest. Donald Richie was a lovely man, and I think it's fair to say that none of us Westerners writing about Japanese film would be doing it if it weren't for him. Every day, I seem to be footnoting something from his seminal book The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, co-written with Joseph Anderson, which is still the definitive source for the raw facts of Japanese film history and refreshingly devoid of all the highfalutin theorising of academia.
    On a personal level, I found Donald to be full of encouragement and always willing to spare me his time. The lovely letter full of praise for Behind the Pink Curtain he wrote to me is something I'll always treasure, while I remember the last time I saw him during my trip to Japan this time last year, he asked me to sign the Midnight Eye Guide, and then gave me a signed copy of his last major work, Botandoro, a miscellany of articles and short stories published in the year just before he got sick. I still have a picture of him gazing down encouragingly from the shelf above my desk like a benevolent patron saint of Japanese film criticism. Donald, you will be sorely missed.

  • #12

    Alex Zahlten (Thursday, 21 February 2013 00:41)

    The few short encounters at film festivals we had and an interview I conducted with him years ago always left me astonished at how gracious and graceful this man was. As in many of his writings, in person he shared his exceptional sense of humor and his thoughtfulness.

  • #13

    James Catchpole (Thursday, 21 February 2013 16:13)

    I had no idea Donald Richie had written so extensively about things other than Japanese film until I first got here in 1997. Reading 'Partial Views', 'The Inland Sea' and 'Tokyo:A View Of the CIty' was shocking. He articulated with wit, emotion and depth all that the foreign resident in Japan experiences.

    He also taught me the greatest lesson on living abroad; how to observe without judging. Time and again I've come back to his work when questioning my life here. Donald's voice was that of the best kind of teacher.

  • #14

    Mark Schilling (Thursday, 21 February 2013 17:17)

    Here's an appreciation of Donald I wrote for Cinefan magazine, to which we were both contributors, in 2005:

    Mark Schilling

    Donald Richie is called, almost by media fiat, the foremost Western authority on Japanese films (though some journalists add “culture” or substitute “Kurosawa”). When I started reading everything I could find by Richie, in the mid-1970s as a young Japanophile, this tag seemed almost boringly self evident. Together with Joseph Anderson, Richie had written a seminal 1959 book, “The Japanese Film: Art and Industry” that was the core English-language text on Japanese cinema. He had also published, in 1965, “The Films of Akira Kurosawa,” a landmark study of Kurosawa’s work that further solidified his reputation as the leading Japanese film scholar in the West.

    His other film-related work includes reviews (for “The Japan Times” early on, more recently for “The International Herald Tribune”), books (including a new edition of his survey “A Hundred Years of Japanese Film”), essays, subtitles and DVD commentary (see Criterion’s catalog of Ozu and Kurosawa films for examples).

    Starting in the 1940s as a boy in Lima, Ohio, Richie also made his own films, including experimental shorts on sex, death and social taboos (cannibalism among them) that made him a leader in Japan’s 1960s avant garde and have recently been released on DVD.

    But as impressive as this achievement is -- and it represents only a fraction of his vast output, including novels (“Kumagai”), travelogues (“The Inland Sea”) and a photo book on Japanese tattoos -- his title of “foremost Western authority” is something of a burden and misnomer.

    First, it has made him an object of envy among academics who have mastered more post-modern theory or buffs who have seen more anime -- and deride Richie for his humanism and elitism, respectively (while wishing they were getting his press interviews, festival invitations and honors).

    Second, it calls up an image of a fact-and-film-hoovering expert that is antithetical to Richie’s essential stance. His involvement with film, as with his other interests, is passionate, personal and selective (though he can be as rigorous in his analysis as a chess master). He is open, as few in their ninth decade are, to new talents and ideas, but balks at following fashions, whether from the academy or Internet fan sites. He has read deeply and widely in the field, as his weekly book reviews for “The Japan Times” from 1972 on testify, but proudly wears the title “dilettante,” as one who belongs to no school or clique, who writes about film from interest and conviction, not careerist necessity or calculation.

    He has also known Japanese films and filmmakers, from the early postwar days on, directly and in real-time, as a self-described “outsider” who has studied the language and closely observed the culture since his youth, in Japan and among the Japanese. And his style, both literary and personal, is a model of eloquence and grace. There is no one else like him -- and there never will be again.

  • #15

    Stuart Galbraith IV (Friday, 22 February 2013 15:54)

    Donald's impact on Japanese cinema scholarship is beyond measure. His were THE books on the subject for decades, referenced and re-read until they were literally falling apart. They got western world cinephiles interested in Kurosawa and Ozu and Oshima and others years ahead of when they would have otherwise. And his film books led readers to his other works: the short films, the essays about ordinary people and the Inland Sea and Shinjuku prostitutes and Japanese cellphone culture and annoying neighbors, the homeless, and women barbers. And for that we owe him so much.

    For those of us who couldn't put those books down, who had to seek out movies and discussed but unseeable in the west, to learn more about the filmmakers and the culture and industry, he was so much more than a mere inspiration. He helped us directly: generously, selflessly.

    I take some solace in knowing Donald lived the equivalent of at least five full lives and, judging by his writings anyway, that he was as prepared for his physical fade-out as anyone possibly could be, and that his books and essays and audio commentaries and, best of all, that voice, will go on. Somewhere on the Internet, I think on Criterion's website, there's a video of Donald talking about his love of Bresson. Boy, did that provide some comfort.

  • #16

    Arif Iqball (Saturday, 23 February 2013 13:29)

    My fond memories of Donald Richie start from his days in Ann Arbor where he spent a year in sabbatical teaching about Japanese film at the University of Michigan. As a graduate student in Japanese Studies I had the privilege of not only taking his class , but also being able to speak to him personally on his insights into Japan as I considered moving there and building a Japan related career.

    Mr. Richie was a great teacher and from him I learnt a lot about Japan and still continue to find new meanings on how to best understand/interpret Japan. The world has lost a true scholar and a gentleman. May he rest in peace.

    Thank you Mr. Richie for your teachings. Gomeifuku wo oinori shimasu.

  • #17

    Claudiu Vinte (Sunday, 24 February 2013 05:46)

    Donald walked me through a Japan I had not imagined existed.
    A very personal walk, as only a profoundly personal view of life matters.
    He found the place, the people of Japan as a mythical return to the realm that was always within him.
    He shared it with us for a while, only to make his Inland Sea even more elusive.

    May love be with you, Donald!

  • #18

    Burton Watson (Sunday, 24 February 2013 12:00)

    Memories of Donald Richie

    I first knew Donald Richie in the period 1949-51, when we were both graduate students at Columbia University. I had been an enlisted man
    stationed on a repair ship in the western Pacific when the war ended, and we received orders to go to the Japanese naval base at Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. I was in Japan for the next six months and had time on liberties to visit Tokyo and other areas in the neighborhood. I then returned to the States and began college at Columbia.
    Donald got to Tokyo later but spent several years there and had an intimate knowledge of the city and its activities. During the period I
    first knew him at Columbia we got together to reminisce about life in Japan and wonder when we could get there again. In 1951 I went there, this time to enter the Chinese department of Kyoto University, China itself, in revolution, being closed to Americans. Donald subsequently returned to Tokyo, and I saw him occasionally when I had reason to visit the capital.
    I have never read any of Donald’s books on the movie industry, having no particular interest in the subject, but I think I have read all his works of fiction and the travelogue The Inland Sea, and found in them many passages of striking beauty and sensitivity. Unlike Edward Seidensticker, another friend of mine, who wrote for the papers and often appeared to disapprove of the way the Japanese did things, he was always sympathetic to their actions and undertook to explain them in reasonable terms to Western viewers. Japan is most fortunate in having in him a highly insightful observer, one who could always detect what he viewed as the justice of their view of life, and could explain it in English with sympathy and humor. His successor will be hard to find.

  • #19

    David Bordwell (Tuesday, 26 February 2013 09:59)

    As with everyone here, Donald meant a great deal to me, both as a friend and as an all-purpose researcher, writer, and cultural force. I've offered my take on some aspects of his career here:
    http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2013/02/25/donald-richie/
    Thanks to Karen and Koichi for setting up this site.

  • #20

    Mark Cousins (Tuesday, 26 February 2013 17:41)

    I'm so glad to see this site. I'm writing about explorers in the new issue of the film magazine Sight and Sound and will try to say in the article why Donald Richie mattered to me.
    Thanks.

  • #21

    Alexander Jacoby (Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:03)

    Donald's death is a matter of sadness to me, as to so many. But his life is one to be celebrated. He will be remembered respectfully by those who read him and fondly by those who knew him. Beyond my admiration for his work, I owe him a personal debt of gratitude for his faith in me and his untiring help and interest.

When I interviewed Donald, a little more than seven years ago, in Pordenone, Italy, he told me he wanted to be "emblematic of someone who lived successfully somewhere else." I think he achieved that ambition. Pico Iyer called him "the most gracious of guests". When I learned of his death, I remembered George Steiner's observation that we are all "guests of life". Donald lived with the awareness that even a permanent resident is, in the grandest scheme of things, temporary. And he lived to the full.

  • #22

    Tony Rayns (Wednesday, 27 February 2013 07:03)

    No less sad for being expected, Donald's death leaves a large hole in the lives of many friends and lovers ... and in the fabric of Tokyo life itself for many of us who visit the city. I first met Donald in the early 1980s, and he led me to many places and experiences I would never have found without his guidance. We didn't talk much about contemporary film (Donald's cinephilia all but came to a stop around 1970), but were never short of other topics to explore, from the emigre experience to the bath-houses of Seoul, or from Shinoyama Kishin's scandalous photography to the novels of Jane Austen. His connoisseurship of Indian and Korean restaurants in Ueno should also be recorded.

    Many of the anecdotes I'd like to recall about my adventures with Donald can't (or rather shouldn't) be told just now, but I've tried to do him at least provisional justice in a short obituary that I've written for the next issue of the British Film Institute magazine SIGHT AND SOUND.

  • #23

    Geoff Gardner (Wednesday, 27 February 2013 12:14)

    Thank you for the opportunity to note the death of the wonderful cinephile, critic, writer and film-maker Donald Richie. Donald’s books especially brought much deeper understanding of Kurosawa and Ozu’s cinema to the world. Many, including myself, were able to meet him during trips to Tokyo over many decades and he was an unfailing source of wisdom. Way back in the early 80s the late Kazuko Shibata took Donald and me to a screening of Seijun Suzuki’s Zeigunerweisen. I have to confess to knowing nothing of the director at the time but Donald, whom I was meeting for the first time, took me off and bought me lunch at a restaurant on a top floor of a Ginza department store. (He instructed me that the only reason he brought people here was to sample a dry beef curry dish that was indeed exquisite. Nothing else on the menu warranted any attention, he said.) Over lunch he told me about Suzuki and cheerfully decoded some of the more mysterious bits of the new film. We saw each other again a couple of times on other visits and he was always the mine of information and the person who took charge when feeding time loomed. He was a great friend to many, an intrepid guide and patient mentor.

  • #24

    Paul Schrader (Wednesday, 27 February 2013 14:05)

    Mentor, friend, artist, author, scholar and a titan straddling the history of Japanese film. A genuinely good human being. We will not see his like again. Thank you, Donald.

  • #25

    Peter Cowie (Sunday, 03 March 2013 01:22)

    I have written an appreciation of Donald on the Criterion website: www.criterion.com, under the CURRENT section. So nice to read all these reminiscences and impressions of a man whose Scottish and Swiss parentage gave him such witty and efficient attitude to life.

  • #26

    Jeannette Paulson Hereniko (Monday, 04 March 2013)


    I consider Donald Richie one of the founders of the Hawaii International Film Festival. It was his advice that mattered most to me in selecting guests and films from Japan as well as other places of the world. He is the reason Kashiko Kawakita, Susan Sontag, Nagisa Oshima, Tishuro Mufine, Tadao Sato, among others, came to Hawaii for the Festival. His participation encouraged thousands to be in the audience.
    Each year he attended, Donald would escort me to the first meeting of the international jury. In his clear, concise manner he’d instruct the jury on their responsibilities and voting procedures, a method he deemed the best, after decades of serving on film festival juries throughout the world. He set the standard.
    He presented lectures, published essays in our program, introduced films, led after film discussions, and analyzed films frame by frame, several times with Roger Ebert. He would write and say things so precisely, so clearly, so poetically, so full of insights that we packed the theaters and learned from him. He opened our eyes so we could see more clearly.
    During the 16 years I was Director of the Hawaii International Film Festival from 1981 through 1996, Donald was there for 12 of these years, refusing to come unless he could “do” something to contribute. The Festival’s annual theme was “When Stranger’s Meet” featuring films that examined cross-cultural encounters. The emphasis was on film content and filmmakers, rather than the business of film or movie stars. And all screenings were free. Donald liked this.
    When the Festival was over and the reviews came in from around the world, all I really cared about was what Donald wrote in his Japan Times article. His approval determined if we succeeded or not.
    Donald’s books, essays, plays, films, artwork, Criterion Collection narrations will live on, and educate future generations about Japan, film and life. However, in addition to being my chief counsel during the years I was at the Hawaii International Film Festival, he was my very dear friend with whom I shared secrets, memories and dreams. When a friend like Donald passes on, something of you also vanishes.

  • #27

    Nina Levin Jalladeau (Wednesday, 06 March 2013 16:15)


    My first glimpse of Donald was in Locarno in 1986 when he was serving on the jury.  We met sometime after that in Tokyo when he introduced us to his beloved Ueno and the view of the pond from his window on the eighth floor.  A precisely chosen vantage point he chose to share in many ways with others.

    We were regularly in touch after our stay together in Trivandrum in 1999, when he was a fellow jury member (along with Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Martial Knaebel, and Alain Jalladeau) of the Kerala film Festival.  And, in 2000, we invited him to spend a week with us in Nantes at the Festival of 3 Continents.  A resolutely unpretentious intellectual whose broad knowledge of film did not dampen either his spontaneity or his preference for some unconventional films, his "Carte Blanche to Donald Richie", a program of Japanese films, was well received.

    From then on, there were brief encounters in Rotterdam, Pordenone, and Tokyo.  Though Donald was apparently at home all over the world, my chosen countries, France and China, were not his favored destinations, so our exchanges of personal and professional information were mostly long-distance -- he insisted on trips to the post office to send printed letters preferably with unusual stamps.

    In addition to his ongoing activities, these were the years Donald spent compiling and editing a lifetime of personal journals. After having written on a wide range of subjects, he had determined that his true subject was himself.  He had a great deal to say while leaving much unsaid …  To his credit and with the help of Leza Lowitz, he managed to find the delicate balance between the two.

    Donald's thinking and writing has a philosophical dimension in that it consists of descriptions, not explanations. Though a resident of Tokyo, above and beyond his prestigious reputation as a film historian and a Japanologist, he was a model cultural cosmopolite, in practice as well as theory.   

    Though I was on the edge of the last part of Donald's life and (unlike many whose paths crossed his) not at all famous, I received his gift for listening as well as speaking, reading as well as writing, and treating others with generosity, kindness, and respect.

  • #28

    Joan Itoh Burk (Tuesday, 12 March 2013 00:49)

    I met Donald Richie at the Japan Times about 1970. He became my friend and mentor. I have many memories of Donald especially during the 70's and 80's. We worked on a few projects together. My book "Japanese Cooking Now" was his brain-child. He was a wonderful teacher. I will remember him as a brilliant, kind, serious, funny, brave, wonderful man. It is hard to realize he is no longer only a telephone call away.
    He touched so many lives. Japan has lost an international champion.

  • #29

    David G Cercone 2 (Sunday, 24 March 2013 16:53)

    NO! I've been sobbing since I heard he'd passed on... Richie was the last of the Gentleman Scholar Wits, someone you'd think came to life from the pages of a Saki story or one of Wilde's plays. Such erudition and breathe of knowledge and compassionate humour. He informed my life so deeply and has influenced my studies more than I can say.... I hope he is drinking and laughing in Heaven with Ozu and Mfune right now...I hope he understood how many of us who never had the honour of meeting him loved and respected him from afar.

    Seeing pages like this make me feel that even though I never got the privilege of making that pilgrimage to Ueno Park to meet him
    there are even more people than I ever realised who adore him in the same way and that is a consolation. As Gerbier says of Luc Jardie in L'Armee des Ombres "it was through his writings that I wanted to know him...he has been my spiritual leader for a long time..."

    I love and miss you Sir

  • #30

    Peter Goodman (Tuesday, 26 March 2013 21:08)

    I enjoy reading about the various dinners and late-night jaunts and festival fun-stuff that others enjoyed with Donald, but I know DR mostly as his publisher and editor. I met him from time to time, but our work together was almost entirely through correspondence, by letter until just the past few years, when DR agreed to use email but made me swear to never ever give out his email address to others or even to let on that he used such an infernal writing contraption.

    There were other rules in working with DR. No early-morning faxes. All letters must be promptly and completely answered (he never failed, I rarely succeeded). It is OK to correct spelling, facts, and other matters beyond dispute, but do not screw with the text without asking! (I usually got my way with that/which, commas, and the small mechanical stuff, but frankly there was not a lot of fat to trim away from DR's prose and how could I ever presume to phrase it better?). DR was a gentleman writer, a tradesman as much as a craftsman. He could write to length and to deadline. He considered authorship a noble profession run by ignoble snakes mostly. Business details were dispensed with quickly, as if they just got in the way.

    DR could have benefited greatly from having a savvy publicist at close hand, a marketing brander to persuade the world what a unique and valuable literary giant he truly was. Big as he was In the smaller worlds of Japanese culture and film, some martini-drinking NYC agent or publisher could have worked over his narrative and made him into some sort of media celebrity. I suppose DR would have detested that, but at the same time, from my discussions with him, I'm convinced he felt he never quite got his due. Had Stone Bridge had the money, the connections, well, we could have done more too. DR seemed to accept that he was a giant on a smaller stage, but a stage that mattered deeply to him.

    DR's accumulation of years and writings, the generosity that drew others to him, and his social gregariousness have assured his continued existence as a full-fleshed personality in print and in memory. In THE DONALD RICHIE READER compiler Arturo Silva emphasizes DR's belief that 'the ostensible is the real." That line works on so many levels for all of us remembering Donald Richie here. What we saw is what we got . . . or was it? Of course it wasn't, not really. I knew but one aspect of DR. Others are filling in the rest. And then there are his own writings, his fact-filled journals that he would retype and re-edit, until the truth perhaps lay more in the artful words and phrasings than in what actually happened.

    I remember maybe 15 years ago after some literary event offering to drive DR back to San Francisco. It was late, maybe 11ish, and I assumed Donald was going back to his hotel. No, he said, just drop me off in North Beach, I'm going to stay out a while. And so, on Columbus X Broadway I let him out of my car. In Japanese fashion he remained on the sidewalk, waving, as I drove off. Where is he going from here? I wondered.

    It was an honor to publish DR over the years, and to have been entrusted with delivering his work to others. Long may he remain in print!

  • #31

    Leza Lowitz (Thursday, 28 March 2013 14:22)

    It was a great privilege to be Donald's friend and "deshi" over the many years, and to edit his Japan Journals for Stone Bridge Press in the decade spanning 1994-2004. I was able to spend time with Donald up until he passed away and am forever grateful for the many lessons he taught. I will never tire of re-reading his The Inland Sea and many volumes of essays and writings on Japan and the Japanese film. I will miss him dearly. The day Donald passed away I wrote this tribute, recalling how we met and how generous he was to me and many other young writers just starting out. Thank you Donald for all you gave Japan and the world.
    http://redroom.com/member/leza-lowitz/blog/in-memorium-donald-richie-1924-2013-1#.USQZvcmL_AE.facebook

  • #32

    Leza Lowitz (Thursday, 28 March 2013 14:34)


    When Donald Richie arrived in Japan in 1946, the Japanese had been our enemies. Beyond that, their customs and behavior were utterly foreign. They ate raw fish. They bowed. They used chopsticks. The gap between east and west was quite wide. Through his writings, and by introducing generations of Westerners to Japanese film, Donald Richie closed that gap.

    Though Mr. Richie took the outward voyage once from Lima, Ohio, to Tokyo, Japan, he took an inward voyage his whole life. And he recorded that voyage in his works such as The Inland Sea, and his Japan Journals 1947-2006, which I had the privilege of editing over a ten-year period.

    For half a century, Richie stood in one place, Tokyo, and observed it carefully while it changed all around him. And he observed others, sometimes the very famous, observing it, too. While many others of his generation were translators, Richie didn't read Japanese, so he stood outside to witness. This was his greatest gift.

    What a gift to devote one's life and writing to understanding a country, its citizens, its art, and film, architecture, customs and social oddities. He gave Japan the gift of astute observation. Japan gave Richie the gift of self-discovery.

    In this role as an outsider, he "sought to understand but not necessarily to explain." In this quest, he found his own identity, he invented himself. Japan was used as the "other" against which to define himself. In that, he was truly American.

    He was also very generous in mentoring young writers and filmmakers. I’ll never forget when I first met him in 1989. I’d just arrived in Japan and had moved to Yanaka which is in shitamachi, downtown Tokyo. It's an old area that retained its quaintness. Richie loved it, and neighboring Ueno park where he was later to live out his years in an apartment overlooking a lotus pond.

    New to Japan, I joined The Tokyo English Writer’s group. I helped out with their magazine, Printed Matter. One day, affixing seals to envelopes to mail out an issue, I saw the name Donald Richie, a film critic and writer whose books I’d read and admired. The Inland Sea was one of my all-time favorites.

    I was surprised to discover that he lived a few blocks away from me.

    I asked a translator friend to introduce us, and amazingly, Mr. Richie and I became friends. We were neighbors, after all.

    I went to his apartment often. One day, he dug out some photographs from his closet, images of piercings and full-body tattoos and other interesting bodily adornments. Those were fascinating, but more fascinating was a box still in the closet I managed to see.

    “What’s in that one?” I asked.

    “Oh those? Just old diaries,” he said, shrugging it off.

    “Can I see them?” I asked.

    “Sure. No one besides me has ever read them, but why not?”

    Hungrily, I thumbed through the hand-written scrawl, finding juicy episodes about many of the great names in literature and film in the twentieth century.

    “This would make a great book! Here you were, an outsider in Japan, watching it change all around you, writing down every moment from that perspective. These are incredible!”

    “Do you think so?” he asked, ever humble.

    I offered to have them typed up, and Donald and I spent the next decade with Peter Goodman of Stone Bridge Press whittling down these 1000 pages into a book, The Japan Journals.

    The Japan Journals include post-war encounters with famous people. But for me, the heart of Donald’s genius was in writing about the ordinary people, the ones we pass by every day and don’t really see.

    In the Journals, Donald wrote that he wanted to "make lasting the ordinary perishable" and he did. Lima, Ohio (which also gave the world “Glee”) gave us Donald Richie, and this was no small thing.

    “If I stayed in Lima, I’d be selling shoes at Sils shoestore” he told me. Instead, he wrote over 40 books on Japanese cinema, culture, art and literature, including his own travel writing, essays and fiction. He also made films and was an accomplished painter.

    Japan liberated him. “Being here allowed me not so much to have achieved fredom from the Japanese as to have achieved freedom from myself,” he said.

    After he became ill in 2009, suffering from his fifth heart attack, I sat down with him and asked him the Vanity Fair questions.

    One of them was: “What will they say in Heaven when you arrive?”

    He answered, “You’re late. Get in here.”

    I also asked him what he wanted to be remembered for.

    “I want to be remember for my writing, my books. But I’ll probably be remembered for my scholarship on Japan.”

    He’ll be remembered for both.

    2/20/13

  • #33

    Arturo Silva (Sunday, 31 March 2013 01:48)

    - Who are you?
    - Just a man.
    - An ancient race.

    Thus, Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda via Sergio Leone.

    And what’s that from Terrence? “Nothing human is alien to me.”

    Thus Donald, high and low, classical and modern, enjoying trash films as much as Bresson – whom he adored; he once told me that he would be happy “to wash that man’s underwear.”

    But enough of my memories; what I wonder about is his – poof! – all of it gone in a last word, a final breath. Oh sure, it’s there in the immense, wide work (the film work, the essay work, and do not forget the important fiction work), almost encyclopedic … but I am speaking of that other memory, the one relived with him while strolling the great city we both loved: how he recalled what used to stand on any given site, what he one witnessed at another, what he said to so-and-so on a similar autumn day ... you know what I mean, the stuff that makes up the lining of life and art, but that is rarely recalled, much less made into films or novels. (Though in his, some of these details do find their way). The work made him the expert on Japan; the – living, walking, talking – experience and memories made him more: not “just a man,” but “Some kind of a man” (thus Dietrich on Welles).

    Poof!

  • #34

    Francesca Passsalacqua (Saturday, 13 April 2013 12:10)

    I cannot come to terms with the fact that there is no Donald. I treasure my time with him--his wisdom, generosity, kindness, humor, wickedness, endless enthusiasm for film, art, life, culture high and low. I will continue to treasure his writings, his books and his letters. I'm thankful that I was able to attend one of his film classes where we could see the films he loved through his eyes. We shared a love for Jane Austen and the writings of Johnson and Boswell. He would try to get me to appreciate Noh, but I remained partial to the "plebeian" kabuki. He would say he liked who he was in Japan. I liked who I was when I was with him. He always made me feel better about myself and about the world. I will miss him always.

  • #35

    Don Ed Hardy (Saturday, 13 April 2013 12:15)

    Donald Richie’s contribution to my life is incalculable and his passing is an enormous loss for the world. As an art student in 1966, when I became reconnected with tattooing, seeing Irezumi—a photo book on the tradition published that year, with text by Donald — instantly rekindled my childhood resolve to take up the practice, and emulate what the Japanese masters were doing. This involved an abrupt turn from my career path at the time, which was to enter a full scholarship graduate degree program at Yale. After seven years’ honing my skills in the U.S, in 1973 I eventually lived and worked in Japan. Ten years later, I prepared to return to study with Horiyoshi II, the greatest living tattoo master. By then, I’d read much of Donald’s work and was thoroughly appreciative of what he had done in bringing awareness of the East to the West. I was surprised when a ukiyoe dealer in San Francisco urged me to call Donald, assuring me he was very approachable.

    I did, in fact, call him and was instantly welcomed into his magical, enthusiastic aura. Thus began a series of regular work trips to Japan, where my wife and I benefited from Donald’s generosity, humor, and profound wisdom. We would see him wherever possible, in Japan, California, Honolulu…taking his summer class in Japanese film at University of Hawaii, bringing him to a street festival in Yokohama where—much to Donald’s delight—I participated in carrying a mikoshi with members of the local tattoo association… with him as guide on countless nighttime walks through Kabuki-cho, and daytimes in his home areas, Yanaka and Ueno … meeting scores of wide-ranging individuals representing a glittering field of interests and scholarship…no one has illuminated my life in such a unique fashion. His rare combination of erudition and incisive intellect coexisted with enthusiastic delight in the everyday world. Donald possessed the essence of mindfulness and open spirit and was a true bodhisattva who indelibly illuminated our lives.

  • #36

    UK tribute bands (Friday, 13 September 2013)

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