Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Japan Journals: 1947-2004” as Want to Read:
The Japan Journals: 1947-2004
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Japan Journals: 1947-2004

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  90 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Donald Richie has been observing and writing about Japan from the moment he arrived on New Year's Eve, 1946. Detailing his life, his attachments, and his ideas on matters high and low, The Japan Journals is a record of both a nation and an evolving expatriate sensibility. It is an overwhelmingly poignant experience of a complicated life well lived and captivatingly told.
Hardcover, 494 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Stone Bridge Press
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Japan Journals, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Japan Journals

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 289)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
May 13, 2011 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my bullet
Recommended to Mariel by: my bull whip
Donald Richie is not a Japanophile in the Ophelia style. Hamlet will never marry him and he doesn't want him to. He says... He says that he would not have been able to live in Japan if he was Japanese. The doomed romantic and broken hearted desire is to live as floating in the stream (no tangles? rootless?), skyline and country line passing by in fast forward freeze frames. But you can smell it, taste it, hear it all.

I'm an -ophile. I fall in love all of the time.

"We are born, so to speak, pro
The opening passage of Donald Richie's Japan Journals begins with a poetic description of a 1947 firebombed Tokyo and the horrific aftermath that its citizens experienced. This is a fictional account, eventually used by one of his characters in his novel Where Are the Victors?. In 1947 Richie had just arrived in Tokyo from Lima, OH. Beginning as a typist for the U.S. Civil Service, he would eventually find work writing for The Pacific Stars and Stripes, an independent news source that operated f ...more
This, truly, is a stellar book.

Round about p. 286, I thought I would give up on it. There were many interesting anecdotes, a lot of open talk about sex (homosexual) - and it really didn't add up to much. But then, as Richie aged, the book itself began to gather weight and gravity and a certain centeredness… and by the end, I had the feeling that I was in the presence of a work… indeed, a life -- of permanent value -- intelligent, feeling, yet utterly clear-eyed… almost visionary, as he glances,
Peter Tieryas
Adding a video review based on my htmlgiant review:

I reviewed this book as a tribute to Donald Richie at HTMLGiant, pasting in some short segments from the full review:

"Donald Richie passed away on February 19, 2013. Many people knew him as the preeminent critic of Japanese film, bringing attention and exposure for directors like Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu to Western audiences. “Whatever we in the West know abou
Come for Capote, Stravinsky, Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa and, of course, Yukio Mishima ... but stay for Tani Hiraoka, Zushiden Tsukasa, Mizushima Fumio and Numata Makiyo. And for 24th September 1955.

I like to imagine that Marguerite Yourcenar looked like Charlotte Rampling. I know she didn't.

Good bits:

"Now the windows are rattling and there is the smell of brine in the room. The electric light flickers and Tani sits across from me, looking at what I write, wondering if it is about him,
Sep 14, 2007 Tosh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Japan lunatics
Donald Richie is one of those remarkable guys who was in the right place in the right time. Meaning that he was an American who moved to Japan after the war - and eventually met every cool Japanese writer and filmmaker of the 20th Century. Everyone from Yukio Mishima to Kawabata to Ozu is in this book.

Richie is a remarkable writer and he really captures the essence of Japan. In fact, I would say he is the best Foreign (not being Japanese) writer writing about the Japanese arts. PERIOD!
David B
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 curi ...more
Jun 21, 2014 Geoff marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm not putting this on the "currently reading" shelf but this is my current bedside read- wonderful so far-- I read a few entries before drifting off to the land of Nod. Richie comes off as a somewhat restrained aesthete at this early point in the diaries, but his correlating Baudelaire and Proust into war shattered Tokyo has its appeal, to me at least, and Mishima is a constant fixation and fascinating presence. Just now getting into some train trips out into the countryside and he has a defin ...more
Donald Richie came to Japan as a young merchant seaman in 1947 and never left. In the intervening years, he has become the West's preeminent expert on Japan: no other foreigner understands the social conditions, underyling tensions, filmmaking traditions, and sexual habits of its people better. Over the course of the book, Richie becomes good friends with filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu and novelist Yukio Mishima, leads people like Truman Capote, Igor Stravinsky, and Francis Ford Coppola on tours around ...more
I entered into this book, nearly 60 years of Donald Richie's journals, without any preconceptions or expectations - I had no idea who the man was. I think this worked to my benefit. In addition to some great observations of Japanese culture and the changes he witnessed over six decades, the book is an interesting sex-and-gender study as you piece together the author's self-discovery from his words both implicit and explicit.

Many thanks to Tosh for the recommendation!
J Moragoda
It may be true that Ritchie was the Lafcadio Hearn of his generation. I could not put the book down. It was a vicarious travel back in time to Tokyo in the aftermath of WWII through the millennium. Ritchie knew so many Japanese and American cultural icons. Was sad when I came to the end of his journals - they were so interesting and made me more aware of the impact of the defeat and Occupation on Japanese society as reflected through its artists.
People seem to hung up on the sex when they read Richie's journals, but they can't see the forest for the trees. As a whole, it is thought provoking not only for a gaijin in Japan, but also for anyone who is growing old and we all will some day. The added pleasure is watching Japan change through Richie's eyes as you read it. Reading the entries from 1990 onwards was especially interesting for me, as I have lived those same years in Japan.
Donald Richie lived such a fascinating life, my hero.

"1958. I am to meet Mishima at the Korakuen Gym for a workout in the late afternoon. Soon, much out of shape, I am sore, but I like the gym. The bodies are nice, but that isn’t it. Actually, a gym is rather like a butcher-shop—lots of good meat, but all this display does not whet the appetite.
No, I like the gym because it is warm and friendly and everyone is doing the same thing and everyone is in a way, well, humble. No one is vainglorious of
David Bonesteel
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 curi ...more
Patrick McCoy
I first read excerpts from Donald Richie’s journals in The Donald Richie Reader (2001). I thought that the collects bits and pieces from his writings were enough to get a picture of Richie’s Japan, but I realize that I am interested in reading more of his works. I recently saw an interesting quote from the journals somewhere (“Life here means never taking life for granted.”) along with the fact that he died this year in February, compelled me to read his journals. I know Richie primarily through ...more
not the greatest autobio in the world, but a fascinating time/place/person. gay guy (expat) in japan. he does not talk about any 'modern' japanese films or directors though, just the older ones.
Lots of great Japanese film and literary gossip.
A fantastic, hilarious, poignant book.
Tim Smith
Denied, fortunate foreigner, the tepid if comfortable bath which is daily life back "home," he cannot sink back and let the music flow over, mindless, transparent; he must listen, score in hand.
In Japan I have lived my life in a state of consciousness.
"It was the benefits of stigma that you discovered here."
Not so sure this was the place to start reading Richie's work. Enjoyed it, but I had a hard time getting into the scattered journal entries. Will definitely try to get into one of his more planned books soon.
Lauren marked it as to-read
Apr 22, 2015
Mike marked it as to-read
Apr 09, 2015
C marked it as to-read
Apr 08, 2015
Calum marked it as to-read
Mar 30, 2015
Lorna marked it as to-read
Mar 29, 2015
Rae marked it as to-read
Mar 23, 2015
Gabriel Butler
Gabriel Butler marked it as to-read
Mar 12, 2015
Charles Pink Pink
Charles Pink Pink marked it as to-read
Mar 04, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan
  • Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation
  • Lost Japan
  • 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan
  • Inventing Japan: 1853-1964
  • A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II
  • Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan
  • Mishima: A Biography
  • Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
  • The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and Her Family
  • Confessions of a Yakuza
  • Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld
  • Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan
  • The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan
  • Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents
  • The Making of Modern Japan
  • The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima
  • Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa
Donald Richie is an American-born author who has written about the Japanese people and Japanese cinema. Although he considers himself only a writer, Richie has directed many experimental films, the first when he was 17. Although Richie speaks Japanese fluently, he can neither read nor write it.

During World War II, he served aboard Liberty ships as a purser and medical officer. By then he had alrea
More about Donald Richie...
The Films of Akira Kurosawa A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History The Inland Sea Ozu: His Life and Films A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics

Share This Book

“What do I want to be when I grow up? An attractive role would be that of the bunjin. He is the Japanese scholar who wrote and painted in the Chinese style, a literatus, something of a poetaster - a pose popular in the 18th century. I, however, would be a later version, someone out of the end of the Meiji, who would pen elegant prose and work up flower arrangements from dried grasses and then encourage spiders to make webs and render it all natural. For him, art is a moral force and he cannot imagine life without it. He is also the kind of casual artist who, after a day's work is done, descends into his pleasure park and dallies.” 0 likes
More quotes…