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The Inland Sea

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  220 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
"Earns its place on the very short shelf of books on Japan that are of permanent value." "Times Literary Supplement. "

"Richie is a stupendous travel writer; the book shines with bright witticisms, deft characterizations of fisherfolk, merchants, monks and wistful adolescents, and keen comparisons of Japanes and Western culture." "San Francisco Chronicle"

"A learned, beautif
ebook, 260 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Stone Bridge Press (first published 1971)
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(showing 1-30 of 666)
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This is a wonderful, brilliant, eccentric book - not a travel log -- but truly a dérive, a wandering through a portion of reality in search of self -- and the self and searcher, a man of such honest and tender and, indeed, unsentimental sentiments.

The richness of anecdote and observation -- social, psychological, erotic -- like beautiful landscape -- an oriental Claude or Poussin -- to which Richie himself compares the Inland Sea -- surprised me. I had expected something much slighter.
Feb 21, 2013 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, travel-writing
Donald Richie has often complained of feeling distant from a traditional notion of Japan. Having lived in Tokyo since the 1950's, his introduction to the culture was the ever economically burgeoning urban hub of the island of Honshu. Although, for a man of his old-fashioned, conservative disposition, it's easy to see him not finding much to enjoy for terribly long amidst the cacophony and endless concrete sprawl of any major city in the world. Inspired by this cranky aversion to modernity, in th ...more
Andrew Schirmer
Mar 18, 2013 Andrew Schirmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, travel
Let me preface this by saying that I had well intended to write a long review, quoting long essential & brilliant passages, etc. However, the book is so good, that I have already lent it to a friend with an interest in Japan. I hope to get it back. Because it should be read again and again...

Ostensibly a travelogue of a journey through the Seto Inland Sea between Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, in The Inland Sea Richie spins his stopovers on tiny islands and encounters with locals (and, bizarre
Jim Coughenour
Sep 21, 2013 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: armchairtravel, japan
In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people. – Oscar Wilde

Written in the mid-60s, published in 1971, republished in this miniscule paperback in 2002 – Donald Richie's meandering journey through the islands of Japan's "inland sea" is a traveler's romance. Richie's account begins conventionally: "A journey is always also something of a flight." Only gradually does the nature of what Richie is fleeing from emerge, which could be called conventi
As fellow reviewer Michael has pointed out, despite being a well-known name in Japan studies, Donald Ritchie’s books have very few ratings on GR. It’s a shame, because he really has a different take on the Japan experience. Although extremely knowledgeable about film, the arts, and Japanese culture, he surprisingly cannot read Japanese well. That isn't a problem for his travels since his main goal is to meet and talk with as many common people as possible. In a way, it could be an advantage to a ...more
Aug 13, 2013 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: red-queen
Donald Richie (1924-2013) is one of those names in Japanology that of course you've known about forever. It wasn't until today, however, that I finally read one of his books. Seidensticker I've read through his translations since I was seventeen and then finally his non-fiction book last week. I'm not entirely sure why a keen Japan Studies reader took so long to get to these known classics. But Goodreads provides some clue-- Donald Keene's most read book--220 ratings. this work, called "a classi ...more
Dec 11, 2007 Davin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanisme
I go back and forth on this one. It is supposed to be a classic of western takes on japan and there are parts I liked a lot, but it took 5-6 months to finish it and I read a dozen or so other books in the meantime, which speaks to how much I enjoyed it.

A memoir/travelog of a gaijin resident of Japan who travels to its more remote areas looking for the traditional Japan. He goes to some interesting places and makes lots of compelling observations but he's not someone I'd want as a traveling comp
Mar 16, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
Richie's warts-and-all approach feels a bit more genuine than some other Japan books I have read. I can see how other reviewers might find him a bit pompous and/or Orientalist, though.
D.M. Dutcher
Mar 24, 2012 D.M. Dutcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese, nonfiction
A man travels across the Inland Sea of Japan, a place at the time time full of remote islands closer to ancient Japan than the modern world. He observes, flirts, listens, collects stories, thinks, philosophizes, and more. It's done with such beauty and eye for detail that it reads like the best fiction, and the stories tell so much about what the Japanese mind is, and the Japanese people are. Some of them feel more alien than the best fantasy tales: how one island made its living from "prostitut ...more
Vivian Blaxell
Apr 13, 2013 Vivian Blaxell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written and constructed, if a bit arch and Edwardian in tone at times. And the journey through the Seto Naikai is at once funny, sexy, melancholic and wise. But the entire text is now an historical artifact. The Seto Naikai Richie writes about is no more; the Japan he writes about is pretty much gone, and the way he writes about it would draw howls of criticism these days, for we may no longer begging sentences with "The Japanese are ..."
Jun 04, 2016 Kerfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author travels through the islands of the inland sea of Japan, looking for dying traditions and himself. Information is conveyed through specific stories of his encounters with particular people, times, and places, interactions that illuminate the way of life being left behind by the encroaching international modern world. I learned a lot about Japan and its traditional character and approach to living.

Unfortunately, the longer I traveled with Richie, the more I came to dislike him. That def
Jason Keenan
Mar 15, 2013 Jason Keenan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan
I can't believe it took me this long to discover Richie. I picked this up because it was about Japan and was pleased to discover one of the best travel books I've ever read.

Written in the late 60s and early 70s it captures what was then a vanishing way if life - one that is surely gone. The author is also shockingly honest about his inner monologue. Well worth a read.
Mar 01, 2014 haetmonger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I don't care if I never leave."

I liked this one. I certainly wouldn't subscribe to everything Richie says, but it was definitely refreshing to read someone saying different from how my friends here all talk about Japan. I should try to read more in the Literate Westerner Living in Japan genre.
Dec 19, 2013 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot recall a more insightful or colorful travelogue about Japan (article or book), and it's 40 years old. Richie seems that rare and perfect in between of both cultures to serve as guide/interpreter to the foreign reader. I wish he had done more.
Patrick McCoy
I had originally read and enjoyed some excerpts from Donald Richie's The Inland Sea (1971) in The Donald Richie Reader (2002). I have always thought that Richie has done some of the best writing about Japan from a foreigner's perspective and have been sympathetic to many of his opinions about Japan and the Japanese. After reading his journals last year after his death, I decided that there were several complete works that are worthwhile searching out and reading and this was at the top of the li ...more
Jun 16, 2008 Tosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt Donald Richie is the best foreigner ever to write about Japan. For anyone interested in Japanese culture (pop and old) do read him before going to Japan. He's essential.
Jul 13, 2008 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite book on Japan. Donald Ritchie has a great eye for detail. I recommend it for anyone that wants to know more about small town (or island) Japan.
Justin Gaynor
Apr 03, 2016 Justin Gaynor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Does The Inland Sea, as conceived by Ritchie, still exist? Did it ever? I guess we'll never know, but thankfully we have this book to fire our imaginations.

This is really the author's paean to the non-urban Japanese of the 1970's. Ritchie, equally at home in NYC and Tokyo, found these country folks absolutely fascinating, and does a great job transmitting this interest to readers. Not all of his interests and opinions overlapped with mine, but every page of this book contained something of valu
This classic travelogue was published in 1971. After living on the Japanese mainland for 25 years, author Donald Richie began his extended journey around Japan’s Inland Sea. He wanted to experience traditional Japanese culture, in a time when mainland cities were rapidly becoming westernized. He’d anticipated the future building of bridges between the Sea’s islands, and a rapid deterioration of traditional Japanese lifestyles. Using ferries and small boats piloted by locals with whom he became a ...more
Donald Richie takes us on a journey through the many islands of the inland sea, their ports, villages and cities. He writes about his encounters with the people, their conversations with him, the local legends and stories they tell him and the sites that are scattered all over the area.

One of my favorite parts of the book was his trip to an island hospital/institution that houses lepers. The patients talk to him about their lives and family backgrounds, among them, there is this girl who is cure
Patrick Colgan
Jan 12, 2016 Patrick Colgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, travel, giappone, japan
This moving, melancholic travel memoir describes a country that is profoundly different from the Japan of Today. Sailing on boats between the islands of the Inland sea he describes a rural Japan that has long since disappeared. Even the passenger boats are not sailing these waters anymore. Still, a lot of what Donald Richie writes about the Japanese people or their culture is surprisingly still true today.

A great, wonderfully written book.

From my blog - six travel books about Japan
Feb 28, 2016 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is very enjoyable when the author is describing the places he visits and the conversations with the people that he meets. There are sections where the writer attempts analysis of the country and people, and here he falls foul of using generalisations, i.e. 'the Japanese'. The book becomes a personal exploration of sorts in the latter stages, but it still remains one of the better travel books on Japan.
Stacia Stetkiewicz
The most arrogant, bigoted, and exociticizing travel book I have ever had the misfortune to come across - don't believe a word of his characterization of the Japanese.
Mar 30, 2008 Powersamurai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan-related
Part fiction based on Richie's travels through the Inland Sea during the 60s, this is a brilliant snapshot of rural Japan. It is a great introduction to the Japan of old for the armchair traveller. As with many travelogues, there are some things that cannot be appreciated fully unless you have lived in Japan for a few years, but that should not discourage anyone from reading it. There is so many things in the book that everyone will have a favourite quote, episode or island. If Richie's apartmen ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Donna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I only got though 50 pages, I just couldn't connect with this.
Tim Smith
Sep 03, 2015 Tim Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think the most honest answer is: I like myself here.
Sep 13, 2007 Justin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having lived in Hiroshima four years or so now, the reality
of these islands just off my coast (my coast?) breathes
an air of reality into this particular work. Giving this
situation I am quite enjoying the book.

That being said, Donald Richie seems to be quite taken with
himself, and although he is quite capable of pithy humour
as well as richly descriptive prose, the texts tone is,
in a single word, pompous.
Dec 18, 2010 John rated it really liked it
Interesting story of the author's travels through a remote part of Japan nearly 50 years ago. The continuous narrative format - there are no chapters, just "breaks" ( ***** ) becomes a bit tough to follow near the end, along with all the Japanese place names, that ran together for me. Four stars for the writing quality, and variety of experience; I was rarely tempted to skip ahead.
Katie Holden
May 01, 2016 Katie Holden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining narrative about areas of "untouched" Japan. My review is biased to be higher than I would have give it normally -- I read it while traveling around the Inland Sea area for three weeks. :)
Thomas Threlfo
Jun 27, 2013 Thomas Threlfo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, although the author is a little obnoxious at times. Still, his writing is good, and he is perceptive about the things that make Japan what it is, I think.
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PNWJETAA Book Club: The Inland Sea discussion 1 6 Apr 07, 2013 09:28PM  
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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...

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