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The Inland Sea

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  421 ratings  ·  63 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, beautifull
Paperback, 260 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Stone Bridge Press (first published 1971)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Creative Obituary for a Lost Culture

As an expatriate, I understand Richie’s feelings toward Japan. Paradoxically only a foreigner can appreciate what the native takes for granted. And those who are culturally changing aren’t in the position of a non-native to articulate or appreciate the changes they’re experiencing. Richie’s admiration for Japan is tempered by his recognition that the post-war ‘economic miracle’ of Japan already had had serious cultural consequences when he wrote in 1971. Almos
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great travelogue by the wonderful and quirky Donald Richie, the writer who captured the culture of Japan and championed directors like Kurosawa and Ozu and brought them to the attention of Western audiences.
Left Coast Justin
Note added Dec. 2020: For some reason, this is my favorite book to reach for when I'm feeling low. The combination of calm, foreignness and snapshot in time is something I can get lost in, every time.

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
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Andrew Schirmer
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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, bizarrely,
Jim Coughenour
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Daniel Warriner
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the pinnacle of all Japan travel memoirs by non-Japanese writers. Donald Richie, well known for his books and essays on Japanese cinema and a former film critic for The Japan Times, first came to Japan in the late 1940s, then returned in the 1950s and stayed until his death in 2013 in Tokyo, at the age of 88.

I'd recently read his A View from the Chuo Line and Other Stories (2004) and The Image Factory (2003), both interesting but not anywhere near as substantial, romantic, or in
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is dated (Richie's preoccupation with sexual freedom and hooking up, albeit solely on his terms, is one of the less endearing qualities of a certain kind of seventies male writer), and, like Paul Theroux, his persona on page is strong, slightly bitter, opinionated, and more than a little narcissistic. He's the kind of travel writer/alchemist who transform his emotions, moods of the moment into grand generalizations about the nature of the Japanese (by the end of the book, I was flinchin ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, japan
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
“The Inland Sea is a nearly landlocked, lakelike body of water bounded by three of Japan’s four major islands. It is entered through but four narrow straits, three opening to the south into the Pacific Ocean and one—called Kammon or Barrier Gate—to the west into the narrow sea that separates Japan from Korea and the rest of Asia."

"It has been called the Aegean of the East. There are, however, differences. The Greek islands are few, and they stand from the sea as though with an effort, as though
Books on Asia
Oct 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
Note: The edition I read was Whetherhill 1978. I cannot find this edition listed on GR and it will not let me add it.

Extremely disappointing. I can't believe I've recommended this book to people before. It has so much potential, but unfortunately is marred by the author's attempts to shag any Japanese woman who shows even a modicum of interest in him. Then, when he fails in his sexual exploits, he blames it on the woman for having led him on. And one of them was a 15-yr-old school girl. He blame
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In terms of travel books written about Japan, this is a classic. It's a pretty simple work: Ohio-born outsider tools around the Seto Inland Sea and, in the manner of a flâneur, offers his take on the place. Pre-gallery Naoshima. Pre-bridge islands. A world of fishing boats and lazy afternoons.

Let's put it in perspective from the outset: the area that he's talking about is glorious. It's hazy and hypnotic, and completely suited to romantic introspection if you're a traveller who's impressed by v
Oct 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan-ese
Living in Shikoku myself at the moment it was a great read. He paints a vivid picture of what the islands in the Inland Sea were like before the new bridges (to some) were built and before the area became more of a domestic tourist spot. Some passages spoke so much to me as I can relate to living in the area and the lines he drew between cultures were quite thought provoking.

The big downside to it was that there were a few passages that seemed to me blatantly misogynistic and possibly one that
Elena Sala
Donald Richie is probably best known as a pioneering expert on Japanese cinema. I've read and loved his books about Japanese cinema, including his wonderful books on Ozu's and Kurosawa's films.

THE INLAND SEA (1971) is a travel memoir, or rather, an account of what seems to be a single island-hopping trip from Kobe to Miyajima, a shrine island near Hiroshima, which was actually based on journals Richie kept on repeated visits.

Richie travels through the strait between the Japanese islands of Shik
Oct 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jason Keenan
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
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. ...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
D.M. Dutcher
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, japanese
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
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 are so many things in the book, that everyone will have a favourite quote, episode or island. If Richie's apartm ...more
Vivian Blaxell
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ..." ...more
Sara Benson
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Often called a classic of both travel literature and of books about Japan written by foreigners, this book also argues in favor of statutory rape being a matter of seduction and “consent.” In one passage, the author narrates a rape fantasy after failing to “seduce” a 15-year-old schoolgirl. The repulsive personal memoir aspects of this travel tale detract from the real interest of the book: taking a time-capsule look at rural island life in Japan during the 1970s.
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
"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.
Oct 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
Orientalist drivel. And not even good, enjoyable, well written drivel. Truly makes me long for a "0 stars" option. ...more
Nov 07, 2007 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. ...more
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
at times racist/dated. not sure if he likes or dislikes the culture/place he *chooses* to live in. but okay.
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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

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