EDITORIAL FEATURES & REVIEWS (39)

Donald Richie Interview by Pat Carome

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The following interview with Donald Richie first appeared in the April 1992 edition of the Tokyo Journal


DONALD Richie seems at home in the quiet confines of Roppongi’s International House, a scholarly association where he recently accompanied a silent film showing on the piano.

Our small table in the coffee shop straddles two dimensions: the din and clatter of the lunchtime crowd on one side, the carefully pruned garden outside the window on the other.

Richie is credited with bringing Japanese film to the eyes and ears of the outside world. Hanging on the walls of his home next to his shelves of books are among other honors, the U.S. Citation of the National Film Critic’s Society and the San Francisco Film Society Award.

Of his 3o books, 11 are about film. Four are novels and one is a collection of profiles of Japanese. “I don’t know exactly what to call it.” He says. “I find it in the strangest places in bookstores.” He’s also presented career retrospectives of Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, and Ozu at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals.

In his beige tweed jacked worn over a navy blue shirt and a narrow brown tie, he looks every bit the part of someone’s kind uncle. But he has definite concerns about the accuracy of how he’s presented. “Make sure you get the chronology straight,” he insists.

Winter Solstice:1947

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The following article by Donald Richie is a reprint of his article that first appeared in the Tokyo Journal in April 1991.


IN 1947 Postwar Tokyo was a city of silence, its populace stunned by massive destruction and despair. Yet a young GI witnessed signs that the people were on a slow mend, ready to rebuild Tokyo and themselves. It was winter – cold, crisp, clear – and Mt. Fuji stood sharp on the horizon, growing purple, then indigo in the fading light. I was standing at the main crossing at Ginza 4-chome.

There was no smoke because there were few factories, no fumes because the few cars were charcoal-burning. Fuji looked much as it had for Hokusai and Hiroshige.

Then the sky darkened and the stars appeared – bright, near. The horizon stayed white in the winter light after the sun had vanished and Fuji had turned a solid black.

The Ginza was illuminated by acetylene torches of the night stalls and the passing headlights of Occupation jeeps and trucks. In the darkness Fuji remained visible, a jagged shadow fading into the winter night.

Most of the buildings were cinders. It was wasteland. And from the crossing Japan’s familiar peak was seen as it had not been seen since Edo times and as it would not be again seen until another catastrophe.
At the crossing there were only two large buildings still standing. One was the Ginza branch of the Mitsukoshi Department Store. But it was gutted, hit by a fire bomb, and even the window frames had been twisted by the heat. Across the street was the white stone Hattori Building with its clock tower. It was much as it had always been, once the clock itself was repaired. With its curved front window, cornices, and pediments, it remained from the pre-war Ginza.

The complete article is available in Issue #271. Click here to order from Amazon

Japan's Seven Int'l Samurai Featured

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Vol. 31, Issue #270's Feature Story identifies Japan's 7 most influential international trailblazers, many of whom have been overlooked by the Japanese public.

Japan's Most Influential Trailblazers

Japan has produced many outstanding individuals throughout its very long history, which dates back to 660 B.C. Visionaries and innovators have throughout history forwarded the efforts of this tiny island nation and due to these contributions, Japan has played a significant role in the region for many centuries. Pioneers such as Takatoshi Mitsui (1622-1694), advanced the way Japan did business through innovation after innovation in the textile sales industry. In the late 1800s, it was the first President of Mitsui & Co., Takashi Masuda, who sought out a global vision for exporting Japanese rice and other goods to Europe.

It is the efforts of global visionaries and innovators of post-World War II Japan that have made Japan a major contributor to the world in the fields of business, technology, film, animation, engineering, architecture, philosophy, art, music, and even athletics. The brand “Made in Japan” has become synonymous with quality, and in this article “Japan’s Seven International Samurai”, we identify Japan’s seven most influential, international trailblazers. These modern day samurai have set themselves apart from the crowd through their global influence and have helped to change the way the world perceives Japan.

It will not go unnoticed that many of Japan’s leading business figures and domestic heroes were left off the list. This is because they did not meet all of the criteria. The seven that were chosen were selected for their courage to enter unchartered waters, their desire to compete on an international scale, and their ability to be one of the best in the world at what they do.

Dancing on Air

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Dancer Adam Young Defies the Odds Battling Cystic Fibrosis

Adam Young is a 32-year old ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary dancer from California with cystic fibrosis (CF) who received a double lung transplant at UCLA in May 2013. He began dancing at the age of six in Riverside, California and won national competitions in the U.S. and Australia at the age of 17, as well as the Kennedy Center Emerging Young Artist Award Scholarship at age 18. He was offered a full scholarship to the renowned Julliard School and the Ailey School in New York but was unable to relocate due to CF complications. Graduating from the University of California, Irvine with honors on full scholarship as a dance major in 2003, he went on to dance with the Nashville Ballet for two seasons. He trained at the National Conservatoire de Paris and has danced, judged and taught throughout the United States and performed internationally in France, Germany, Australia, Canada and Mexico. His professional career was put on hold in 2006 when cystic fibrosis caused his lung capacity to fall below 40%. Adam’s determination to overcome an addiction to pharmaceutical drugs through a 12-step program in 2010 allowed him to receive his 2013 lung transplant, which has given Adam a chance to return to the stage and continue pursuing his passion for dance. TJ talked to Adam about his inspirational story.

Tokyo Anti-Nuclear Demonstrations

Japan's anti-nuclear demonstrations march on. Japan's residents take to the streets. Friday protests in front of the Prime Minister's residence have become the norm.

TJ Archived Feature Story: Issue #248 Fall 2003

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This Archived Feature Article is taken from the Autumn 2003 Issue #248 which was a best-selling issue that featured a number of Japan's foremost business leaders 

Carlos Ghosn, the ambassador of change, the icebreaker, le cost killer, the troubleshooter, or however you wish to refer to him, is Japan’s hero that has provided a glimmer of hope to leaders of thousands of ailing corporations who are desperately seeking solutions to their problems. Ghosn boldly entered Japan’s business arena with a passion and determination that had not been seen by the Japanese since Akio Morita and Sony took the US electronics market by storm. Since arriving in Japan in 1999, Ghosn took Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy to a profit-making entity in just two years.

Terrie’s Outtakes

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FITCH, an international credit rating agency, sent shock waves through the Japanese stock market in November by cutting the ratings of Sony and Panasonic, two of the country’s bedrock electronics manufacturing companies, to junk for the first time. This came after Fitch reduced Sharp’s credit rating to junk earlier that month.

Living Legends

TJ Archived Feature Story: Issue #245 Fall 2002

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This Archived Feature Article is taken from the Fall 2002 Issue #245

Araki, the internationally acclaimed photographer, the Lord of the Lens, or however you want to refer to him is known throughout Japan and beyond as a progressive artist that borders the edge of morality and skirts the edge of scandal through his provocative and erotic photographs. A master of his art, he expresses not only himself through photography, but the essence of Japanese culture. Japan’s sexual obsessions date back as far as 660 BC and are heavily documented throughout 8th century Japanese mythology and 20th century folktales. Throughout history Japanese women have often been powerless victims of visual violation, and Japanese mythology shows there has always been an obsession for men to peek whenever the opportunity arises. Araki is not a progressive pioneer, but rather an embodiment of Japanese tradition, and not only does he peek at every opportunity, but he captures the moment with the snap of his shutter to share with the rest of the world. The work of Araki personifies the desire for self-expression restrained by the laws of convention that permeate modern Japanese society. Through his never ending fight to evade control and censorship, Araki loosens the shackles that convention has bound him with and provides a glimmer of hope to the people of a society that oppresses individualism and self-expression.

TJ Archived Feature Story: Issue #233 October 2000

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This Archived Feature Article is taken from the October 2000 Issue #233

It's no wonder why Japan's greatest free thinker would be misunderstood. Japanese society, which is renowned for being a collective society, promote s a conservative approach to every aspect of life which allows little opportunity for innovation , creativity and individuality. Research has shown that Japanese children are strong in areas that require right-brain activity. However, the social structure of the nation and education system leave little room for creativity and children are forced from a young age to learn through memorization relying on the left brain's strengths and denying the right brain the opportunity to exercise its tremendous power. This is definitely a society that hammers down any nail that sticks up. Dr. NakaMats has chosen to be the nail that sticks up and refuses to be hammered down. Like Thomas Edison and other great inventors of the past, NakaMats is misunderstood. His search for the scientific truth and willingness to go beyond the conceptual boundaries of society have left him as a target for criticism. His accomplishments are often overlooked and society focuses on his unique lifestyle and somewhat eccentric personality.



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