Donald Ritchie dies at the age of 88
Although he wasn’t a recognizable face in Hollywood, fans of Japanese cinema knew his writing well. Often credited with introducing generations of fans to Japanese films they might not otherwise have seen, Ritchie’s death will come as big news to cinephiles. He was 88.
In this photo, Ritchie is on the left, with Akira Kurosawa (middle) and Toshiro Mifune (right).
Mr. Richie wrote prolifically, not just on film and culture in Japan but also on his own travels and experiences there. He won recognition for his soul-baring descriptions of a Westerner’s life in an impenetrable but permissive society that held him politely at arm’s length while allowing him to explore it nonetheless, from its classical arts to its seedy demimonde.
Openly bisexual, Mr. Richie also wrote frankly about his lovers, both male and female, saying Japan’s greater tolerance of homosexuality in the 1940s, relative to that in the United States, was one reason he returned to the country after graduating from Columbia University in 1953. Mr. Richie first saw Tokyo as a bombed-out ruin, arriving in 1947 as a 22-year-old typist with the Allied Occupation forces after serving on transport ships during the war. He spent most of the next 66 years in Tokyo, gaining a following among Western readers for textured descriptions of Japan and its people that transcended Western stereotypes.