Donald Richie and Transnational Japanese Cinema


Donald Richie, one of the most important introducers of Japan and its cinema, passed away about this time three years ago. The following July, Iwamoto Kenji hosted a symposium on Donald at Waseda University. I talked about the famous Japanese film history he produced with Joseph Anderson, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry. While noting its problems, especially its orientalism and Cold War worldview, I also pointed out how its own stance of being other to Japanese film culture enabled it to provide a depiction of that culture, especially of such seemingly innocuous phenomena as the state of an average movie theater, that Japanese sources could not offer. In the end, I argued that, while Richie himself was not innocent of othering Japan, his decision to himself remain other to Japan—for instance, refusing to assimilate—was itself often productive.

That essay, plus some others presented that day, have been combined with many other articles (most composed as part of a series of workshops Iwamoto was holding), to create the anthology: 

  • Nihon eiga no kaigai shinshutsu: Bunka senryaku no rekishi 
  • (Shinwasha, 2015, ISBN 978-4-86405-086-9). 

The book is all in Japanese (I wrote a long piece in Japanese for the first time in a while—I was a bit rusty), but it sports the English title: Japanese Cinema and the Impulse Toward Overseas Expansion: A History of Cultural Strategies. The book encompasses a number of case studies of both how Japanese cinema traveled abroad and how those abroad handled Japanese film. Topics include the reception of early Japanese films in France, Germany, and Italy; the export of Japanese cinema to Manchuria and China during WWII; the immediate postwar reception of Japanese film in the USA and Taiwan; Japanese efforts to export films in the 1950s; and early postwar international co-productions. A full table of contents is available on the Shinwasha website

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