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 classic" by more than one source--89 ratings. in some ways the academic reputation of the pioneering "Japan Studies" establishment, who created the Japan studies programs at Harvard and Columbia exceeds their actual impact on readership. and, as amazing as it is to me personally, 81,200 people have read and rated NOrwegian Wood here on Goodreds, implying a readership of a million+ (known to multimillion in Japan alone), but low double-digits of readership on the formal scholarship on Japan coexists side by side.
well, it's society's loss. the Inland Sea isn't stunning, amazing, five-star-five with anyone reading it running to tell all their friends. and actually the book takes a while to start-- I left the copy at the used bookstore because the first ten pages didn't capture attention. but however the work gets better in some kind of fusion of Alan Booth and William Vollmann and... oddly enough, the Japanese themselves. possibly it isn't too far out to characterize Donald Richie as the most "actually Japanese" of the J-studies crowd.
the resulting work is a sort of travel-log with "a knowing air." if the youth (Ferguson) or innocence (Booth) of other Japan travelers is quite evident, Donald Richie is a more world-weary cynic and habitue of certain demimondes. well the book was worth its read, but I can understand others not liking it, and of course I'll completely avoid the spoiler about "the" incident. ("the" to our 2013 eyes)