Donald Richie, who introduced Japanese film to West, dies

TOKYO Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:58pm EST

TOKYO Feb 20 (Reuters) - Donald Richie, a U.S. expert on Japan who came to the country with the military just after World War Two and introduced classic film directors such as Akira Kurosawa to the West, died on Tuesday. He was 88 years old.

Richie had suffered from several years of poor health and was taken to the University of Tokyo hospital after his heart stopped at his Tokyo home, said Leza Lowitz, his long-time editor.

"He was still amazingly energetic, going out to the press club and going to films," she said. "He was a voracious reader and was still reading quite a bit."

Born in Ohio, Richie first arrived in Tokyo shortly after the war ended when it still lay largely in ruins, as a member of the U.S. Occupation. He soon became fascinated with Japanese culture, especially Japanese film.

He met Kurosawa in the late 1940s and wrote several books on the director, who won an Academy Award in 1989 for lifetime achievement. He also wrote the English subtitles for three of his films, including "Kagemusha" from 1980.

Richie brought Yasujiro Ozu, the noted director of classics such as "Tokyo Story," to western attention as well, and wrote widely about other people in postwar Japan's intellectual scene, including author Yukio Mishima, who killed himself by ritual suicide in 1970.

He worked as a film curator at the New York Museum of Modern Art for several years. In Tokyo, he was often on hand at educational screenings of Japanese films to provide commentary.

His more than 40 books ranged from film criticism and character sketches of famous people he'd met to travel, including "The Inland Sea," and journals.

"I want to be remembered for my writing, my books," he told Lowitz after suffering a heart attack in 2009. "But I'll probably be remembered for my scholarship on Japan." (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Stephen Coates)