A View from the Chuo Line and Other Stories


A View from the Chuo Line and Other Stories (2005) is a collection of twenty-seven stories by Donald Richie. Richie was an authority on Japanese film and culture and well known for his travel book, The Inland Sea (1971). He passed away just a few years ago on February 19, 2013 at the age of 88 in Tokyo.


These stories, some of which are no longer than a couple pages, are centered around moments of realization or little leaps of understanding. They are about everyday Japanese people. A few reflect aspects of Japanese culture that Richie must've been intrigued by, while others look at clashes of culture, mostly through the prejudices of middle-aged Japanese women. Differences in regard to areas of Tokyo is a lesser theme in the collection; in one story a foreign woman who's just moved to Yanaka may have been inadvertently spied upon, or intentionally so, through an open window. Her neighbor sees this foreign women with her Japanese boyfriend, and—although nothing like the neighbor's reaction would happen in Harajuku, we're told—the neighbor brazenly suggests to the foreign woman that she either leave the boy or leave Yanaka.


A few of the stories or parts of them are interesting, but I got the feeling that Richie put nowhere near as much work into them as he did with his other publications. The edition I picked up, from a shop in Asakusa selling used books (600 yen, near-new condition, and autographed by Richie), has dozens of typos, including missing words and egregious punctuation errors, which interfered with how I processed the writing and envisioned what was described. Apart from that, the stories are all right, especially for anyone interested in Japan and Donald Richie.

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