As I have complained to Amazon, and will continue to until they change their policy, three stars does not equal "okay." It does mean "average," or any other words associated with it. It means it is not great and it is not bad. It means it has flashes of brilliance and other times doesn't quite get there. So, I start my review off with this caveat. I wanted to give it 3 stars, but I would never insult the memory of Donald Richie by choosing such a pedestrian rating.
But 4 stars is pushing it. This little book of "portraits" of people Donald Richie met while he spent his life in Japan is mostly fascinating, sometimes highly erotic, and other times (not often) the writer is a bit too full of himself. Some of the portraits feel like he had a word count he had to reach for an article in a newspaper, and, by God, he reached it. Some of the people he "portrayed" were not worth the time. But others, mainly the troubled son of a woman that asked Donald Richie to be his father, were erotically charged and almost poetically written. Then there is story of the twin sisters, the neighbor and the geisha, all of them expertly portrayed. Richie has this unique style where you are right there with him... when he's willing to let his guard down and stop being so clever. Other times you do marvel at the way he has with a word, but some of the subjects just weren't worth covering.
I would say that if you have an interest or knowledge about the Japan that once was (oh, how beautiful, harsh, strange and fantastic it must have been), specifically the people, this will be an interesting read. I was sorry when it was over, because, by the time Richie had interacted with the Empress of Japan, I felt he was finally getting his footing... but then the book ended soon after. So, there are hidden gems here and you will quickly determine what they are.
That said, Amazon, please give me the respect I deserve by not telling me that 3 stars is "okay" -- why do you have to qualify what the stars "mean"? Aren't people on Amazon intelligent enough to figure out that 1 star doesn't have the power of 5?