Over at Filmwell, Andrew Spitznas posted a nice tribute for Kurosawa's 100th birthday.
The formative event in his own childhood occurred when, in the immediate aftermath of the devastating Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, his older brother dragged him around Tokyo and forced him to gaze upon massive scenes of death and conflagration. As young Akira attempted to turn away from the carnage, his brother sternly told him, “If you shut your eyes to a frightening sight, you end up being frightened. If you look at everything straight on, there is nothing to be afraid of.” These words became a lifelong motto for Kurosawa, as he pushed himself and his audiences to stare directly at human wrongs and tragedies, whether war, poverty, child abuse, or class discrimination.
Nonetheless, Kurosawa succeeded (most of the time, anyway) in representing moral dilemmas to his audience, rather than preaching about them. In viewing his films, I feel moved to become a better person. . . .