31st Takami Jun Prize (January 12, 2001)
Taguchi Inuo's anthology of poems Mō Shōgun (General Moo; published by Shichōsha) has been chosen to receive the 31st Takami Jun Prize. English translations of some of Taguchi's poems are available on his Web site.
Death of Honda Shūgo (January 13, 2001)
Literary critic Honda Shūgo died early this morning of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, at the age of 92. Honda was the last surviving member of the group that founded the magazine Kindai Bungaku in 1946 (other founding members included Hirano Ken, Haniya Yutaka, Sasaki Kiichi, and Odagiri Hideo; the group was later joined by such writers as Noma Hiroshi, Abe Kōbō, and Mishima Yukio). Honda was known for works on Tolstoy and "conversion literature," as well as for a literary history of the immediate postwar period as told by an insider.
Death of Nakamura Sonoko revealed (January 13, 2001)
It has been revealed that haiku poet Nakamura Sonoko died in Tokyo on the morning of January 5 at the age of 87. Nakamura was a co-founder of the avant-garde haiku magazine Haiku Hyōron (Haiku Criticism), and noted for her "alluring" (yōen na) style. She had stopped publishing haiku in 1997, citing a wish to be freed from the constraints of a hectic composition schedule.
124th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (January 17, 2001)
The 124th Akutagawa Prize will be awarded to Seirai Yūichi, for Seisui (Holy Water; published in the December 2000 issue of Bungakukai), and to Horie Toshiyuki, for Kuma no shikiishi (The Bear and the Paving Stone; published in the December 2000 issue of Gunzō). The 124th Naoki Prize will also be shared by two authors: Shigematsu Kiyoshi, for Bitamin F (Vitamin F; published by Shinchōsha), and Yamamoto Fumio, for Puranaria (Planaria; published by Bungei Shunjū). All four writers have previously received other major literary awards; Seirai's Akutagawa Prize comes after four unsuccessful earlier nominations. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 22.
Yū Miri loses court appeal on privacy issue (February 16, 2001)
Author Yū Miri has lost her appeal to the Tokyo Superior Court over a lower court's decision holding that she had violated a woman's privacy by using her as the clearly identifiable model for a character in the novel Ishi ni oyogu sakana (Fish Swimming in Stone). The court handed down its decision yesterday, concluding that novelists worked under an obligation to disguise the true identity of models in order to protect their "human dignity" (jinkaku). In this case, argued the court, the fact that the model had a facial disfigurement that contributed to her psychological distress when Yū's novel caused her to become the object of social curiosity was sufficient reason to uphold her claim that her privacy had been violated. Authors working in the Japanese "I-novel" tradition claim that the decision could restrict their own freedom of speech, and Yū has announced that she will take her appeal to the Supreme Court.
Yoshikawa Eiji prizes announced (March 6, 2001)
The 35th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature will be awarded to Miyagidani Masamitsu for his two-volume novel Shisan (Birth; published by Kōdansha). The 22nd Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers will go to Nozawa Takashi for Shinku (Crimson; published by Kōdansha). The presentation ceremony will by held in Tokyo on April 11. Five people will also receive Yoshikawa Eiji Cultural Prizes for their contributions to other areas of culture.
Nakahara Chūya Prize to be awarded to American poet (March 15, 2001)
American Arthur Binard has been chosen to receive the Nakahara Chūya Prize for his collection of poems Tsuriagete wa (Catching and Throwing Back; published by Shichōsha). Binard's poems received praise for the clarity of their language and the warmth of their humor. It is the first time a native speaker of English has been chosen to receive a major prize for Japanese poetry. The presentation ceremony will be held in Yamaguchi City in April.
Five kabuki actors to assume new names (March 30, 2001)
The Shōchiku organization announced on March 29 that, partly to mark the 400th anniversary of kabuki's inception in 1603, five kabuki actors would succeed to stage names of major historical importance between the years 2002 and 2005. In 2002 Onoe Tatsunosuke will become Onoe Shōroku IV. Ichikawa Shinnosuke will become Ichikawa Ebizō XI in 2004. Nakamura Kankurō will become Nakamura Kanzaburō XVIII in 2005, and in the same year Nakamura Ganjirō will become Sakata Tōjūrō IV while his eldest son, the current Nakamura Kanjaku, becomes Nakamura Ganjirō IV.
Death of Nakamura Utaemon (March 31, 2001)
Nakamura Utaemon, famed kabuki onnagata and a Living National Treasure, died today at his home in Tokyo of respiratory failure at the age of 84. He was the second son of Nakamura Utaemon V and had assumed his father's stage name in 1951, subsequently becoming one of kabuki's finest and most admired onnagata (male actors cast in female roles). Utaemon had a long history of respiratory problems that prevented him from returning to the stage after what became his last performance (as Komachi in Sekidera Komachi) in August 1996.
32nd Ōya Sōichi Prize (April 12, 2001)
The 32nd Ōya Sōichi Prize will be shared by two winners this year: Hiramatsu Tsuyoshi for Hikari no Kyōkai: Andō Tadao no genba (The Church of Light: On-Site with Andō Tadao, published by Kenchiku Shiryō Kenkyūsha), and Hoshino Hiromi for Korogaru Honkon no koke wa haenai (A Rolling Hong Kong Gathers No Moss, published by Jōhō Sentā Shuppanbu). The presentiation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 15.
17th Dazai Osamu Prize (April 13, 2001)
The 17th Dazai Osamu Prize will be awarded to Kojima Koriku for her story Itteki no arashi (A One-Drop Storm). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on May 24.
Complete transcription of The Tale of Genji discovered (April 14, 2001)
Taishō University in Tokyo has announced its acquisition of a complete 54-chapter transcription of The Tale of Genji dating from the late Muromachi period. The university had purchased the manuscript from a household in the Hida district of Gumma Prefecture in 1997. The list of transcribers contained in the thirteenth fascicle, along with transcription dates and analysis of the calligraphy, has confirmed that the transcription was made between 1490-1493. The oldest extant copy of the tale is a transcription supervised by Fujiwara Teika in the Kamakura period, of which four chapters have survived; several Muromachi-period transcriptions were based on this version (and its offshoots). The text of the Taishō University manuscript appears to be identical to that found in the Sanjōnishi-ke line of manuscripts, although it is not clear which came first chronologically. The manuscript will be on exhibit at the main branch of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo beginning on May 8, and may be viewed in its entirety online (with the help of a browser plug-in) at the site of the Taishō University Library.
27th Kawabata Yasunari Prize (April 16, 2001)
The 27th Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature will be awarded to Kurumatani Chōkitsu for Musashimaru (in the collection Hakuchi-gun published by Shinchōsha), a short story about the death of the author-protagonist's pet beetle. Kurumatani has said that he intended the story as a requiem for his mentor, literary critic Etō Jun. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 22.
35th Chōkū Prize (April 16, 2001)
The 35th Chōkū Prize will be awarded to Takano Kimihiko for the waka collection Suien (Water Garden, published by Sunagoya Shobō). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 18.
Gunzō Prize for New Writers and Bungakukai Prize for New Writers (April 18, 2001)
The 44th Gunzō Prize for New Writers in the category of fiction will go to Hagiwara Tōru for Nomi no shinzō fan kurabu (Fan Club for the Faint of Heart); the winner in the category of criticism is Aoki Jun'ichi for Hō no shikkō teishi -- Mori Ōgai no rekishi shōsetsu (Non-Enforcement of the Law: The Historical Novels of Mori Ōgai). The presentation ceremony is scheduled for May 11 in Tokyo. The 92nd Bungakukai Prize for New Writers will be shared by Nagashima Yū, for Saidokā ni inu (Dog in the Sidecar), and Yoshimura Man'ichi, for Kucha kucha ban (Crunch, Crunch, Bang!). The presentation ceremony for the award has yet to be scheduled.
14th Four Shinchō Prizes announced (May 17, 2001)
The Shinchō publishing company has announced the winners of its annual prizes in four categories. The Mishima Yukio Prize will be shared by Aoyama Shinji, for Eureka (published by Kadokawa Shoten), and Nakahara Masaya, for Arayuru basho ni hanataba ga... (Bouquets of Flowers Everywhere, published in the April issue of Shinchō). The Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize also has two winners: Otogawa Yūsaburō, for Gonen no ume (Five-Year Plums, published by Shinchōsha), and Nakayama Kaho, for Shiroi bara no fuchi made (Until the Edge of the White Rose, published by Shūeisha). The Shinchō Prize for Distinguished Scholarship has been won by Saitō Takashi for Shintaikankaku o torimodosu -- koshi/hara bunka no saisei (Regaining a Sense of the Body: A Renewal of the Culture of Koshi and Hara, published by NHK). The Grand Prize for Japanese Art was not awarded this year, pending a review of the award's status. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 22.
Rivalry between Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shōnagon a family legacy? (May 26, 2001)
Associate professor Takeda Masayuki of Kyushu University and Fukuda Tomoko, an instructor at Junshin Women's Junior College, have performed a computer analysis of waka from the Kokinshū and Gosenshū that purports to show a more-than-coincidental resemblance between waka composed by the great-grandfathers of Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shōnagon. On the basis of structural similarities, the two researchers surmise that Fujiwara no Kanesuke's famous Kokinshū poem about the darkness of a parents' heart (frequently alluded to in The Tale of Genji) was based on an earlier waka by Kiyohara no Fukayabu included in the Gosenshū. (It should be noted that this sort of adaptation would have been considered quite acceptable, and in fact admired if well done.) Apparently previous scholars had failed to notice the extent of the similarity between the two waka.
Diary written by Miki Rofū discovered (July 3, 2001)
Three volumes of a diary kept by symbolist poet Miki Rofū (1889-1964), composer of the lyrics to the well-known children's song Akatonbo (Red Dragonfly), have been discovered among effects left by his adopted son with relatives in Mitaka, Tokyo, when the Miki house was rebuilt in 1975. It is thought that there may be some previously unpublished works among the many poems and songs contained in the diary.
125th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 17, 2001)
The 125th Akutagawa Prize will be awarded to Gen'yū Sōkyū for Chūin no hana (Flowers in Limbo, published in the May issue of Bungakukai); the winner of the 125th Naoki Prize is Fujita Yoshinaga, for his Ai no ryōbun (Love's Domain, published by Bungei Shunjū). Gen'yū, a Zen priest whose prizewinning story is based on a Buddhist theme, was also a candidate for the 124th Akutagawa Prize. Fujita, too, had previously been nominated for the Naoki Prize, which his wife Koike Mariko received in 1996. The Fujitas thus become the first family in which both husband and wife have won the award. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on August 22.
Death of Yamada Fūtarō (July 28, 2001)
Novelist Yamada Fūtarō died today in Tokyo of pneumonia. Yamada was known especially for a series of ninja stories that produced a boom in the genre beginning in the late 1950s. Critic Noguchi Takehiko contrasted Yamada's dark, dramatic Dionysian view of history with the Apollonian view adopted by Shiba Ryōtarō.
1st Fujin Kōron Literary Prize announced (August 23, 2001)
The 1st Fujin Kōron Literary Prize (formerly the Women's Literary Prize) will be awarded to Taguchi Randi for her collection of essays Dekireba mukatsukazu ni ikitai (Life Would Be Nice If I Didn't Have to Get So Angry, published by Shōbunsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 12.
37th Tanizaki Jun'ichirō Prize announced (August 24, 2001)
The 37th Tanizaki Jun'ichirō Prize will be awarded to Kawakami Hiromi for her novel Sensei no kaban (The Teacher's Briefcase, published by Heibonsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 12.
Fragment of Chikamatsu manuscript discovered (October 1, 2001)
A fragment of a draft of a Jōruri play in the hand of Chikamatsu Monzaemon was discovered last year by Kobe Women's University Professor Shinda Jun'ichi among documents owned by a Kansai collector, it was reported today. The fragment contains a total of slightly over 60 characters from the play Keisei hangonkō (A Courtesan's Spirit Reflected in the Smoke of Burning Incense), written on a sheet of washi paper 12 centimeters wide and 24 centimeters in length. The fragment was found in a type of Edo-period scrapbook used by haijin to collect samples of writing by famous people (harimazechō). It is only the second example of a holographic manuscript by Chikamatsu to have been found in the past 100 years. Shinda also found (in a Kyoto bookshop) a complete woodblock-printed version of the formerly unattributed Kabuki play Shichidōgaran (The Temple with Seven Halls) with Chikamatsu's name printed next to the title, thus confirming the authorship of a work that had previously only been known by its title.
29th Izumi Kyōka Prize announced (October 10, 2001)
Two writers will share this year's Izumi Kyōka Prize: Shōno Yoriko, for Yūrei mori-musume ibun (The Strange Story of the Ghostly Girl of the Forest, published by Kōdansha), and Kuze Teruhiko, for Shōshō-kan mokuroku (Catalogue of the Shōshō Residence, published by Chūō Kōron Shinsha). The presentation ceremony will by held in Kanazawa on November 13.
Mishima play manuscript discovered (October 18, 2001)
The previously unpublished manuscript of a play written by Mishima Yukio when he was about 14 years old has been discovered among papers purchased in 1996 by the Mishima Yukio Museum in Yamanashi Prefecture. The 40-page script (each page ruled for 600 characters) constitutes a four-act play titled Rotei (Journey) that deals with the subject of the Annunciation. The play can be dated to Mishima's middle-school years on the basis of an entry in his pocket diary for September 28, 1964 that lists it as having been completed. The manuscript goes on display at the Mishima Yukio Museum on October 20.
Letters from Kawabata to Yokomitsu discovered (November 6, 2001)
Three previously unpublished letters written by Nobel Prize-winning author Kawabata Yasunari to his friend and fellow author Yokomitsu Riichi have been purchased by the Ibaraki Municipal Kawabata Yasunari Museum in Osaka at an auction held in Tokyo. One of the letters is thought to date from 1935 and discusses the possibility of Yokomitsu's joining the Bungei Konwa Kai (Literary Discussion Group). The other two letters were written in November 1945 and April 1947; one apparently included a 3,000-yen royalty payment for a story the financially strapped Yokomitsu had written for the Kamakura Bunko publishing company managed by Kawabata . The letters will be displayed in the Kawabata Yasunari Museum until the end of the year.
16th Haidan Prize and 13th Kadan Prize announced (December 6, 2001)
The 16th Haidan Prize for haiku will be shared by Minakami Kojō, for Tsukiyo (A Moonlit Night), and Itsukishima Fumie, for Matsusa oni. The 13th Kadan Prize will go to Tamura Hajime for Uwakuchibiru ni hanabiru o (Flower Petals for the Upper Lip). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 12, 2002.
28th Osaragi Jirō Prize announced (December 12, 2001)
The 28th Osaragi Jirō Prize will be awarded to Tsushima Yūko for her novel Warai-ōkami (The Laughing Wolf, published by Shinchōsha) and the late Hagihara Nobutoshi for Tōi gake -- Ānesuto Satō nikki shō (Distant Cliffs: Selections from the Journals of Ernest Satow, published by Asahi Shinbunsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on January 29, 2002.
Oldest ukiyoe print of Chūshingura discovered (December 14, 2001)
A block print purchased in March from an ukiyoe dealer in Aichi Prefecture by a staff member of the National Theatre has been identified as the depiction of a scene from the first Edo performance of the kabuki play Kanadehon Chūshingura held in February 1749. The print, in the three-color benizuri style, measures 30 centimeters in length by 15 centimeters wide and bears the signature of the second Torii Kiyonobu; it shows the fiancée of ōboshi Yuranosuke's son, Rikiya, and her mother as they set out on a journey after visiting the young man. The names of the onnagata actors playing the roles, printed alongside the stage characters, provided the key to pinning down the date of the performance. The discovery was announced on the 299th anniversary of the historical event on which the play was based.