136th Akutagawa Prize announced (January 16, 2007)
The 136th Akutagawa Prize has been won by Aoyama Nanae for Hitoribiyori (On My Own, published in the Autumn 2006 edition of Bungei). Aoyama, who is 23 years old, becomes the seventh-youngest winner of the Akutagawa Prize. In a departure from standard procedure, the announcement of the winner was made jointly by selection-committee members Ishihara Shintarō and Murakami Ryū as a way of demonstrating the level of support Aoyama received from the committee (both authors are known for their strictness, for not often agreeing with each other, and for being young themselves when they also won the award). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 23. No award was made for the 136th Naoki Prize.
41st Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature and 28th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers announced (March 1, 2007)
The 41st Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature has been won by Miyabe Miyuki for Na mo naki doku (A Nameless Poison, published by Gentōsha). The 28th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers will go to Satō Takako for Isshun no kaze ni nare (A Sudden Gust of Wind, published by Kōdansha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on April 11.
Kabuki performed at the Paris Opera House (March 23, 2007)
Today marks the first day of a five-day series of performances at the Paris Opera House by Ichikawa Danjūrō, Ichikawa Ebizō, and seven other Kabuki actors. These performances -- the first of their kind at this historic venue -- feature Danjūrō and Ebizō alternately taking the role of Benkei in Kanjinchō (The Subscription List). The smaller width of the stage at the Opera House compared with that of the Kabukiza has made it necessary to improvise by building a staggered stage platform, and a regular aisle is doing duty as a hanamichi. Stage announcements, or kōjō, are expected to be made in French.
Death of Iida Ryūta reported (March 27, 2007)
The haiku poet Iida Ryūta died of pneumonia at a hospital in Kōfu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, on March 25, it was reported today. Iida was the fourth son of Iida Dakotsu and helped edit the magazine Unmo (The Mother of Clouds), founded by his father. Iida lived all his life in the same house (occupied also by his father), and his poetry reflected his appreciation of the natural beauty of Kai Province (as the area was once called). Iida was 86 years old.
Ogawa Yōko and Kawakami Hiromi named to Akutagawa Prize selection committee (April 25, 2007)
The Society to Promote Japanese Literature has named novelists Ogawa Yōko, 45, and Kawakami Hiromi, 49, to the Akutagawa Prize selection committee, bringing the number of members back to the full complement of nine. With the addition of Ogawa and Kawakami, the number of female members becomes almost half the total. At the same time, novelist Asada Jirō, 55, was named to a vacancy on the Naoki Prize selection committee, which also has nine members.
20th Mishima Yukio and Yamamoto Shūgorō Prizes announced (May 15, 2007)
The 20th Mishima Yukio Prize has been won by Satō Yūya, for Issen no shōsetsu to bakkubeaado (One Thousand Novels and the Bugbear, published by Shinchōsha). The 20th Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize will be shared by Onda Riku, for Nakaniwa no dekigoto (Incident in the Terrace Garden, published by Shinchōsha), and Morimi Tomihiko, for Yoru wa mijikashi arukeyo otome (The Night Is Short -- Walk On, Young Maiden; published by Kadokawa Shoten). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 22, in conjunction with the presentation ceremony for the Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature.
Tanabe Seiko Literary Museum to open (May 17, 2007)
Part of the first floor of the Osaka Shoin Women's University library will be remodeled and opened to the public as the Tanabe Seiko Literary Museum, it has been announced. Tanabe graduated in 1947 from the school that was the predecessor of Osaka Shoin Women's University, and the museum is one of the projects associated with the 90th anniversay of the university's founding. Exhibits will include the holograph manuscript of Kanshōryokō -- Senchimentaru jaanii (Sentimental Journey), which brought Tanabe the Akutagawa Prize in 1963.
Death of Ōba Minako (May 24, 2007)
Ōba Minako, author of the Akutagawa Prize-winning story Sanbiki no kani (Three Crabs, 1968) died this morning of kidney failure at a hospital in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture. Ōba started writing while staying in the United States with her husband from 1959 to 1970, and her literary debut at the age of 37 was warmly welcomed by such critics as Noma Hiroshi. She also won the Tanizaki Jun'ichirō Prize for Katachi mo naku (Without Form, 1982) and the Yomiuri Prize for Literature for Tsuda Umeko (1990). For 10 years beginning in 1987, she served on the Akutagawa Prize selection committee, becoming one of the first two women (along with Kōno Taeko) do so. Ōba suffered a debilitating stroke in 1996, but continued publishing through transcriptions taken by her husband, Toshio. Ōba was 74 years old.
Nakamura Kanzaburō apologizes for failing to declare income (May 28, 2007)
Kabuki actor Nakamura Kanzaburō apologized at a press conference today for failing to declare some 70 million yen in income received over the past several years. Nakamura said that he had not received proper counsel from the accountant to whom he has entrusted his financial affairs since childhood, and that he would ensure that henceforth his finances will be handled in a manner that will not invite suspicion. It appears that Nakamura was required to pay a penalty of about 30 million yen on top of the tax for the unreported income.
Endō Shūsaku correspondance discovered (July 4, 2007)
Over 120 letters written to novelist Endō Shūsaku by friends and family during his stay in France in the early 1950s, along with one letter Endō himself wrote to his older brother, have been discovered among the personal effects of Endō's stepmother Hide at her home in the Kyōdō district of Tokyo. Letters written by Endō's father, with whom Endō later had frosty relations, mention an attempt to get a manuscript published and remind Endō of the financial sacrifices being made to support his studies abroad. The letters were discovered by Endō's oldest son, Ryūnosuke, and will be published in part in the summer issue of Mita Bungaku.
Haiku by Nakagami Kenji discovered (July 9, 2006)
A poem card (shikishi) on which novelist Nakagami Kenji inscribed an original haiku has been found in the possession of haiku poet Ibaraki Kazuo of Nara Prefecture. The haiku was composed on June 3, 1990, at a party after a lecture given by Nosaka Akiyuki in the city of Shingū, Nara, to commemorate the founding of Kumano University. The poem reads Akiyuki ga / kiku gen no koe / natsu fuyō (Akiyuki / listening to phantom-like voices-- / a summer cotton rose). Ibaraki expressed his admiration for the verse, which refers to the name of a character in Nakagami's fiction, so Nakagami wrote it down on a poem card and gave it to him. The poem card, which has been donated to the Committee for Collecting Materials Related to Nakagami Kenji (Nakagami Kenji shiryō shūshū iinkai) at Shingū City Library, will be on display at Kumano University from August 3-5.
Notebook containing Miyazawa Kenji's Ame ni mo makezu poem to be exhibited (July 11, 2007)
The notebook in which Miyazawa wrote his famous poem Ame ni mo makezu (Undaunted by Rain), along with five of his drawings, will be exhibited on a year-long nationwide tour beginning at the Yorozu Tetsugorō Museum in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, on July 14. The poem, composed on Miyazawa's sickbed in November 1931, is written in pencil, and age appears to be taking its toll on the notebook, which was last displayed in 1995-96. A photograph can be viewed here, at least for the time being.
Ebizō injured in fall in bath at Osaka theater (July 14, 2007)
Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō was injured in a fall in the bathroom at the Osaka Shōchiku-za theater on July 13 after the matinee performance of Narukami. Ebizō's fall shattered a glass door, and the underside of his right foot was badly cut. Ebizō was taken to the hospital for stitches, and he will be unable to appear on stage for an indeterminate length of time.
137th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 17, 2007)
The 137th Akutagawa Prize has been won by Suwa Tetsushi for Asatte no hito (A Disoriented Man, published in the June issue of Gunzō). The 137th Naoki Prize will go to Matsui Kesako for Yoshiwara tebiki-gusa (Yoshiwara Guidebook, published by Gentōsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on August 22.
Japan's Cultural Council names seven new "Living National Treasures" (July 20, 2007)
Seven people have been newly designated as "Important Intangible Cultural Assets" (or "Living National Treasures") by the National Cultural Council, including Kineya Mitarō (kabuki nagauta), Miyazono Senroku (Miyazono jōruri), Nomura Mansaku (kyōgen), Takemoto Tsunatayū (Gidayū jōruri), and Tsurusawa Seiji (jōruri shamisen) in the performing arts, along with Moriguchi Kunihiko (yūzen dyeing) and Nakasima Hiroshi (celedon porcelain) in arts and crafts. There are now a total of 116 individuals designated as Living National Treasures, 57 in the performing arts, 58 in arts and crafts, and one who is classified under both categories.
Death of Edward Seidensticker (August 26, 2007)
Edward Seidensticker, noted translator and scholar of Japanese literature, died today in a Tokyo hospital four months after suffering head injuries sustained in a fall while strolling near his home in Tokyo. Seidensticker, justly famed for his translations of Kawabata Yasunari, Tanizaki Jun'ichirō, and The Tale of Genji, was one of the leading figures of early postwar Japanese studies, and Kawabata's Nobel Prize was due in no small part to the astounding stylistic fit that obtained in Seidensticker's translations. Maruya Saiichi, writing in the Mainichi Shinbun, lauded Seidensticker for three main achievements: 1) translations of Kawabata and Tanizaki that helped introduce a generation of non-Japanese readers to modern Japanese fiction; 2) the Genji translation, which reminded the world of the existence of this classic of Japanese literature; and 3) helping to reverse a prewar standard of literary value that placed Shiga Naoya over Tanizaki. Seidensticker was 86 years old; his death was announced on the front page of the morning edition of the August 28th Asahi Shinbun.
28th SF Grand Prize announced (December 15, 2007)
The 28th SF Grand Prize has been won by Saishō Hazuki for Hoshi Shin'ichi: The Man of 1,001 Stories (Hoshi Shin'ichi: 1001-wa o tsukutta hito, published by Shinchōsha). The story had already won the 29th Kōdansha Prize for Nonfiction; the connection is that many of Hoshi Shin'ichi's "short-shorts" could be classified under the genre of science fiction, and Saishō's biographical study was considered to have shed new light on them.
Two holograph pages of Akutagawa short story found (December 21, 2007)
Two handwritten pages of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke's short story "Hell Screen" (Jigokuhen, 1918) hand, have been discovered in Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture.The pages were found among materials donated to the city in 2004 by decendants of the poet Susukida Kyūkin (1877-1945), who was a close friend of Akutagawa's and the arts editor for the Osaka Mainichi Newspaper Company, which serialized the novel in the Mainichi Shinbun. The pages (with spaces for 200 characters per page) contain the story's opening, together with a number of corrections, prefaced by the title and Akutagawa's signature. Also among the materials were 22 manuscript pages of Akutagawa's story "The Heretic" (Jashūmon), which was serialized the same year as "Hell Screen" but which was left incomplete when Akutagawa came down with influenza in that year's great epidemic. These also come from the beginning of the story, but differ in part from the published version, leading to speculation that the original manuscript remained with Susukida after further changes had been made. This is the first holographic version of "Hell Screen" that has ever been found; scholars had assumed that the manuscript was destroyed after the work was published.