Death of Kiyomoto Shizutayū (January 2, 1999)
Kiyomoto Shizutayū, jōruri chanter and Living National Treasure, died today in Tokyo of pneumonia at the age of 100. Known for his clear, taut voice, Shizutayū was active into his nineties, often performing abroad. Kabuki aficionados took special delight in his accompaniment to the Japanese dance Sumidagawa as performed by Nakamura Utaemon.
29th Takami Jun Prize (January 12, 1999)
The 29th Takami Jun Prize will be presented to Tō Kazuko for her collection of poems Kioku no kawa de (At the River of Memory, published by Henshū Kōbō Noa). The 69-year-old Tō, a native of Ehime Prefecture, contracted Hansen's disease in her teens. Aftereffects have confined her to residence in a sanatorium from which she has published numerous volumes of poetry.
120th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes (January 15, 1999)
Hirano Keiichirō's Nisshoku (Solar Eclipse, published in the August issue of Shinchō) has been chosen to receive the 120th Akutagawa Prize. Hirano is a fourth-year student in the law department at the University of Kyoto; he is the fifth student ever to have won the award (the others were Ishihara Shintarō, Ōe Kenzaburō, Murakami Ryū, and I Yanji). The 120th Naoki Prize will go to Miyabe Miyuki for Riyū (The Reason, published serially in the Asahi Shimbun). Miyabe, the winner of numerous other awards for mystery and science-fiction stories, receives the Naoki prize for the first time after having been a candidate no fewer than five times before. She was the unanimous choice of the Naoki Prize selection committee.
Kobayashi Takiji's death mask sent to Hokkaido (January 23, 1999)
The death mask taken by Takiji's friends the day after his death at the hands of police in February 1933 has been entrusted to the care of the Otaru Bungakkan by his surviving younger brother, Kobayashi Sango, aged 90, who lives in Tokyo. The Otaru Bungakkan, which normally displays one of the two copies made of the death mask, plans to exhibit the original to the public during the period from February 16 to February 21.
Yomiuri Prizes for Literature announced (February 1, 1999)
The 50th Yomiuri Prizes for Literature will be awarded to the following seven works in five categories. For novels, Hashissu gangu (The Hashish Gang) by Ogawa Kunio and Tobe kirin (Fly, Kirin!) by Tsujihara Noboru; for plays and scenarios, Natsu no suna no ue (Over Summer Sands) by Matsuda Masataka; for criticism and biography, Dōtonbori no ame ni wakarete irai nari (Since Parting in the Rain at Dotombori) by Tanabe Seiko; for poetry, Aiba by Nagata Kazuhiro; and for scholarly studies and translation, Edo shiika-ron (Edo Period Poetry) by Yūhi Takashi and Burūno Shurutsu zenshū (The Collected Works of Bruno Shultz) translated by Kudō Yukio. There was no winner in the essay/travel journal category.
19th Yokomizo Seishi Prize (February 3, 1999)
The winner of the 19th Yokomizo Seishi Prize for mystery stories is Ka-shite aranami (Storm Wave Metamorphosis) by Inoue Monta. Inoue, who lives in Kawasaki, receives a cash award of 10 million yen(!!).
Death of Snow Country model revealed (February 4, 1999)
It has been learned that Kotaka Kiku, the geisha who served as the model for Komako in Kawabata Yasunari's Snow Country, died of biliary cancer on December 31, 1998 at the age of 83. Kotaka, who was born on November 23, 1915 in Sanjō City, Niigata, started working as a geisha (under the name Matsue) in Nagaoka and Yuzawa from around the age of 10. Kawabata met her when he first visited Yuzawa in the winter of 1934, and always sent for her on his subsequent visits over the next two years. Kotaka had asked to die quietly; her funeral was held in Sanjō on January 3, attended only by relatives.
8th Kaikō Takeshi Prize (February 18, 1999)
Tazawa Takuya's Sora to yama no aida ni (Between the Mountains and the Sky) has been chosen to receive the 8th Kaikō Takeshi Prize.
14th Shiika Bungakukan Prize for Poetry (March 3, 1999)
Shiika Bungakukan Prizes for Poetry will be awarded to works in the following three categories. For contemporary poetry, Mitsui Yōko's Kusa no yō na moji (A Grasslike Script, published by Shin'ya Sōshosha); for tanka, Okai Takashi's Uran to hakuchō (Uranium and the Swan, published by Tanka Kenkyūkai); for haiku, Kusama Tokihiko's Bontenmae (published by Nagata Shobō). The prizes will be officially awarded on May 22.
6th Japan Horror Story Grand Prize (March 3, 1999)
Bokkee, kyōtee by Okayama Momoko (pen name of Iwai Shimako) has been chosen to receive the 6th Japan Horror Story Grand Prize. No winners were announced in prize categories for long novels and short stories.
33rd Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature (March 6, 1999)
Shiraishi Ichirō's Dotō no gotoku (Like a Surging Wave, published by Mainichi Shimbun) has been chosen to receive the 33rd Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature. In addition, Yamamoto Fumio's Ren'ai chūdoku (Love Addiction, published by Kadokawa Shoten) was chosen for the 20th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Dazai Osamu suicide note to be exhibited (May 1, 1999)
A note written by Dazai Osamu before his unsuccessful suicide attempt at Kamakura with a Ginza barmaid in November 1930 will go on display at the "Dazai Osamu's Twentieth Century" exhibition scheduled to be held at the Tokyu Department Store in Kichijōji, Musashino City, Tokyo, from June 4 to June 16. The note, written on three sheets of paper and enclosed in a brown envelope addressed to "Hatsuyo-dono" (Oyama Hatsuo, Dazai's geisha lover from Aomori), tells Hatsuyo that she can now have her way and be free, mentions the names of two friends she should consult, and enjoins her not to allow a collection of posthumous works to be published. This short message is scrawled on two sheets of paper; the third sheet includes a list of creditors together with the amount Dazai owed each one. Since the note is written on stationery bearing the imprint of the Bansei Hotel in Kanda, it shows that Dazai did not spend the night before the attempt at the Imperial Hotel, as has hitherto been asserted. It also suggests that a test of wills between Dazai and Hatsuyo lay behind the suicide attempt, and in its injunction regarding a posthumous collection points to an authorial ego of considerable magnitude (Dazai hardly had enough work available at the time to be worth publishing). The note was among materials that belonged to Dazai's wife, Michiko, who died in 1997, and which the family is now making public for the first time.
Six unfinished works by Kawabata to be published (May 1, 1999)
The Shinchōsha publishing company announced that the opening sections of six novels (one or two manuscript pages in each case), together with various working notes, letters, and journal entries, would be published in the June issue of Shinchō. The materials were discovered by Kawabata Kaori as he was organizing his father's papers.
3rd Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes (May 10, 1999)
The Asahi Shimbun announced that Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes would be awarded to two manga artists and a manga critic. The Grand Prize for Manga will be awarded to Urasawa Naoki for MONSTER, published by Shōgakukan, and an Award of Excellence will be presented to Sasō Akira for Shindō (Child Prodigy), published by Futaba Sha. A special award will also go to Natsume Fusanosuke, grandson of Natsume Sōseki, in recognition of his achievements in the field of manga criticism.
15th Dazai Osamu Prize (May 11, 1999)
After an interval of 21 years, the revived Dazai Osamu Prize will be presented this year to Saegiri Yū (pen name of Takeshita Seitetsu) for Saigo no uta wo koete (Beyond the Last Song). Saegiri is a graduate student in agriculture at the University of Hokkaido.
Ryōjin hishō fragment confirmed as authentic (May 20, 1999)
A manuscript fragment of the Ryōjin hishō collection (Songs to Make the Dust Dance, late Heian period), found in a Tokyo bookstore by the head of the Japanese Music Research Materials Section of Ueno Gakuen University in 1995, has been confirmed as being in the hand of the cloistered emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127-92). The fragment contains one complete song in the imayō ("modern") style and, together with two previously discovered fragments, offers conclusive proof of the existence of an original manuscript transcribed by Go-Shirakawa.
Letter by Matsuo Bashō found (May 27, 1999)
A letter written by the haiku poet Matsuo Bashō to his disciple Shadō has been discovered in Yamagata City. In the letter, dated June 20, 1693, Bashō threatens to break off relations with Shadō unless the younger poet shows himself more willing to follow Bashō's advice. It was unusual for Bashō to vent his emotions so directly, and the letter appears to suggest that a subsequent falling out was the reason Shadō ultimately did not attend Bashō's funeral or take part in a special poetry meet held in the deceased master's honor.
Hagiwara Sakutarō magazine article discovered (May 28, 1999)
A previously unknown diary article contributed by the poet Hagiwara Sakutarō to the magazine Shōjo Bungei (Literature for Girls, August 1926 issue) has been found. Shimizu Yasuko, a member of the Friends of the Maebashi Museum of Literature in the city of Maebashi, Sakutarō's birthplace, had sent a copy of the magazine to the museum in February for an exhibit on the poet; specialists were unaware that Sakutarō had ever written such an article. Titled "Excerpts from My Diary for June," the article describes six days in Sakutarō's life at a time when he and his family were living in Kamakura. Since Sakutarō did not keep a regular diary, it is thought the "excerpts" were most likely written especially for Shōjo Bungei.
Final manuscript copy of Akutagawa's "The Nose" discovered (May 29, 1999)
Five manuscripts originally intended for publication in the inaugural edition of the fourth series of the journal Shinshichō (New Currents of Thought) in 1916 have been discovered in a used-book store in Tokyo. Among them are the final manuscript copy of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke's famous short story Hana (The Nose) and the script for a play titled Sakata Tōjūrō no koi (Sakata Tōjūrō's Love) by Kikuchi Kan. A draft copy of Akutagawa's story is held by the Yamagata Prefecture Museum of Literature, but the final copy had been considered lost. Kikuchi's script -- later replaced by a second script which was also found among the manuscripts -- was known to be the basis for his short story Tōjūrō no koi, but it, too, had been considered lost.
Dazai Osamu memorial service changed to festival (June 20, 1999)
Starting this year, the annual ōtōki Memorial Service held for novelist Dazai Osamu at Zenrinji Temple in Tokyo on June 19 has changed both its name and venue. The new name is the Birth Commemoration Festival (Seitan Kinen-sai), and it will henceforth be celebrated in Dazai's native town of Kanagi in Aomori Prefecture. Dazai's eldest daughter Sonoko spoke at the new festival's opening ceremonies, saying that the change was something her mother had wished for before her death.
121st Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes (July 15, 1999)
The 121st Naoki Prize for popular literature will be awarded to both Satō Ken'ichi for Ōki no kekkon (The Queen's Marriage, published by Shūeisha) and Kirino Natsuo for Yawaraka na hoho (Soft Cheeks, published by Kōdansha). The selection committee for the Akutagawa Prize announced that no award would be made for the first half of 1999.
Etō Jun commits suicide (July 21, 1999)
Literary critic Etō Jun was found dead in his Kamakura home by a maid on the evening of July 21. He had used a knife to cut open his left wrist while sitting in the bath and subsequently drowned after losing consciousness. Etō left a suicide note citing poor health as the reason for ending his life, although it was known that he also greatly missed the company of his wife, who died of cancer last November. A member of the same generation as his close friend, novelist (and now mayor of Tokyo) Ishihara Shintarō, Etō first gained recognition while a university student with the publication of his first volume of criticism on novelist Natsume Sōseki; he subsequently came to be regarded as the foremost authority on Sōseki, one of the most thoroughly studied figures in modern Japanese literary history. Etō was 66 years old.
Death of Tsuji Kunio (July 29, 1999)
Novelist Tsuji Kunio, author of such works as Azuchi ōkanki (1968, translated as The Signore), died today of cardial infarction at a hospital in Karuizawa. Tsuji was 73 years old. Tsuji's works were informed by an idealism that aimed at a higher plane of spiritual existence, and he produced a number of historical novels in which the protagonists search for the essential meaning of life at times of great social change.
38th Women's Literature Prize (August 19, 1999)
The 38th Women's Literature Prize will be awarded to Harada Yasuko for her collection of short stories Rōrui (Candle Drippings, published by Kōdansha). The presentation ceremony will be held on October 14 in Tokyo.
21st Kōdansha Nonfiction Prize, 15th Kōdansha Essay Prize (September 9, 1999)
Journalist Takazawa Kōji's Shukumei -- Yodo-gō bōmeishatachi no himitsu kōsaku (Destiny: The Secret Operations of the Yodo Refugees, published by Shinchōsha) has been chosen to receive the 21st Kōdansha Nonfiction Prize. The 15th Kōdansha Essay Prize will be awarded to Akawa Sawako and Dan Fumi for Aa ieba kō ku (Speak Like That and Eat Like This, published by Shūeisha) and to Itō Seikō for Botanikaru raifu (Botanical Life, published by Kinokuniya Shoten). The presentation ceremony is scheduled for October 21.
31st Shinchō Prizes for New Writers (September 21, 1999)
Winners have been announced for the 31st Shinchō Prizes for New Writers in the categories of fiction and criticism. The prize for fiction will be awarded to Endō Junko for Kurea, fuyu no oto (Claire, the Sound of Winter), and the prize for criticism will be awarded to Sakai Takayuki for Kachū de aru to iu koto -- Mishima Yukio to Nihon kindai no seishun (Life in the Vortex: Mishima Yukio and the Springtime of Japanese Modernity). The presentation ceremony is scheduled for October 7.
Death of Miura Ayako (October 12, 1999)
Novelist Miura Ayako died today of multiple-organ failure in a hospital in the city of Asahikawa, Hokkaido, at the age of 77. A Christian writer whose main theme was the way in which God's love manifests itself, Miura steadfastly maintained her own faith throughout a lifetime of poor health.
27th Izumi Kyōka Prize (October 14, 1999)
The 27th Izumi Kyōka Prize will be shared this year by Yoshida Kazuko, for Hako no otto (Husband in a Box), and Tanemura Suehiro, for Tanemura Suehiro no neo-labarintosu, gensō no erosu (Tanemura Suehiro's Neo-Labyrinth: The Eros of Fantasy). The presentation ceremony will take place on November 13 in Kanazawa.
51st Noma Literary Award; 21st Noma Literary Award for New Writers (November 11, 1999)
The 51st Noma Literary Award will be presented to Kiyooka Takuyuki for Maronie no hana ga itta (The Horse-Chestnut Blossom Said It), published by Shinchōsha. The 21st Noma Literary Award for New Writers will be shared by Abe Kazushige, for Mujō no sekai (Cruel World, published by Kōdansha), and Itō Hiromi, for Ra Niinya (La Niña, published by Shinchōsha).
26th Osaragi Jirō Prize (December 22, 1999)
Two winners have been announced for the 26th Osaragi Jirō Prize: Takaraka na banka (An Elegy from on High) by Takai Yūichi, and Shin shin-hyakunin isshu (The Second New Collection of One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets) by Maruya Saiichi. The presentation ceremony will be held on January 27 in Tokyo.
Ōgai letters discovered (December 29, 1999)
Twenty previously unpublished letters written by Mori Ōgai to a colleague named Takeya Mizuki were found in the Fukuoka Prefectural Library by a member of the Takeya family as she was organizing Takeya's manuscripts. They cover the period from 1900 to 1904, during Ōgai's stay in Kokura and shortly after his return to Tokyo. Most appear to be recommendations or requests for bureaucratic assistance sent to Takeya on behalf of Ōgai's subordinates, although one letter offers sympathy to Takeya, who was Ōgai's replacement in Kokura, for some trouble he had gotten into after assuming that post. One critic has remarked that the letters show Ōgai to be a warmer person than he is usually given credit for.