126th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (January 16, 2002)
The 126th Akutagawa Prize, for works published in the second half of 2001, will be awarded to Nagashima Yū for Mōsupiido de haha wa (Mom, Flooring It; published in the November issue of Bungakukai). The 126th Naoki Prize will be shared by Yamamoto Ichiriki, for Akanezora (A Deep-Red Sky, published by Bungei Shunjū), and Yuikawa Kei, for Katagoshi no koibito (Over-the-Shoulder Lover, published by Magajin Hausu). All three works take family relationships as their subject matter, a fact which Naoki Prize selection-committee member Inoue Hisashi attributed to the current level of concern over the decay of the family. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 22.
Ibuse translation of Dr. Dolittle criticized (February 4, 2002)
A citizens' group that calls itself Kokijinsabetsu o Nakusu Kai (Society to Eliminate Discrimination Against Blacks) has protested the publication last year by the Iwanami publishing company of Ibuse Masuji's 1951 translation of The Story of Dr. Dolittle in a new series of children's books. The society has pointed out some 100 examples of what it says are discriminatory expressions in the translation. Iwanami has said that it will review the text for the next edition and include an explanatory "note to the reader" with each volume in the present edition.
Wartime notebook written by Inoue Yasushi discovered (February 10, 2002)
A notebook used by novelist Inoue Yasushi (1907-91) during the Second World War has been discovered among materials donated to the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature in Yokohama by family members. The notebook contains 65 pages of entries made on various dates beginning on June 12, 1940 (Inoue had been repatriated from the continent due to illness in 1938). Inoue seems to have made use of some of the material in the notebook in several postwar short stories, but otherwise he seldom mentioned his wartime experiences, a long-time riddle that makes the discovery of notebook an especially valuable find for Inoue scholars. The notebook and other materials will be on display at the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature until March 3.
Death of Furuyama Komao (March 14, 2002)
Akutagawa Prize-winning author Furuyama Komao was found dead in his Sagamihara home by his daughter on March 14. Furuyama, who was born in Japanese-occupied Korea in 1920, won the Akutagawa Prize at the unusually late age of 50 with a story based on the time he spent in a Saigon prison for war criminals immediately after the Second World War. Many of his subsequent novels also dealt with the war, usually with a light touch and from the point of view of a common soldier. Furuyama's Semi no tsuioku (Recollections of Cicadas) received the Kawabata Prize in 1994, and in 2000 Furuyama was awarded the Kikuchi Kan Prize.
Sōseki signature discovered in London (March 21, 2002)
The Asahi Shimbun has briefly reported that Tsunematsu Kunio, the curator of the Soseki Museum in London, has discovered Natsume Sōseki's signature in one of the guest books at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. No further information was provided.
Sōseki lodging house in London receives Blue Plaque (March 22, 2002)
The three-story house in Clapham, South London, where Sōseki lived during his stay in England (1900-1902) has been marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque, used to commemorate the houses where famous people have lived or stayed in London (and now several other major cities). Sōseki is the first Japanese national to be so honored.
28th Kawabata Prize announced (April 16, 2002)
The 28th Kawabata Prize for Literature will be shared by two writers: Kōno Taeko for Han-shoyūsha (Half Owner, published by Shinchōsha), and Machida Yō for Gongen no odoriko (The Avatar Dancer, published in the July 2001 issue of Gunzō). The presentation ceremony will be held on June 21 in Tokyo.
6th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes announced (May 28, 2002)
The 6th Grand Prize for Manga, one of the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes, will be awarded to Inoue Takehiko for his series Bagabondo (Vagabond), based on the multivolume work Miyamoto Musashi by Yoshikawa Eiji. The popular series, now containing 13 volumes, has sold a total of 24 million copies. The Honorable Mention award, which goes to the second-place finisher in the final round of voting for the prize, has been won by Miura Kentarō for Beruseruku (Berserk), now with 22 volumes and sales totaling 17 million copies. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 6.
Izumi School kyōgen scandal continues to fester (May 30, 2002)
Separate interviews given on May 30 by Izumi Motoya, self-proclaimed head of the Izumi School of kyōgen, and representatives of the Nōgaku Sōke Kai (Association of Noh Masters) indicate that the problem of recognizing Motoya's status as head (Japanese sōke) of the Izumi School is still unresolved. The problem began with the untimely death of Motoya's father, the 19th head of the Izumi School, in 1995, when Motoya was 20. Motoya's mother, Setsuko, subsequently accompanied him on a round of visits to other kyōgen performers to ask them to acknowledge Motoya as sōke, and Motoya himself began using the title. As a result, the organization representing Izumi School Noh performers, the Izumi-ryū Shokubun Kai, in March of this year requested the Association for Japanese Noh Plays to expunge Motoya's name from the list of registered kyōgen performers. Ever since, there has been public bickering between the two camps, aggravated by Motoya's habit of being tardy for certain events and performances and avoiding official meetings. The Association of Noh Masters today told Motoya that it recognizes a performer as sōke based on the recommendation of the school to which he belongs, and encouraged him to show greater independence of his mother's influence. Motoya told reporters that his father's will had decided the succession issue, and that it was inappropriate for the Shokubun Kai to object after his father's death when they were already aware of his wishes.
Original Utamaro woodblock found (June 14, 2002)
The woodblock apparently used to make the Utagawa Utamaro ukiyoe print of a woman holding a kemari ball that is now on display at the Guimet Museum in Paris has been discovered in the possession of the Watanabe Art Museum in Shimane City, Shimane Prefecture. The woodblock is of cherry and measures 70 centimeters high by 14 centimeters wide by 2 centimeters thick. It is only the third identified example of an original woodblock by Utamaro (c.1753-1806), one of Japan's most famous ukiyoe artists. Once used, most Edo-period woodblocks were shaved down and reused or burned for firewood; the expert who authenticated this one believes it may have been spared the same fate thanks to a carving of a bodhisattva on the reverse side (by another hand) that caused the woodblock to be used as an object of religious devotion.
127th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 17, 2002)
The 127th Akutagawa Prize will be awarded to Yamada Shūichi for the story Pāku raifu (Park Life), about personal relationships in modern Tokyo. Yoshida had previously been nominated four times for the prize, and his Pareedo (Parade) has also just received the Yamamoto Shūgōro Prize. The 127th Naoki Prize will go to Otokawa Yūzaburō for Ikiru (To Live), a period piece about an Edo-period samurai who is not permitted to follow his lord in death by committing ritual suicide. The presentation ceremony will be held August 22 in Tokyo.
Higuchi Ichiyō to appear on new banknotes (August 2, 2002)
The image of Meiji novelist Higuchi Ichiyō will appear on the redesigned 5,000-yen banknotes to be issued in 2004, the government has announced. The new banknotes, in 1,000-, 5,000-, and 10,000-yen denominations, will be printed using advanced anti-counterfeiting techniques and will replace the current notes first issued in 1984. Bacteriologist Noguchi Hideo will replace Natsume Sōseki on the 1,000-yen bill, and a new image of Fukuzawa Yukichi will be used on the 10,000-yen bill. Nitobe Inazō, currently on the 5,000-yen note, will retire -- along with Sōseki -- after 20 years of service with the Bank of Japan. The elusive 2,000-yen bill, with Murasaki Shikibu on the back, is not affected by the reform.
9th Shōgakukan Grand Prize for Nonfiction announced (August 15, 2002)
The 9th Shōgakukan Grand Prize for Nonfiction will be awarded to Noguchi Yasuo for Mikanbatake ni kaeritakatta (I Wanted to Return to the Mandarin Orange Orchards), about the author's relationship with the explorer Kōno Hyōichi, who lost his life in 2001 on a walking expedition meant to take him from the North Pole to his home in Ehime Prefecture. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on September 13.
Letters written by Hayashi Fumiko stolen (August 15, 2002)
It has been revealed that in June nine letters written by novelist Hayashi Fumiko (1903-1951) were discovered stolen from the Shinjuku Museum of History in Tokyo. Seven of the letters were subsequently bought back at auction, but the whereabouts of two remain unknown. The letters were part of a collection of 147 donated to the museum by Hayashi's niece in June 2000 and had been kept under lock and key at the museum. Police are investigating the theft.
Occupation-period works by Ibuse, others, identified in America (August 18, 2002)
A Japanese research team headed by Yamamoto Taketoshi of Waseda University that is compiling a database of publications in the Gordon W. Prange Collection at the University of Maryland has found previously uncollected essays and stories by Ibuse Masuji, Tsuboi Sakae, Hayashi Fumiko, and other writers among the (over 10,000) magazines and journals contained in the collection. The materials are expected to fill gaps in knowledge about the activities of these authors during the Occupation period, when many Japanese publications were confiscated by the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) of SCAP.
Ōgai vanishing from high school Japanese textbooks; female authors replacing Meiji bungō (August 20, 2002)
In a sign of the changing times, textbooks used in compulsory first-year high school Japanese classes beginning next spring will no longer contain selections from the work of Meiji writer Mori Ōgai. Furthermore, Natsume Sōseki will only be represented by selections from Yume jūya (Ten Nights of Dreams) in textbooks published by two companies (out of 10 supplying the entire market). Taking the place of these longtime icons in many texts are such currently popular female writers as Kawakami Hiromi, Yamada Amy, and Ekuni Kaori. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke remains the most popular author in first-year texts, with all 10 publishing companies offering Rashōmon in each of the 20 texts approved for use in the two compulsory courses to be offered in Japanese high schools next year (students may choose which course to take; one emphasizes reading, the other general writing skills). Akutagawa has held the No. 1 position among authors represented in first-year textbooks for the past 20 years, with Dazai Osamu and Shiga Naoya also remaining among the top five. Next year, however, Ibuse Masuji drops from the top five, and appearing instead (in fifth position after Miyazawa Kenji) is Sagisawa Megumu.
Arrest made in theft of Hayashi Fumiko letters (August 23, 2002)
A public employee in Shinjuku's office of environmental protection was arrested on August 22 for the theft from the Shinjuku Museum of History of letters written by Hayashi Fumiko. The employee, who worked in the museum for three years, was identified after having placed an ad in a trade magazine offering the letters for sale; he denies being involved in the theft.
Death of Kawabata Hideko revealed (September 9, 2002)
It has been revealed that Kawabata Hideko, widow of Novel Prize-winning novelist Kawabata Yasunari, died recently at the age of 95. Details were not made public, and funeral services were conducted privately.
Libel judgment against Yū Miri upheld by Supreme Court (September 24, 2002)
The Japanese Supreme Court has upheld a lower-court ruling preventing novelist Yū Miri from republishing a story based on a woman with a facial disfigurement, on the grounds that publication would constitute an intolerable invasion of the woman's privacy. Yū first published the story, Ishi ni oyogu sakana (Fish Swimming in Stone), in the September 1994 issue of the magazine Shinchō. The woman upon whom Yū modeled the story's main character -- a close acquaintance at the time -- sued Yū, claiming that she could be readily identified as the character and would thus be unfairly subjected to public scrutiny and discrimination. The Supreme Court acknowledged the validity of these claims in announcing its decision, marking the first time that publication of a literary work has ever been prohibited in Japan for this reason.
Izumi Motoya ordered to resign from the Japan Noh Association (October 21, 2002)
The Japan Noh Associaiton (Nōgaku Kyōkai) has voted to demand the resignation of Izumi Motoya, self-proclaimed head of the Izumi School of Kyōgen. The action (called taikai meirei in Japanese) was months in coming, and had the support of 98 percent of the association's members. The punishment, however, falls short of permanent expulsion (jomei), and leaves open the possibility that Motoya might be allowed to rejoin the association in the future. Lawyers for Motoya are considering a legal appeal.
Sixty letters written by Mishima to teacher to be published (December 24, 2002)
Sixty letters that Mishima Yukio wrote to Shimizu Fumio, his middle-school teacher at Gakushūin, will be published in the January 2003 issue of Shinchō. Shimizu recommended the 16-year-old Mishima's story Hanazakari no mori (The Forest in Full Flower) for publication, and the two corresponded frequently until Mishima's death in 1970. The content ranges from Mishima's expressions of self-doubt as a high school student to remarks on the possible public reception of the third volume of his final tetralogy, The Temple of Dawn. Shimizu died in 1998 at the age of 94; the decision to publish the letters was made by his oldest son.