Saibara fragment possibly from the Kamakura period discovered (January 16, 2003)
A fragment of a saibara (a kind of folk song adopted by the Heian aristocracy and sung to the accompaniment of gagaku instruments) that may have been transcribed in the thirteenth century has been discovered by a Tokyo antiques dealer among a collection of materials that were being sold at an auction. The fragment measures about 30 centimeters high by 40 centimeters wide, cut in half horizontally and then rejoined. It contains the words from the saibara Nani so mo so (What Could It Be?), along with introductory comments and other information. Since the opening words are spoken by Kaoru in the "Bamboo River" chapter of The Tale of Genji, the fragment appears to indicate that Kaoru is referring to this song rather than simply making a general comment as he leaves the residence of Tamakazura.
128th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (January 16, 2003)
The 128th Akutagawa Prize, for fiction published in the second half of 2002, will go to Daidō Tamaki for Shoppai doraibu (A Salty Drive), which was published in the December 2002 issue of Bungakukai. The story is about a 34-year-old woman who dates and decides to live with a man over the age of 60. Daidō is a native of Fukoka City now living in Saitama Prefecture. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 21. The Naoki Prize will not be awarded this time.
54th Yomiuri Prize for Literature announced (February 1, 2003)
Winners of the 54th Yomiuri Prize for Literature have been announced in the award's six categories. The winner for fiction is Mizumura Minae for Honkaku shōsetsu (A Real Novel, published by Shinchōsha). The other winners are Sakate Yōji for Yaneura (The Attic; drama category), Sasaki Mikirō for Ajia kaidō kikō (A Travel Journal of the Asian Seaboard; essay category), Noguchi Takehiko for Bakumatsu kibun (That Late-Bakufu Feeling; criticism); Hasegawa Kai for Kyokū (Emptiness; poetry category); and Takematsu Yūichi for Igirisu kindaishi hō (Modern British Poetry; scholarship and translation category). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 21.
53rd Mr. H Prize and 21st Contemporary Poets Prize announced (March 1, 2001)
The 53rd Mr. H Prize will be awarded to Kawazu Kiyoe for the anthology Aria: kono yoru no ratai no tame ni (Aria for a Nude Body on This Night, published by Furansudō). The 21st Contemporary Japanese Poets Prize will go to Kimura Michio for Irohanihoheto chirinuruo (The Blossoms, Though Colorful, Still Fall, published by Shoshi Yamada). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 7
18th Museum of Poetry, Tanka, and Haiku Prizes announced (March 5, 2003)
Winners of the 18th Museum of Contemporary Japanese Poetry, Tanka, and Haiku Prizes have been announced in the award's three categories. For modern poetry, the prize will go to Takarabe Toriko for Monokuro kuronosu (Monochrome Chronos, published by Shichōsha). The award for tanka will go to Okabe Keiichirō for Ittenshō (The Clock Strikes One, published by Seijisha). The winner of the prize for haiku is Matsuzaki Tetsunosuke for Chōkō (The Changjiang, published by Kadokawa Shoten). The presentation ceremony will be held in May in Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture.
Death of Kuroiwa Jūgo (March 8, 2003)
Mystery writer Kuroiwa Jūgo, known also for his historical novels set in the distant past, died of respiratory failure on March 7 at his home in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture. A native of Osaka, Kuroiwa received the 44th Naoki Prize in 1961 for Haitoku no mesu (Excising Corruption). His Amanokawa no taiyō (The Sun in the Milky Way), about the succession struggle during the Jinshin Rebellion of 672, received the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature in 1980. Kuroiwa was 79 years old.
8th Terayama Shūji Prize for Tanka and 13th Kōno Aiko Prize announced (April 1, 2003)
The 8th Terayama Shūji Prize for Tanka will be awarded to Watanabe Matsuo for his collection Aruku butsuzō (The Walking Statue of Buddha; published by Ganshokan). The 13th Kōno Aiko Prize will go to Kawano Satoko for Taiyō no tsubo (A Pot of Sunlight; published by Sunago Shobō). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on May 23.
47th Association of Contemporary Poets Prize announced (April 10, 2003)
The 47th Association of Contemporary Tanka Poets Prize will be shared by Watari Hideko, for the collection Mizu o hakobu (Carrying Water; published by Hon'ami Shoten), and Shimada Yukinori, for the collection no news (published by Sunagoya Shobō). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 26.
34th Ōya Sōichi Prize for Nonfiction announced (April 10, 2003)
The 34th Ōya Sōichi Prize for Nonfiction will be awarded to Kondō Fumito for Fujita Tsuguharu: Ihōjin no shōgai (Tsuguharu Foujita:The Life of an Outlander; published by Kōdansha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 13.
96th Bungakukai Prize for New Writers announced (April 14, 2003)
The 96th Bungakukai Prize for New Writers will be awarded to Itoyama Akiko for Ittsu onrii tooku (It's Only Talk).
Story newly attributed to Dazai Osamu (June 28, 2003)
Scholars have determined that a story appearing in a coterie magazine in 1943 under the name Higashi Hideo was in fact written by Dazai Osamu. The story, Kare (Him), is a cynical look at a student writer much like Dazai, and appears in the magazine along with another story known to have been by him. The grounds for the identification were the use in the story of personal information that only Dazai could have known, peculiarities in the use of kana, and the existence of a similar episode in Dazai's later work Bannen (The Declining Years). In addition, the pen name "Higashi" has been traced to an acquaintance of Dazai's who himself does not appear to have been interested in writing.
129th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 17, 2003)
The 129th Akutagawa Prize will be awarded to Yoshimura Man'ichi for Hariganemushi (The Hairworm; published in the May issue of Bungakukai). The 129th Naoki Prize will be shared by Ishida Ira, for 4-Teen (published by Shinchōsha), and Murayama Yuka, for Hoshiboshi no fune (Voyage to the Stars, published by Bungei Shunjū). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on August 21.
Possible source suggested for The Tale of Genji (July 24, 2003)
Ishii Kōsei, a professor of the history of Buddhist thought at Komazawa Junior College, has suggested that a story from the A.D. 688 Chinese collection Hōonjurin (Japanese phonetic transcription) provided a model for the early parts of The Tale of Genji. The story, ōhanshō (Japanese phonetic transcription), concerns two local officials who, after sleeping with the governor's mistress, conspire to shift the blame to a third official, who is subsequently executed. The wronged official returns from the dead as a ghost and kills the governor, his mistress, and the men who falsely accused him. Ishii thinks that the narrative situation, along with the key image of a thunderstorm, shows unmistakable parallels to incidents involving Genji, Kokiden, Oborozukiyo, and Rokunomiya, and he also points out that the collection from which the story is taken was well known during the Heian period. The paper detailing this new theory appears in the July/August edition of the journal Bungaku.
Recording made by Kikuchi Kan discovered (August 5, 2003)
An 18-centimeter record made by novelist and playwright Kikuchi Kan in about 1939 has been discovered in the Kikuchi Memorial Museum of Tokyo. The record, apparently recorded on a home-recording device, lasts about 30 seconds and contains Kikuchi's voice admonishing his children Hideki and Nanako to be good and study hard. The record was found by Kikuchi Hideki while sorting through materials at the (closed) museum and has been included in an exhibition on Kikuchi and Matsumoto Seichō being held until October 31 in the city of Kitakyūshi.
39th Tanizaki Prize announced (August 29, 2003)
The 39th Tanizaki Prize will be awarded to Tawada Yōko for Yōgisha no yakōressha (Suspect on the Night Train, published by Seidosha. Tawada's novel also won the 14th Itō Sei Prize for Literature in June. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 17.
2nd Kobayashi Hideo Prize announced (September 1, 2003)
The 2nd Kobayashi Hideo Prize will be shared by Yoshimoto Takaaki, for Natsume Sōseki o yomu (Reading Natsume Sōseki, published by Chikuma Shobō), and Iwai Katsuhiko, for Kaisha wa korekara dō naru no ka (What Happens to Companies Now?, published by Heibonsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 3.
27th Subaru Prize for Literature awarded (October 6, 2003)
The 27th Subaru Prize for Literature will be shared by Kanehara Hitomi, for Hebi ni piasu (Snakes and Earrings), and Chikami Hinata, for Danbōru bōto de kaigan (To the Shore by Cardboard Boat). The stories have been published in the November edition of Subaru magazine.
Marginalia by Kobayashi Takiji discovered (November 7, 2003)
A magazine has been discovered in the library of the Otaru University of Commerce that contains short comments made by proletarian novelist Kobayashi Takiji concerning short stories written by Shiga Naoya, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, and several other authors. Kobayashi was a student at the university (when it was still classified as a higher school), and since marginalia by Takiji had already been found elsewhere in the library's holdings, a search had been conducted for other similar examples. Kobayashi's comments include favorable mention of stories by Shiga and Akutagawa, and negative remarks on stories by Kikuchi Kan and Saijō Yaso.
Bunraku named a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (November 7, 2003)
UNESCO has proclaimed the Japanese Bunraku Puppet Theater as one of its Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The "Masterpieces" program, which originated in 2001, is meant to "raise public awareness of the value of this heritage and encourage governments to take legal and administrative steps to safeguard it." The first proclamation recognized 19 modes of artistic expression; this proclamation includes a total of 28. A third proclamation will be issued in 2005.
Tawara Machi becomes a single mother (November 27, 2003)
It was reported today that poet Tawara Machi gave birth to a baby boy on November 3. The 40-year-old Tawara, whose Salad Anniversary was a best-selling collection of tanka, is unmarried and has refused to make public the name of either the infant or the father.
24th Japan SF Grand Prize announced (December 6, 2003)
The 24th Japan SF Grand Prize will be awarded to Ubukata Tō for the Marudokku sukuranburu (Mardoch Scramble) trilogy published by Hayakawa Bunko JA.
First woodblock-print depiction of Chushingura attack discovered (December 14, 2003)
An ukiyoe woodblock print depicting the famous attack in January 1703 of the 47 loyal Akao retainers upon the mansion of Kira Kōzukenosuke has been discovered at a used bookstore in Tokyo. The print, which follows the practice of the time in veiling the historical incident under the guise of depicting a kabuki play on another subject, measures 53.2 centimeters wide by 31.7 centimeters high and is in the tan-e style (meaning that a simple block print was colored in by hand). The actors shown in the roles of the supposed topic allow the print to be dated to 1711; hitherto, the oldest print on the attack was a 1749 depiction of the kabuki play Kanade-hon Chūshingura. The newly discovered print is on exhibition at Ritsumeikan University until January 16.
30th Osaragi Jirō Prize announced (December 19, 2003)
The 30th Osaragi Jirō Prize has been won by Yamamoto Yoshitaka for Kindai no hajimari (The Beginning of the Modern Period, published by Misuzu Shobō), the third volume in his series Jiryoku to jūryoku no hakken (The Discovery of Magnetism and Gravity). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on January 28.