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Archives 2004

January - March 2004

130th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (January 15, 2004)

The 130th Akutagawa Prize will be shared by Wataya Risa, for Keritai senaka (Kick Me, published by Kawade Shobō Shinsha), and Kanehara Hitomi, for Hebi ni piasu (Snakes and Earrings, published by Shūeisha). Wataya is 19 years old and Kanehara is 20, which means that they will be the youngest writers ever to have been awarded the Akutagawa Prize (Maruyama Kenji, previously the youngest writer so honored, was 23 when he won the award 37 years ago). Predictably, the announcement was greeted with an unprecedented amount of attention by the media. Kanehara's novel had already won the Subaru Prize for Literature. The 130th Naoki Prize will also be shared, by Kyōgoku Natsuhiko for Nochi no kōsetsu hyaku monogatari (After the Fact: 100 Tales, published by Kadokawa) and Ekuni Kaori for Gōkyū suru junbi wa dekite ita (Ready to Cry a Flood, published by Shinchōsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 20.

55th Yomiuri Prize for Literature announced (February 1, 2004)

The six winners of the 55th Yomiuri Prize for Literature have been announced. For fiction the winner is Ogawa Yōko, for Hakase no aishita sūshiki (The Professor's Formula for Success, published by Shinchōsha); for drama the winner is Kara Jūrō, for Doro ningyo (Mud Mermaid, published in the April 2003 issue of Shinchō); for essays and travelogues the winner is Wakashima Tadashi, for Ranshidokusha no Ei-Bei tanpen kōgi (An Astigmatic Reader's Lectures on British and American Short Fiction, published by Kenkyūsha); for criticism and biography the winner is Numano Mitsuyoshi, for Yūtopia bungaku ron (On Utopian Literature, published by Sakuhinsha); for poetry and haiku the winner is Kuriki Kyōko, for Natsu no ushiro (In Back of Summer, published by Tanka Kenkyūsha); and for scholarship and translation the winner is Tanizawa Eiichi, for Bungōtachi no ōgenka (Great Fights Between the Literary Masters, published by Shinchōsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 18.

Kirino Natsuo nominated for Edgar Allan Poe Award (February 4, 2004)

Kirino Natsuo has been nominated for a 2004 Edgar Allan Poe Award for her novel Out (translation published by Kodansha International). She is the first Japanese writer to have received that honor. The awards will be presented by the Mystery Writers of America in New York on April 29. Out was published in Japanese in 1997.

March issue of Bungei Shunjū best-selling issue ever (February 23, 2004)

The March issue of Bungei Shunjū, the Akutagawa Prize issue, has gone through its fourth printing, making it the biggest seller in the magazine's history. The 1,185,000 copies now printed exceeds by more than 10 percent the 1,050,000 that were printed at the time of the Shōwa Emperor's death. The circulation of the monthly journal has recently averaged about 650,000, which should give an indication of the extent of the sensation created by the naming of Kanehara Hitomi and Wataya Risa as Akutagawa Prize winners.

Wataya Risa's Keritai senaka passes the million-seller mark (March 17, 2004)

According to publisher Kawade Shobō Shinsha, sales of Wataya Risa's Akutagawa Prize-winning novel Keritai senaka (which I have taken the liberty of translating as "Kick Me") have now exceeded 1 million copies. The deciding factor seems to have been the awarding of the Akutagawa Prize itself, since sales had only reached about 135,000 before the prize announcement: an increase of nearly 900,000 copies in barely two months. The other sensational Akutagawa Prize-winning story, Kanehara Hitomi's Hebi ni piasu (Snakes and Earrings), has in contrast now sold about 500,000 copies. Although both novels have become undeniable best-sellers, one cannot help wondering how much the disparity in sales should be attributed to literary value and how much to the differences in physical appearance and personalities between the two young writers (it is not openly discussed, but Wataya is considered more beautiful and freshly innocent, and this has surely contributed to her popular appeal).

Film showing Mori Ōgai discovered (March 17, 2004)

The Mori Ōgai Memorial Library in Tokyo has announced the discovery of Ōgai's image in a 1921 black-and-white film that records a visit by Crown Prince Hirohito to Europe. The two-and-a-half-hour film, in the keeping of the Nihon Eiga Shinsha in Tokyo, shows Ōgai in the company of other officials and dignitaries on hand to welcome the crown prince back from his tour. Ōgai is shown for about three seconds walking from left to right across the screen, wearing a coat and carrying a silk hat in his right hand. ōzawa Keiko, an employee of the Ōgai Memorial Museum, found the image after a search of prewar documentaries based on the recollection of Ōgai's daughter, Aya, that she had once seen such a film. It is thought that this is the only motion-picture image of Ōgai extant.


April - June 2004

Holograph manuscript fragment of Endō Shūsaku's Silence found (April 6, 2004)

A section of the draft manuscript of Endō Shūsaku's Chinmoku (Silence, 1966), representing about the first fifth of the novel, has been discovered among the holdings of the Endō Shūsaku Memorial Museum in Sotome, Nagasaki Prefecture. Curators found the manuscript -- written on the reverse side of some 20 pages of A3-size genkōyōshi -- as they were sifting through the more than 20,000 items donated to the museum by the Endō family. The fragment shows that in the draft stage, the very masculine description of Jesus' face given by Father Rodrigues in the final version had not yet been inserted, suggesting a gradual clarification of the theme during the revising process. Endō, who died in 1996, claimed to have used the entire manuscript as tinder for a bath fire, so researchers had hitherto assumed that it was lost.

1st Booksellers' Prize announced (April 12, 2004)

Ogawa Yōko's Hakase no aishita sūshiki (The Professor's Formula for Success, published by Shinchōsha) has been chosen to receive the 1st Booksellers' Prize. This new prize represents an attempt to revive the depressed publishing and bookselling industry, and 191 booksellers from 160 bookstores nationwide took part in the voting. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on April 15.

Suicide of Sagisawa Megumu (April 15, 2004)

The body of novelist Sagisawa Megumu was found by a visitor to her home in Tokyo's Meguro Ward at about midnight on April 12. Sagisawa had hanged herself on the hook of the door to her room; no note was found. Sagisawa's death is thought to have occurred on April 11.

Death of Yokoyama Mitsuteru (April 15, 2004)

Manga artist Yokoyama Mitsuteru, known for such series as Tetsujin 28-gō (Iron Man No. 28) and Mahozukai no Sarii (Sally the Witch), died today in a Tokyo hospital as a result of burns suffered earlier in the day in a fire at his home in Tokyo's Toshima Ward. The popularity of Tetsujin 28-gō, which debuted in 1956, rivaled that of Tezuka Osamu's Tetsuwan no Atomu (Atom Boy), and Yokoyama's historical Sangokushi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) series reached a total of 60 volumes published over a span of 40 years. Yokoyama had been largely bedridden for three years, and it appears that the fire was caused by an unextinguished cigarette.

23rd Nita Jirō Prize announced (April 15, 2004)

The 23rd Nita Jirō Prize for Literature will be awarded to Tōgō Takashi for Nerōte sōrō: Jūgō Murata Tsuneyoshi no shōgai (Taking Aim: The Life of Murata Tsuneyoshi, published by Jitsugyō no Nihonsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on May 31.

30th Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature announced (April 16, 2004)

The 30th Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature will be awarded to Itoyama Akiko for Fukurokōji no otoko (Dead-End Man, published in the December 2003 issue of Gunzō). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 25.

Death of Earl Miner (April 17, 2004)

Earl Miner, whose work helped give untold numbers of English-speaking scholars their start in the field of Japanese literature, has died after a long illness. It would be hard to overestimate the influence of Japanese Court Poetry, the seminal book on classical Japanese poetry he co-authored with Robert H. Brower, and in addition to this standard study of waka, Miner wrote important works on linked poetry, travel diaries, and comparative poetics -- all this on top of major studies of such English poets as Dryden and Milton. Even those who met him only briefly can also attest to the lasting impression made by the unassuming graciousness of his personality. Miner was 77 years old.

8th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes announced (April 20, 2004)

The winners of the 8th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes have been announced. The Grand Prize for Manga will go to Okazaki Kyōko for Herutaa Sukerutaa (Helter Skelter, published by Shōdensha). The New Life Prize has been won by Morimoto Takashi for Naniwadora ihon (Variant Edition of the Naniwa Wastrel, published by Shōnen Gahōsha). The Short Comics Prize will go to Akitsuki Risu for OL shinkaron (OL Evolution, published by Kōdansha), and a Special Prize will go to Minamoto Tarō for Fūunjitachi (Heroes of Turbulent Times, published by Riido-sha).

11th Matsumoto Seichō Prize announced (April 20, 2004)

The 11th Matsumoto Seichō Prize will be awarded to Yamamoto Ken'ichi for the novel Katen no shiro (Castle Under a Fiery Sky), which will now be published by by the Bungei Shunjū publishing company. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 11.

Ichikawa Danjūrō stricken with leukemia (May 12, 2004)

Kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjūrō, who was taken to a hospital immediately after performing in Kanjinchō (The Subscription List) on May 9, has been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, it was reported today. The Shōchiku company has announced that all of his performances through July will be canceled. The company has announced that since the disease was found at an early stage, the prognosis is good; the English MedicineNet.com site puts the complete-remission-achieved rate at about 90%. The 57-year-old Danjūrō had been taking part in a special father-son program meant to commemorate the name-taking of his oldest son, the new Ichikawa Ebizō, who is 26. These two famous names had not appeared together on the same program for 150 years

15th Itō Sei Prize for Literature announced (May 13, 2004)

The 15th Itō Sei Prize for Literature will be shared by Abe Kazushige, for his novel Shinsemia (Sin Semillas, published by Asaha Shinbunsha), and Kawamura Minato, for the critical work Fudaraku Kannon shinkō e no tabi (In Search of the Fudara Kannon Faith, published by Sakuhinsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in the city of Otaru, Hokkaido, on June 18.

Second short story attributed to a youthful Dazai Osamu writing under a different pen name (June 1, 2004)

A Dazai Osamu scholar has concluded that a short story published in the February 1954 issue of Hirosaki High School's Kōyūkai zasshi (The Alumni Magazine) under the name Higashi Hideo was actually written by Dazai. Sōma Shōichi, professor emeritus at Gifu Women's University, reached this conclusion about the story, titled Aware ni warau (Smiling Sadly), primarily on the basis of three points: 1) mistakes in kana usage parallel those found in other early Dazai works; 2) the grotesque descriptions found in the story are similar to descriptions in other works of the same period, and 3) a number of other narrative features (including the characterization and plot setting) also characterize Dazai's other work at the time. This is the second story published in the same magazine to be identified as actually having been written by Dazai (the first report can be found in the archives). Sōma will present his findings in detail when the story is republished in the July edition of the journal Shinchō.

Suicide of Nozawa Hisashi (June 29, 2004)

Popular screenwriter and mystery novelist Nozawa Hisashi has been found dead in his office in Tokyo's Meguro Ward. He had apparently hanged himself several days earlier, and a note was found at the scene. Nozawa won the Edogawa Ranpo Prize in 1997 for Hasen no marisu (Broken-Line Malice) and the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers in 2001 for Shinku (Crimson).


July - September 2004

131st Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 15, 2004)

The 131st Akutagawa Prize has been won by Mobu Norio for Kaigo nyūmon (Guide for the Care of the Elderly, published in the June issue of Bungakukai), about a contemporary, marijuana-smoking youth who has undertaken to care for his bedridden grandmother. The 131st Naoki Prize will be shared by Okuda Hideaki, for Kuchūburanko (Trapeze, published by Bungei Shunjū), and Kumagai Tatsuya, for Kaikō no mori (The Forest of Meetings, also published by Bungei Shunjū). The presentation ceremonies will be held in Tokyo on August 20.

40th Tanizaki Prize announced (August 25, 2004)

The 40th Tanizaki Prize will go to Horie Toshiyuki for Yukinuma to sono shūhen (Yukinuma and Its Environs, published by Shinchōsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 15. Horie won the 124th Akutagawa Prize in 2000 for Kuma no shikiishi (The Bear and the Paving Stone).

Death of Tanemura Suehiro announced (September 2, 2004)

It has been announced that the critic and scholar of German literature Tanemura Suehiro died of stomach cancer on August 29 at a hospital in Shizuoka Prefecture. Tanemura took a special interest in fantasy literature and drama, and played a prominent role in the avant-garde movement of the1970s. He was 71 years old.

Death of Mizukami Tsutomu (September 8, 2004)

Novelist Mizukami Tsutomu died today of pneumonia at his writing studio in Tōmi City, Nagano Prefecture. Mizukami published his first story in 1948 but did not follow that with another until 1959. His Gan no tera (Temple of the Geese) won the Naoki Prize in 1961, and that and stories such as Echizen takeningyō (The Bamboo Dolls of Echizen) soon won him a wide following. Other representative works include prize-winning biographies of Ikkyū and Uno Kōji. Mizukami was 85 years old.


October - December 2004

52nd Kikuchi Hiroshi Prizes announced (October 15, 2004)

Winners of the 52nd Kikuchi Hiroshi Prize have been announced, including Miyagitani Masamitsu, for his historical novels set in ancient China; Kimura Kōichi, for his public readings of a work dealing with the atomic bombings of Japan; Nakamura Kankurō, for his work as a kabuki actor; the Hokkaidō Shinbun, for its investigative reporting; Hosaka Masayasu, for his studies of Shōwa-period history; and the Heibonsha publishing company, for its reference series on Japanese place names. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on December 3.

Letters written by Mori Ōgai discovered (November 5, 2004)

Some 100 letters written by Mori Ōgai to members of his family have been discovered, along with other materials, at the house of his daughter Annu, who died in 1998. Annu's eldest son, Kobori ōichirō, found the materials while organizing his mother's effects prior to the planned demolition of the house. Most of the letters were sent from Nara between 1918 and 1922, during which period Ōgai spent about a month each year supervising the airing of materials held in the Shōsōin. The large cache of materials also includes handwritten history and geography textbooks by Ōgai, an additional 200 letters exchanged by Mori family members, and more than 250 letters written to Annu by such authors as Nagai Kafū. The materials are scheduled to be published in three volumes by the Genki Shobō publishing company, with the first volume due out this month.

25th Nihon SF Grand Prize announced (December 4, 2004)

The movie Inosensu (Innocence), directed by Oshii Mamoru, has been chosen to receive the 25th Japan SF Grand Prize. It is the third film to have received the award. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on March 3, 2005.

4th Osaragi Jirō Prize for Political and Social Commentary announced (December 15, 2004)

The 4th Osaragi Jirō Prize for Political and Social Commentary will go to two writers: Kenneth Ruoff, for The People's Emperor (Japanese translation published by Kyōdō Tsūshin-sha), and Takii Kazuhiro, for Bunmei-shi no naka no Meiji kenpō (The Meiji Constitution in Cultural History, published by Kōdansha Sensho Metier). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on January 27, 2005.

31st Osaragi Jirō Prize announced (December 22, 2004)

The 31st Osaragi Jirō Prize has been won by Saeki Kazumi, for Tettō kazoku (Steel Tower Family, published by Nihon Keizai Shinbun-sha), and Wakakuwa Midori, for Kuatoro regattsui (The Four Young Envoys, published by Shūeisha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on January 27, 2005.

Letter from Bashō to disciple discovered (December 22, 2004)

A letter written by haiku poet Matsuo Bashō to his disciple Suganuma Kyokusui has been discovered in a family storehouse in Yamanashi Prefecture. The letter, dated the Twenty-fourth Day of the Ninth Month of 1691, tells Kyokusui that Bashō will welcome a visit by him to his Mumyō-an cottage before Bashō travels back to Edo.

Death of Ishigaki Rin (December 26, 2004)

Poet Ishigaki Rin died early this morning at a hospital in Suginami Ward, Tokyo. Ishigaki, who worked for over 40 years for the Industrial Bank of Japan, was known for humanistic poems centering on the life of a working woman. Her collections had won the Mr. H Prize and the Tamura Toshiko Prize, among others. Ishigaki was 84 years old.