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Archives 2008

January - March 2008

138th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (January 16, 2008)

The 138th Akutagawa Prize has been won by Kawakami Mieko for Chichi to ran (Breasts and Eggs, published in the December issue of Bungakukai). The winner of the 138th Naoki Prize is Sakuraba Kazuki for Watashi no otoko (My Guy, published by Bungei Shunjū). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on February 22.

53rd Shōgakukan Manga Awards announced (January 21, 2008)

Winners of the 53rd Shōgakukan Manga Awards have been announced in the prize's six categories. In the Young Children category, the winner is Keshikasu-kun (Little Keshikasu), by Murase Noriyuki. In the Boys category, the winner is Daiya no A (The Ace of Diamonds), by Terajima Yūji. The winner in the Girls category is Boku no hatsukoi o kimi ni sasagu (I Offer My First Love to You), by Aoki Kotomi. Finally, two winners were announced in the General category: Kurosagi (Black Heron), by Kuromaru and Natsuhara Takeshi, and Banbiino (Bambino), by Seki Tetsuji. The presentation ceremony will be held on March 3 in Tokyo.

Missing manuscript of story by Oda Sakunosuke discovered (January 26, 2008)

The holograph manuscript of a short story written by Oda Sakunosuke (1913-1947) in the early 1940s has been discovered at the Yagi Bookshop in Tokyo's Kanda district. The story, Roppakukinsei (Nine Star Ki Astrology), is an earlier version of a work published under the same title in 1946, but its publication was suppressed during the war and the manuscript was thought to have been lost. The holograph consists of the first 36 pages of the story, with the other pages apparently missing. The manuscript was put on display at the Yagi Bookshop on January 25..

Tanka by Terayama Shūji discovered (February 7, 2008)

It was reported today that a large number of previously unpublished tanka composed by Terayama Shūji (1935-83) had been discovered by his longtime companion Tanaka Michi among the documents she had in her possession. The multitalented Terayama had hitherto been thought to have largely given up tanka from the 1960s as he became more active in other genres, but apparently he had resumed writing them from about 1973, although he never found the time to publish a collection. Tanaka has selected 188 of these unpublished tanka for publication later this month in an anthology to be released by the Iwanami publishing company entitled Gesshoku shokan (Lunar Eclipse Epistles).

Death of Ichikawa Kon (February 13, 2008)

Movie director Ichikawa Kon died of pneumonia at a hospital in Tokyo at 1:55 am on February 13. Ichikawa was much admired for his adaptions of such literary works as Biruma no tetegoto (The Burmese Harp, produced in 1956), Nihonbashi (produced in 1956), Nobi (Fires on the Plain, produced in 1959), Kagi (The Key, produced in 1960 and released under the English title Odd Obsession), and Sasameyuki (The Makioka Sisters, produced in 1983). He also directed two versions of Inugami-ke no ichizoku (The Inugami Family, based on a popular detective story by Yokomizo Seishi), the first in 1976 and the second in 2006. The Ichikawa film most widely known to an international audience is no doubt the documentary Tōkyō Orinpikku (Tokyo Olympiad), produced in 1965. Ichikawa was 92 years old.

Last volume in set of Reizei School manuscripts from the Kamakura period discovered (February 24, 2008)

The only remaining unlocated volume of an original 39-volume (, 帖) set of "private collections" of poetry (shikashū) once owned by the Reizei School of waka poets has been found in Tokyo. The set consists of hand-copied manuscripts of various private collections dating from the time of Ono no Komachi and collated in the Kamakura period by Fujiwara no Suketsune (1181-1233), whose name appears in the colophones. The volume containing the poetry of Lady Saikū (929-985) -- an appellation of Empress Yoshiko, wife of Emperor Murakami and the presumed model for Lady Rokujō and Akikonomu in The Tale of Genji -- was known only in the form of a recopied version from the Edo period. Recently, however, the Saikū Historical Museum in Mie Prefecture was contacted by an antiques dealer in Tokyo who had obtained the missing manuscript, which measures 23 centimeters in height and 15 centimeters in width and contains 40 pages, including the covers. The museum, which says it has confirmed the manuscript's authenticity, plans to purchase the volume with the help of a 15.75 million-yen donation from a company based in Osaka and put it on display in April to commemorate the 20th year of the museum's founding.

58th Mr. H Prize for poetry; 26th Contemporary Poets Prize (March 5, 2000)

The Japan Association of Contemporary Poets announced that the 58th Mr. H Prize would be awarded to Sugimoto Maiko of Tokyo for her collection Sodeguchi no dōbutsu (Animals at My Sleeves, published by Shisōsha), and that the 26th Contemporary Poets Prize would go to Koyanagi Reiko for Yoru no chiisana shirube (Night Marker, published by Kashinsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 15.

Serialization of novel by Kumagai Tatsuya suspended because of copyright infringment (March 16, 2008)

A novel by Naoki Prize-winning novelist Kumagai Tatsuya that was being serialized in the monthly magazine Shōsetsu Subaru (published by Shūeisha) has been discontinued because it was found to infringe on the copyright of previously published material. The novel, Mujahidin no tani (Valley of the Mujahideen), contained passages taken without permission or attribution from a book published by photojournalist Nagakura Hiromi, who had lodged a protest with Shūeisha. Both Shūeisha and kumagai have offered apologies.


April - June 2008

Newly available materials on Dazai Osamu published (April 1, 2008)

Facsimile copies of notebooks kept by Dazai Osamu as a high school student have been published by the Museum of Modern Aomori Literature. The notebooks -- for the subjects of English and comportment that Dazai took at Hirosaki Higher School in his first and second years -- contain various jottings, doodles, and fragments of poems. The two-volume set can be obtained by contacting the museum directly. The Yomiuri Shinbun article on this topic can be found here (for now).

Death of Ishii Momoko (April 2, 2008)

Ishii Momoko,Japanese translator of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and the author of such original children's stories as Non-chan kumo ni noru (Non-chan Rides a Cloud, 1947) died in a Tokyo nursing home on April 2. In the course of a career that started well before the Second World War, Ishii translated some 200 children's stories into Japanese -- including the Peter Rabbit and Dr. Doolittle series and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, among many others. Ishii was 101 years old.

39th Ōya Sōichi Prize for Nonfiction announced (April 7, 2008)

The 39th Ōya Sōichi Prize for Nonfiction will be shared by Kido Hisae, for Ano sensō kara tōku hanarete (With War Long Over, published by Jōhō Sentā Shuppankyoku), and Yamada Kazu, for Shirarezaru Rosanjin (The Unknown Rosanjin, published by Bungei Shunjū). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 23.

5th Bookstore Prize announced (April 8, 2008)

The 5th Bookstore Prize, the winner of which is selected by employees of bookstores nationwide, has been presented to Isaka Kōtarō, for Gōruden suranbā (Golden Slumbers, published by Shinchōsha). The book is a novel about a man who has been framed for the murder of the prime minister and goes on the run. Slightly over 1,000 bookstore employees took part in the first stage of this year's selection process.

Death of Ogawa Kunio (April 9, 2008)

Novelist Ogawa Kunio -- known for his clear, concise style and his treatment of such topics as violence, sex, and religious faith (Ogawa was a Catholic) -- died of pneumonia this afternoon at a hospital in Shizuoka City. Ogawa made his literary debut in 1957 with Isles of Apollo, a collection based on an extended stay in Europe as a student. His later writings, which included travel journals and essays as well as fiction, were widely admired for their sturdy sense of artistic integrity. Ogawa was 80 years old.

34th Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature announced (April 10, 2008)

The 34th Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature will be shared by Inaba Mayumi, for Miru (The Sea Staghorn, published in the February 2007 issue of Shinchō), and Tanaka Shin'ya, for Sanagi (The Chrysalis, published in the August 2007 issue of Shinchō). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 27.

21st Mishima Yukio Prize and 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize announced (May 15, 2008)

The 21st Mishima Yukio Prize has been won by Tanaka Shin'ya for his collection of short stories Kireta kusari (Broken Chains, published by Shinchōsha). The 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize will be shared by Imano Bin, for Kadan: Inpei sōsa 2 (Decision: Cover-up Investigation 2, published by Shinchōsha), and Isaka Kōtarō, for Gōruden suranbā (Golden Slumbers, published by Shinchōsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on June 27.

Three scrolls of Edo-period Genji picture-scroll collection discovered (May 21, 2008)

Three Edo-period scrolls depicting 15 scenes from the opening Kiritsubo (Paulownia Court) chapter of The Tale of Genji have been discovered in Nagoya. The scrolls, which measure between 12 to 15 meters in length, were brought to the Tokugawa Art Museum by a private party. Museum experts determined the scrolls to belong to a set made in the 17th century, of which 10 other scrolls, along with fragments, are known to exist. The artist is unknown, but the narrative sections were inscribed by the court noble Kujō Yukiie and others. The scrolls will be on display at the museum until July 21.

Discovery of wooden message slat with lines from Man'yōshu poem announced (May 22, 2008)

The board of education in Kōka City, Shiga Prefecture, has announced the discovery of fragments from a wooden message slat (mokkan) containing part of a poem from the Man'yōshū. The fragments (two were discovered, one of which apparently contains characters from the poem) were originally unearthed in 1997 at the archeological site established at the Shigaraki Palace in Kōka City, used by Emperor Shōmu in the middle of the eighth century. The poem has been identified as one in the 16th volume of the Man'yōshū (the "Asakayama poem" mentioned by Ki no Tsurayuki in the Preface to the Kokinshū), making it the first time a poem from the Man'yōshū has been found in this form.The slat would have originally been about 60 centimeters in length, and the fragments discovered also contain -- on the reverse side -- part of the Naniwatsu poem from the Kokinshū that Ki no Tsurayuki paired with the Asakayama poem as the "parents" of Japanese poetry (that is, they are among the first poems used to teach the art of poetry). The discovery indicates that already 150 years before the compilation of the Kokinshū, these two poems were regarded as a pair. The fragments will be exhibited in Kōka City from May 25 to May 30.

Newspaper record of lecture given by Natsume Sōseki in Manchuria discovered (May 24, 2008)

A record of a lecture given by Natsume Sōseki during on a tour of Manchuria in September and October 1909 has been discovered in microfilm archives of the Manshu Nichinichi Shinbun at the National Diet Library. The lecture, serialized in the newspaper over a five-day period from September 15 to September 19, was delivered at the Manchurian Railway Employees' Training Center in Dalian on the evening of September 12, and was meant to elucidate Sōseki's theory that a balance among three types of people (those who illuminate the relationships among objects, those who by their actions transform objects, and those who can properly appreciate relationships among objects) was necessary for social progress. It was known that Sōseki had given this lecture, but the subject had not been clearly identified.


July - September 2008

Existence of complete version of The Tale of Genji from Muromachi period confirmed (July 12, 2008)

The existence of a complete version of The Tale of Genji dating from the Muromachi period has been confirmed by Ikeda Kazuomi, a professor at Chuō University in Tokyo who has been studying the 54-volume set since April of last year. Each of the 54 chapters of the hand-copied manuscript is bound separately into a volume measuring 19.6 cm. in height and 15.1 cm. in width. The Akashi chapter contains a pasted note identifying the transcriber as the poet Reizei Tamekazu (1486-1549), and given the similarity in the size and format of the volumes, it appears that Tamekazu may have played a central role in producing the set, which was stored inside in a lacquerware box. The famous scholar Ikeda Kikan had noted the existence of one of the volumes of the set in his variorum edition of the tale, but this represents the first confirmation that it was part of a complete set. Since about half of the 54 volumes belong to the "miscellaneous versions" manuscript category (that is, versions that belong to neither the "blue-cover version" category deriving from Fujiwara Sadaie nor the "Kawachi version" category associated with Minamoto no Mitsuyuki and Minamoto no Yomoyuki), it is hoped that the manuscript will give researchers a glimpse into what The Tale of Genji may have looked like before the standard collations were produced in the Kamakura period.

Complete first edition of Love Suicides at Sonezaki discovered (July 13, 2008)

A complete first edition of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's jōruri (puppet) play Love Suicides at Sonezaki (1703) has been discovered at the Kurobe City Library in Toyama Prefecture. Kōzu Takeo, a visiting associate professor at Waseda University, confirmed the woodblock-printed book as authentic after it was found among materials donated to the library by a prominent local family. The book is 50 pages long (25 folded sheets of paper) and contains a colophon permitting clear identification. It is the only complete version of the first edition extant; another copy is held by the Nakanoshima Library in Osaka, but it is missing two pages (one sheet of paper) and lacks a colophon.

Death of Ōno Susumu (July 14, 2008)

Ōno Susumu, Japanese philologist and proponent of the controversial theory that the Japanese language ultimately derives from Tamil, died of heart failure in Tokyo early this morning. Ōno was known for his early research into the phonetic use of Chinese characters during the Nara period (the orthographic technique of man'yōgana) and taught for many years at Gakushūin University. He published his theory on the derivation of Japanese from Tamil in 1979, and although it has its supporters, it is not widely accepted (apparently Ōno has argued that Tamils came to Japan to harvest pearls). Although the English press referred to him as a linguist, Ōno was actually a kokugo gakusha ("scholar of the national language"), a rather different academic breed that brings a distinctive cultural perspective to bear on the study of the language. Ōno's opinion was often sought regarding the "proper" use of Japanese. He was 88 years old

139th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 15, 2008)

The 139th Akutagawa Prize has been won by Yang Yi (pronounced Yan Ii in Japanese) for her story Toki ga nijimu asa (A Morning Steeped in Time, published in the June issue of Bungakukai). Yang, who emigrated from China to Japan in 1987, thus becomes the first nonnative speaker of Japanese to win Japan's most prestigious literary award for new writers. The 139th Naoki Prize will go to Inoue Areno for Kiriha e (At the Tunnel's Face, published by Shinchōsha). The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on August 22.

Four farewell letters written by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke discovered (July 17, 2008)

Four farewell letters (isho in Japanese) written by novelist Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892-1927) have been discovered by his granddaughter Teruko (daughter of Akutagawa's oldest son Hiroshi) at her home in Tokyo. Two of the letters are addressed to Akutagawa's wife Fumiko, one is addressed to his children, and the fourth is addressed to a friend (presumed to be Kikuchi Kan). The text of these letters -- along with that of two other letters Akutagawa is known to have written and fragments of which exist-- appear in the collected works published by Iwanami Shoten; but because Akutagawa had instructed that they be burned immediately after reading, the originals had been regarded as lost. Since several discrepancies in wording have been found in the newly discovered versions, some doubt exists about whether or not they are the final versions of the letters, but their discovery is nevertheless an important event for literary scholars. Copies of the letters will be put on display at the Museum of Modern Japanese Literature in Tokyo beginning on July 19.

Complete version of The Tale of Genji from Kamakura and Muromachi periods reemerges (July 21, 2008)

A complete version of The Tale of Genji dating from the Kamakura and Muromachi periods has been rediscovered. This version -- which is transcribed in a variety of caligraphic styles that may be imitations of the styles of such literary figures as Saigyō and Emperor Go-Daigo -- is older than the one whose existence was announced on July 12. It is known to have been in the possession of the Ōsawa family of Nara during the Meiji period, but its whereabouts were uncertain after the end of World War II. The scholar who announced the discovery -- Ii Haruki, director of the National Institute of Japanese Literature -- has declined to make public any information regarding the current owner. This version of The Tale of Genji, known as the Ōsawa version, comprises 54 separately bound volumes measuring between 14 to 15 cm. in height and 15 to 16 cm. in width, and is in excellent condition. The set contains 28 volumes that do not belong to either of the two main textual traditions mentioned in the earlier entry, and some unique textual variations have already been identified, so scholars hope that it, too, will permit a determination of what might have been lost before Fujiwara Sadaie's version of The Tale of Genji became the accepted standard. It might be noted that one reason for two major announcements about transcriptions of The Tale of Genji being made in such rapid succession is that 2008 is being celebrated as the 1,000th anniversary of the first confirmed historical mention (in The Diary of Lady Murasaki) of this literary masterpiece.


October - December 2008

Death of Katō Shūichi (December 5, 2008)

Critic Katō Shūichi died of multiple organ failure at a hospital in Tokyo today. Katō, known for arguing that modern Japanese culture is a hybrid that has resulted from the interaction between traditional Japanese culture and Western culture, brought a distincitvely international perspective to bear on wide range of literary and cultural issues. His two-volume Nihon bungaku-shi josetsu (1975, 1980) has been translated into English as A History of Japanese Literature (three volumes). Katō was 89 years old.

Eighth Osaragi Jirō Prize for Political and Social Commentary announced (December 14, 2008)

The Eighth Osaragi Jirō Prize for Political and Social Commentary will go to Yuasa Makoto for Han-hinkon -- suberidai shakai kara no dasshutsu (Against Poverty: Escape from a Down-the-Chute Society, published by Iwanami Shinsho). Yuasa wins a trophy and a cash award of 2 million yen. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on January 28, 2009.

Fourth Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prizes announced (December 22, 2008)

The fourth Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prizes have been announced in three categories. The Grand Prize will go to Kaneko Tōta, honorary president of the Modern Haiku Association; other prizes are to be awarded to Kawara Hitsuo, Uchida Sonoo, and I Oryon. The presentation ceremony will be held on February 15, 2009, in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture.

35th Osaragi Jirō Prize announced (December 22, 2008)

The 35th Osaragi Jirō Prize has been won by Iijima Kazuichi for Shussei zen'ya (The Night Before the Stars Appear, published by Kōdansha), a novel about the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-38. Iijima wins a trophy and a cash award of 2 million yen. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo on January 28, 2009.