144th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (January 17, 2011)
The 144th Akutagawa Prize has been won by Asabuki Mariko, for Kiko-Towa (Kiko and Towa, published in the September issue of Shinchō), and by Nishimura Kenta for Kueki ressha (Forced Labor, published in the December issue of Shinchō). Asabuki, a doctoral student at Keiō University, is the daughter of a poet and has received substantial media attention because of her youth (she is 25 years old). The 144th Naoki Prize will also be shared by two writers: Kiuchi Nobori, for Hyōsa no utau (Shifting Sands, published by Shūeisha), and Michio Shūsuke, for Tsuki to kani (Moon and Crabs, published by Bungei Shunjū). It is the first time since 2004 that both prizes have multiple winners. Shimada Masahiko took part in the Akutagawa Prize selection for his first time (there are currently 10 members), and Ijūin Shizuka and Kirino Natsuo have now joined the Naoki Prize selection committee (nine members).
Letters written by Kawakami Otojirō and Sadayakko discovered (January 22, 2011)
Two letters written by the stage performer Kawakami Otojirō and his wife Sadayakko during their tour of the United States in 1899-1901 have been discovered in the Shōchiku Ōtani Library in Tokyo. The letters were pasted in an album once owned by the American-based artist Aoki Toshio, to whom they were addressed. In one letter -- dated October 10, 1899, and sent from Portland, Oregon -- Kawakami claims that his troupe was not subject to any racial taunting, contradicting received opinion that discrimination was the cause of low attendance there. The second letter -- written by Sadayakko in Boston on January 8, 1900 -- refers to a planned performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, suggesting that more planning went into the troupe's performances than has hitherto been thought. Sadayakko's letter also mentions the deaths that had occurred among troupe members and the operation for appendicitis that Kawakami had undergone. The letters were discovered in connection with a planned display at the Chigasaki Art Museum in Kanagawa Prefecture commemorating the 100th anniversary of Kawakami's death and the 140th anniversary of Sadayakko's birth. The letters will be on display at the museum from September 10 to November 27.
Trial date announced for Itō Lion (January 28, 2011)
Itō Lion will go on trial February 18 for his attack on Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō, it has been announced. Previous reports on the incident can be viewed in the archives for last year.
45th Yoshikawa Eiji Award for Literature and 32nd Yoshikawa Eiji Award for New Writers announced (March 3, 2011)
The 45th Yoshikawa Eiji Award for Literature will go to Morimura Seiichi for Akudō (Inner Evil, published by Kōdansha). The 32nd Yoshikawa Eiji Award for New Writers will go to Tsujimura Mizuki for Tsunagu (Connections, published by Shinchōsha). The presentation ceremony for the awards will be held in Tokyo on April 11.
Itō Lion sentenced to jail (March 14, 2011)
Itō Lion, who had been arrested for attacking Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō in Nishiazabu, Tokyo, last year, was sentenced today to a prison term of 16 months. While acknowledging that Ebizō's actions were a contributing factor, the judge emphasized the severity of the attack and expressed concern over the possibility of continued violent behavior on Itō's part.
New theory proposed for model of Mori Ōgai's Maihime (March 10, 2011)
A Japanese writer living in Berlin has proposed a new theory of the the identity of the model for the main female character in Mori Ōgai's famous short novel Maihime (The Dancer, 1890). Rokusō Ichika has published a book titled Ōgai no koi: maihime Erisu no shinjitsu (Ōgai in Love: The Truth about the Dancer Elise, published by Kōdansha) in which on the basis of street addresses and baptismal records she identifies a Polish woman named Elise Marie Caroline Wiegert as the true model for the story. A contemporary newspaper report gives an "Elise Wiegert" among the list of passengers on the ship that is thought to have carried the woman who followed Ōgai to Japan after his return from Germany in 1888, which has led many scholars to conclude that an Anna Berta Luise Wiegert, whom Ōgai had met in Berlin, was the closest match, but Rokusō makes her case based on the coinciding names, the age of her candidate (six years younger and thus closer to the age mentioned in the novel), the fact that the real Elise was born in the city of Szczecin (which is mentioned by Ōgai), records confirming Elise's residence in Berlin, and even the names of Ōgai's daughters, Mari and Annu (Marie's sister's name was Ann). Apparently a direct link to Ōgai in Berlin has not been established.
5th Ōe Kenzaburō Prize announced (April 6, 2011)
The 5th Ōe Kenzaburō Prize has been won by Hoshino Tomoyuki forhis novel Ore ore (It's Me. Me., published by Shinchōsha). A public dialog between Ōe and Hoshino is scheduled for May 19 in Tokyo to commemorate the event.
Ebizō to return to the stage in July (April 11, 2011)
The production office that manages Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō announced via fax that he will be returning to the stage in July, following an absence he has been observing in the wake of last year's scandal. The office also revealed that Ebizō will star in a movie scheduled to be released in October. Ebizō has promised to donate his share of the ticket receipts for the July Kabuki program to the earthquake relief fund.
Donald Keene announces plans to acquire Japanese citizenship (April 15, 2011)
The Asahi Shinbun reported today that Japanologist and literary scholar Donald Keene has decided to acquire Japanese citizenship and move permanently to Japan. In making his decision, the 88-year-old Keene, who was awarded the Order of Culture in 2008, seems to have been influenced at least in part by his reaction to the Great East Japan Earthquake; the Asahi article notes that Keene has expressed regret over the way many foreigners left Japan in its wake. It is also a fairly natural outcome in a life that has been devoted to the study and appreciation of a country and its culture.
Letter sent by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke discovered (May 20, 2011)
A letter sent by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke to the poet Susukida Kyūkin in May of 1919 has been discovered among effects donated by Kyūkin's family to the city Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture. The letter was sent by Akutagawa soon after entering the employ of the Osaka Mainichi Shinbun, where Kyūkin was an editor of the literary-arts section, and refers to the rival Osaka Asahi Shinbun newspaper as a "business enemy."
145th Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 14, 2011)
The 145th Naoki Prize has been won by Ikeido Jun for Shitamachi roketto (Downtown Rocket, published by Shōgakukan). The presentation ceremony will be held in mid-August in Tokyo. No award will be made for the 145th Akutagawa Prize; in making this announcement, selection-committee member Yamada Amy noted that all of the candidates this time paled by comparison to the two "star" winners of the previous round.
Letter from Tanizaki Jun'iichirō to Nagai Kafu made public (December 18, 2011)
The existence of a letter has been revealed in which novelist Tanizaki Jun'iichirō asks the older Nagai Kafu to review Sasameyuki (The Makioka Sisters) . The brush-and-ink letter, dated September 1, 1947, is about 50 lines long and was written when the final volume of Tanizaki's novel was being serialized in the journal Fujin kōron. The letter was in the possession of a collector in Ichinomiya City, Aichi Prefecture.