Biographies of modern writers

Short biographies of modern writers, with more detailed accounts in some cases. Where extra information has been provided, it is classified in up to four categories: life, translations, studies (mostly book-length or chapter-length in size), and online links.

Although personal judgments are incorporated, much of the content is culled from such common, useful, and inexpensive reference sources as Shakaijin no tame no kokugo hyakka (Encyclopedia of the Japanese Language for Working Adults, published by Taishūkan Shoten), Shin shōsetsu kokugo benran (Illustrated Handbook of the Japanese Language, Newly Revised and Updated, published by Tōkyō Shoseki), and -- yes -- the Japanese version of Wikipedia. Shinchō Nihon-bungaku jiten has occasionally been consulted for purposes of verification and amplification.


Kaikō Takeshi (Ken) (December 30, 1930 - December 9, 1989)

Underlying Kaikō’s literature is an appreciation for the vitality of everyday life that draws on two aspects of his own experience: a youth spent working at various part-time jobs due to his father’s death, and the desolation he witnessed at firsthand in the wake of World War II. After graduating from the law department of Osaka City University, Kaikō took a job with Kotobukiya (the present Suntory), where he worked in the public-relations department. In 1957 he published the short story Panikku (Panic) -- a satirical allegory comparing human beings to mice -- which created a sensation in the literary world thanks to the freshness of its conception and Kaikō’s technical skill. Hadaka no ōsama (The Emperor's New Clothes), published in 1957, brought him the Akutagawa Prize. These early works, which took as their theme the role of the individual within the organization, were followed by several others that dealt with rather different subject matter, including Nihon sanmon opera (The Japanese Three-penny Opera, 1959) and Robinson no matsuei (The Descendents of Robinson, 1960). Another shift came when Kaikō started covering the Vietnam War as a reporter. The result was Kagayakeru yami (Darkness in Summer, 1968) and a number of works of reportage dealing with social conditions and the war itself.

Kajii Motojirō (February 17, 1901 - March 24, 1932)

Novelist born in Osaka who wove the distress of illness and the fervent wish for recovery into a memorable series of short stories and other works of poetic prose. As a student at the Third High School in Osaka, he became friends with Nakatani Takao and Iijima Tadashi, and developed an interest in literature through reading the works of Natsume Sōseki and Tanizaki Jun’ichirō. Kajii developed symptoms of tuberculosis in 1920, the year after entering the school, and thereafter he was never free of the disease, which was already fairly advanced by the time he entered the English department of Tokyo University in 1924. In the summer of that year, he visited his sister in Matsuzaka, Mie Prefecture, the natural beauty of which impressed him greatly, as did the kindness of the local residents. This experience became the basis for Kajii’s story Shiro no aru machi nite (In a Castle Town), which appeared in 1925 in a coterie magazine called Aozora (Blue Sky) that Kajii started with Nakatani Takao and Tonomura Shigeru. Remon (Lemon) and Rojō (On the Road) were both also published in Aozora in the same year. In 1927, Kajii moved to the Yugashima hot-spring district in Izu for the purpose of recuperation, and there struck up a friendship with Kawabata Yasunari. After publishing Fuyu no hi (A Winter’s Day) in 1928, Kajii moved back to Tokyo and wrote Fuyu no hae (Winter Flies, 1928). With his tuberculosis worsening, Kajii returned to Osaka, where he continued to write such stories as Yami no emaki (A Picture Scroll in the Darkness, 1930), Kōbi (Copulation, 1931), and Nonki na kanja (An Optimistic Patient, 1932). The last of these in particular seemed to indicate the attainment of an attitude free from the fear of death, but death nevertheless claimed Kajii in March 1932, shortly after he had reached the age of 31.

Karaki Junzō (February 13, 1904 - May 27, 1980)

Critic born in Nagano Prefecture; a graduate of the Department of Philosophy, Kyoto University. He studied under Nishida Kitarō. Karaki wrote Gendai Nihon bungaku josetsu (An Introduction to Modern Japanese Literature, 1932) as a way of dealing with the suicide of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke. Other major works include ?gai no seishin (?gai’s Spirit, 1955) and Chūsei no bungaku (Medieval Literature, 1955). His last book was Kagakusha no shakaiteki-sekinin ni tsuite no oboegaki (A Memorandum on the Social Responsibility of Scientists, 1980).

Katō Shūichi (September 19, 1919 - December 5, 2008)

Critic born in Tokyo. Katō’s earliest critical sensibilities, developed during middle school, were defined by a sense of antimilitarism and an opposition to the idolatry of historical personages. After entering the First Higher School, he became acquainted with lifelong friends Nakamura Shin’ichirō and Fukunaga Takehiko and read French literature. He went on to medical school at Tokyo Imperial University, where he also attended classes in the French department. After the Second World War, Katō, Nakamura, Fukunaga and others formed the Matinée Poetique society, the members of which published poetry in fixed, rhyming forms. Beginning in 1951, Katō spent three years studying medicine in France. After his return to Japan, he began publishing articles on Japan from a Western-oriented standpoint, among which Zasshu bunka (A Crossbreed Culture, 1955) in particular created something of a controversy. He lectured widely both in Japan and abroad, and continued to produce criticism in a thoroughly cosmopolitan vein, culminating in his Nihon bungakushi josetsu (A History of Japanese Literature, 1979-80).

Kirino Natsuo (b. October 7, 1951)

Real name, Hashioka Mariko. Novelist born in Kanazawa; graduate of the law department of Seikei University. Received the Edogawa Ranpo Prize in 1993 for Kao ni furikakaru ame (A Face Wet with Rain) and the Japan Mystery Writers' Association Prize in 1998 for OUT. Yawaraka na hoho (Soft Cheeks, 1999) received the 121st Naoki Prize.

Kita Morio (May 1, 1927 - October 24, 2011)

Medical doctor and novelist born in Tokyo as the second son of tanka poet Saitō Mokichi. A graduate of the medical school at Tōhoku University, where he came under the influence of the works of Thomas Mann, he won the Akutagawa Prize in 1960 for the story Yoru to kiri no sumi de (In a Foggy Corner of the Night). Kita also garnered widespread popular acclaim as an author when he published Dokutoru Manbō kōkaiki (The Voyage of Doktor Manbō, 1960), the humorous account of a doctor serving aboard a Fisheries Office survey ship. Kita subsequently published a series of “Doctor Manbō” books. Other novels include Nire-ke no hitobito (The Nire Family, 1964), a lighthearted history of the Saitō family over a period of three generations that was praised as the first true "novel of the people" (shiminteki na hajimete no shōsetsu) by Mishima Yukio. In 1998 he completed a widely admired four-volume biography of his famous father.

Kiyooka Takayuki (June 29, 1922 - June 3, 2006)

Novelist and poet born in Dairen, China, who graduated from the French Department at Tokyo University. His Akashiya no Dairen (Acacias in Dairen, 1969), in which he describes meeting his previously deceased wife, received the 62nd Akutagawa Prize. A poet at heart, Kiyooka has published such collections as Kōtta honō (Frozen Frames, 1959) and Nichijō (Daily Life, 1963), along with critical works like Jojō no zensen (On the Front Lines of Lyricism, 1970). Even fictional works such as Umi no hitomi (The Eyes of the Ocean, 1971) and Rito no kuni de (In the Country of Li Po and Tu Fu, 1986) were written with what can be called a poetic clarity of vision.

Kōda Aya (September 1, 1904 - October 30, 1990)

Essayist and novelist born in Tokyo; a graduate of Joshi Gakuin High School. Kōda debuted as a writer with two essays about the death of her father, Kōda Rohan: Shūen (Final Days, 1947) and Sōsō no ki (Account of a Funeral, 1947). She then established herself as a novelist with Kuroi suso (The Black Hem, 1954) and Nagareru (Swept Away, 1955). She is highly regarded for having a style that is said to hark back to the literature of the Heian period, and her life itself was characterized by a simple elegance.

Kuroda Saburō (February 26, 1919 - January 8, 1980)

Poet born in Hiroshima Prefecture who graduated from the Department of Economics at the University of Tokyo. His work helped make the language of modern poetry easy for the average reader to understand, as seen especially in the collections Hitori no onna ni (To a Woman, 1954) and the masterly Chiisai Yuri to (With Little Lily, 1960). The former, bolstered by a strong sense of courage, qualifies as a postwar version of Takamura Kotarō's Chieko shō (Vignettes of Chieko), while the latter portrays Kuroda's life with his daughter while his wife was in the hospital. Other works include Jidai no shūjin (Prisoner of the Times, 1965).

Kurumatani Chōkitsu (b. July 1, 1945)

Born in Himeji City, Hyōgo Prefecture. Real name, Kurumatani Yoshihiko. After graduating from the German Department at Keio University, worked at an advertising agency, a publishing company, and as a cook's helper at various locations in the Kansai region. Received the Mishima Yukio Prize for Shiotsubo no saji (The Salt-Bowl Spoon, 1992) and the Hirabayashi Taiko Award for Hyōryūbutsu (Drifting Object, 1995).

Kusano Shinpei (May 12, 1903 - November 12, 1988)

Poet born in Fukushima Prefecture. After dropping out of Keio University, he studied at Lingnan University in Guangdong, China, publishing at his own expense a volume of poems composed by him and his deceased elder brother. Kusano returned to Japan in 1925 in the face of growing anti-Japanese sentiment and persuaded Miyazawa Kenji and Ogata Kamenosuke to write for the coterie magazine Dora (The Bell) that he had started publishing in China. Kusano’s first widely recognized anthology, Dai-hyaku kaikyū (The Hundredth Estate), appeared in 1928. It postulated a class of frogs positioned far below the Fourth Estate on the social ladder that Kusano used as a vehicle for giving anarchistic expression to the everyday emotions of ordinary people. In 1935 he established the magazine Rekitei (The Course Traveled), in which he continued to publish his own poetry and that of other poets. The anthology Bogan (Mother Lode, 1934) witnessed a turn toward a more positive style that affirmed the value of human life. The anthology Fujisan (Mt. Fuji, 1943) represented an attempt to come to terms with this famous mountain as a symbol of beauty. Other works include Kaeru (Frogs) and Teihon: Kaeru (Frogs: The Standard Edition).

Maeda Yūgure (July 27, 1883 - April 20, 1951)

Tanka poet from Kanagawa Prefecture who left Naka-gun Junior High School without graduating. Together with Wakayama Bokusui , he joined the Shazensō-sha founded by Onoe Saishū . His collection Shūkaku (Harvest, 1910) caused him to be placed, along with Bokusui, at the forefront of the Japanese Naturalist school. He later started the journal Nikkō with Kitahara Hakushū, which opposed itself to the darker tones of the Araragi poets. Other collections include Suigen chitai (At the Headwaters, 1932).

Maruya Saiichi (August 27, 1925 - October 13, 2012)

Novelist born in Yamagata Prefecture. His work is characterized by a supple philosophical approach based on a familiarity with both Japanese and Western classical traditions. His works include Sasa-makura (Bamboo Grass Pillow, 1966), Toshi no nokori (The Rest of the Year, 1968), Tatta hitori no hanran (A Singular Rebellion, 1972), Uragoe de utae: Kimi ga yo (Sing "Kimi ga yo" in Falsetto, 1982), and Onnazakari (A Woman at Her Peak, 1993). Criticism and essays include Go-Toba In (The Retired Emperor Go-Toba, 1973), Nihon bungakushi hayawakari (A Quick Guide to Japanese Literary History, 1976), Asobi jikan (Play Time, 1976) and Chūshingura to wa nani ka (What Is the Chūshingura?, 1984).

Maruyama Masao (March 22, 1914 - August 15, 1996)

Political theorist born in Osaka who graduated from the Department of Tokyo University. He studied under the political scientist Nanbara Shigeru. Nihon seiji shisōshi kenkyū (Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan, 1952) can be considered an early representative work. His broad knowledge of Western intellectual history and the Oriental classics helped him play a leading role in developing democratic ideas in Japan after World War II. Other major works include Gendai seiji no shisō to kōdō (Thought and Behavior in Modern Japanese Politics, 1964), Nihon no shisō (Thought in Japan, 1961), and Kōei no ichi kara (From the Rear Lines, 1982).

Masamune Hakuchō (March 3, 1879 - October 28, 1962)

Novelist and dramatist born in Okayama Prefecture; a leading representative of the Japanese Naturalist school. Hakuchō’s personality was characterized by an objective attitude and a sharp critical spirit. Major works include Jin’ai (Dust, 1907), Doko e (To Where?, 1908), Bikō (A Faint Light), Nippon dasshutsu (Escape from Japan, 1949), and the drama Tenshi hokaku (Captive Angels, 1947). His criticism includes Shizenshugi seisuishi (The Rise and Fall of Naturalism, 1948), and Uchimura Kanzō (1949).

Matsumoto Seichō (December 21, 1909 - August 4, 1992)

Native of Fukuoka Prefecture and prolific writer of socially oriented detective and mystery stories. Matsumoto debuted as a writer after reaching the age of forty with the historically based Saigō-satsu (Saigō Takamori Chits, 1950) and Aru Kokura Nikki Den (The Legend of the Kokura Diary, 1952). He then went on to establish his unique style of detective fiction with the works Me no kabe (The Walls Have Eyes, 1957) and Ten to sen (Points and Lines, 1958). Historical novels include Mushukunin betchō (List of the Homeless, 1957), Kagerō ezu (Drawing of Heat Haze, 1958-59), and Tenpō zuroku (Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Tenpō Period, 1962-64). Well-known nonfiction works are Nippon no kuroi kiri (Black Fog over Japan, 1961) and the Shōwa-shi hakkutsu (Unearthing the Shōwa Period, 1964-1971) series. Matsumoto also wrote works on the theory of history, including Kodaishi-gi (A Skeptical Look at Ancient History, 1967).

Miki Taku (b. May 13, 1935)

Poet and novelist born in Tokyo; member of the coterie groups that publish the poetry magazines Han (Inundation) and Shi soshiki (Poetry Organization). His is a simple style that gives expression to life’s diversity. Anthologies of poetry include Tokyō gozen sanji (Three A.M. in Tokyo, 1959) and Wa ga kidirando (My Kiddyland, 1971). Some novels are Hiwa (The Siskin, 1972), Furueru shita (With Quivering Tongue, 1974), Karera ga hashirinuketa hi (The Day They Went the Distance, 1978), Gyosha no aki (The Charioteer in Autumn, 1985) and Koguma-za no otoko (The Man from the Little Dipper, 1989). A collection of essays is Tokyo bishiteki hokō (Microscopic Strolls Through Tokyo, 1975). He has also written criticism (Kotoba no suru shigoto [The Work Words Do, 1975]) and a work of juvenile fiction, Potapota (Drip, Drip, 1984).

Mishima Yukio (January 14, 1925 - November 25, 1970)

Mishima Yukio was the post-World War II Japanese author who, until the arrival of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana, had won the largest readership outside of Japan, at least in part because of the dramatic way he ended his life. A versatile and prolific writer as well as an astute critic (some would rate his criticism higher than his fiction), Mishima seems assured of a reputation as one of Japan's most important postwar writers.

Mishima was born in Tokyo as Hiraoka Kimitake. His father, Azusa, was an official in the Ministry of Agriculture; his mother Shizue was the second daughter of a former principal of Kaisei Middle School, Hashi Kenzō. The dominating influence of Mishima's autocratic grandmother, Natsu, is frequently cited by biographers as the source of Mishima's later "deviation" from normality. Donald Keene and others, however, also rightly point out that she helped Mishima develop his precocious taste in literature.

Throughout his youth Mishima attended the Gakushūin (Peers School), serializing his first important prose work, Hanazakari no mori (The Forest in Full Flower), in the magazine Bungei Bunka (Literary Culture) in 1941. This also marked his first use of the pen name Mishima Yukio. The war had a decisive influence on Mishima, who was wrongly diagnosed as having pleurisy and thereby avoided being conscripted. This cheating of impending death, along with Japan's eventual defeat, seems to have engendered in him a complex dialectic between the exultation of survival and the exaltation of death which was to characterize the romantic nihilism of the mature Mishima. In 1948 Mishima resigned from the Ministry of Finance to devote himself to writing, and in 1949 he met with critical and popular success when he published the affecting novel Kamen no kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask).

The fifties saw the appearance of a long series of important novels, as well as Mishima's turn toward bodybuilding and the cult of the physical. In the sixties this physicality took on the specifically political coloring (refracted rather than reflected in his novels) that ultimately prompted Mishima to form his own private army, the Shield Society (Tate no Kai), in 1968. The bizarre and fascinating confluence of life and art that marked Mishima's final years was symbolized by the near-simultaneous completion of his final novel and his ritual suicide by seppuku. The true meaning of this act continues to be debated, but the intense and often diametrically opposed reactions it elicits in readers and critics can surely be adduced as testimony to a strength of personality unique in modern Japanese literature.

  • Acts of Worship. Trans. John Bester. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1989.
  • After the Banquet. Trans. Donald Keene. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963.
  • Confessions of a Mask. Trans. Meredith Weatherby. New York: New Directions, 1958.
  • Death in Midsummer. Trans. Edward G. Seidensticker, et al. New York: New Directions, 1966.
  • Five Modern Nō Plays. Trans. Donald Keene. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.
  • Forbidden Colors. Trans. Alfred H. Marks. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968.
  • Life for Sale. Trans. Stephen Dodd. New York: Vintage International, 2019.
  • Madame de Sade. Trans. Donald Keene. New York: Grove, 1967.
  • Mishima on Stage: The Black Lizard and Other Plays. Trans. Laurence Kominz, Jonah Salz, Mark Oshima. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center For Japanese Studies, 2007.
  • My Friend Hitler and Other Plays of Yukio Mishima. Trans. Hiroyuki Sato. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
  • Runaway Horses. Trans. Michael Gallagher. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.
  • Silk and Insight. Trans. Hiroyuki Sato. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.
  • Spring Snow. Trans. Michael Gallagher. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972.
  • Star. Trans. Sam Bett. New York: New Directions, 2019.
  • Sun and Steel. Trans. John Bester. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1970.
  • The Decay of the Angel. Trans. Edward G. Seidensticker. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.
  • The Frolic of the Beasts. Trans. Andrew Clare. New York: Vintage International, 2018.
  • The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Trans. John Nathan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965.
  • The Sound of Waves. Trans. Meredith Weatherby. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956.
  • The Temple of Dawn. Trans. E. Dale Saunders and Cecilia S. Seigle. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.
  • The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Trans. Ivan Morris. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959.
  • The Way of the Samurai: Yukio Mishima on Hagakure in Modern Life. Trans. Kathryn Sparling. New York: Basic Books, 1977.
  • Thirst for Love. Trans. Alfred H. Marks. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969.
  • Twilight Sunflower. Trans. Shigeho Shinozaki and Virgil A. Warren. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1953.
  • Inose, Naoki, with Hiroaki Sato. Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima. Berkeley, Ca.: Stone Bridge Press, 2013.
  • Kimball, Arthur G. Crisis and Identity in Contemporary Japanese Novels. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1972.
  • Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.
  • Keene, Donald. Landscapes and Portraits. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1971.
  • Miyoshi, Masao. Accomplices of Silence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.
  • Morris, Ivan. The Nobility of Failure. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975.
  • Nathan, John. Mishima. Boston: Little, Brown, 1974.
  • Petersen, Gwenn Boardman. The Moon in the Water: Understanding Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1979.
  • Scott-Stokes, Henry. The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974.
  • Starrs, Roy. Deadly Dialectics: Sex, Violence, and Nihilism in the World of Yukio Mishima. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.
  • Tsuruta, Kinya and Thomas E. Swann, eds. Approaches to the Modern Japanese Novel. Tokyo: Sophia University, 1976.
  • Ueda, Makoto. Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1976.
  • Wolfe, Peter. Yukio Mishima. New York: Continuum, 1989.
  • Yamanouchi, Hisaaki. The Search for Authenticity in Modern Japanese Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Googling will result in a long list of sites on Mishima, most offering the same sort of information. Perhaps the most interesting items in English on the Web are the video clips that have been uploaded to YouTube, links to three of which are provided below:

  • Interview with Yukio Mishima: A 1969 interview, conducted in English, originally broadcast by a Canadian television station. On YouTube, with a simultaneous transcript provided.
  • Mishima Yukio Speaking in English: A documentary excerpt uploaded to YouTube in which Mishima discusses the "samurai spirit." It is about nine minutes long.
  • Yukio Mishima Speaking in English: An audio recording uploaded to YouTube in which Mishima addresses the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in 1966.

Miura Ayako (April 25, 1922 - October 12, 1999)

Miura Ayako, who was born in the city of Asahikawa, Hokkaido, graduated from Asahikawa Women's High School in 1939. She started working as an elementary school teacher, but soon after Japan's defeat in World War II quit her job because she realized that the education she had given to the children had contributed to Japanese militarism. In June of 1946, Miura contracted tuberculosis. While she was fighting the disease in the hospital, she met a childhood friend named Maekawa Tadashi, who was a Christian. Miura was attracted to his personality, and through him to Christianity. Maekawa, however, succumbed to tuberculosis in 1949, prompting Miura to attempt suicide.

Three years after Maekawa's death, Miura converted to Christianity. In 1959 she married Miura Mitsuyo, who was also a Christian. In 1961, Miura opened a general store, which she closed in 1964 when her novel Hyōten (Freezing Point) won a writing contest sponsored by the Asahi Shimbun. This novel made her famous throughout Japan. In 1968 she published Shiokari tōge (Shiokari Pass), one of her most popular novels.

Zoku hyōten (Freezing Point, Part 2) was published in 1971. In the 1975 novel Hosokawa Garasha fujin (The Wife of Hosokawa Garasha), Miura wrote about Christian women in the Edo period, when Christianity was strictly forbidden. In 1977 she published Deiryū chitai (Mud Flow Zone), and in 1981 she published an essay, Nanakamado no machi kara (From the Town of Mountain Ashes), which is often reprinted in Japanese textbooks for junior and senior high school students.

Miura was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1992. She completed the novel Inochi aru kagiri (As Long as I Live) in 1995. In 1996, the effects of the medication Miura was taking prevented her from completing three novels that were then being serialized in several magazines. After a brief period of inactivity, however, she started writing again, continuing up to the time of her final illness.

  • A Heart of Winter. Trans. Clyde Moneyhun and Mark Caprio. Singapore: OMF Press, 1991.
  • Freezing Point . Trans. Hiromu Shimizu and John Terry. Wilmington, Delaware: Dawn Press, 1986.
  • Hidden Ranges. Trans. Deborah Davidson. Wilmington, Delaware: Dawn Press, 1993.
  • Shiokari Pass. Trans. Bill Fearnehough and Sheila Fearnehough. 1974. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1987.
  • The Wind Is Howling. Trans. Valerie Griffiths. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1977. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978.
  • Gabriel, Philip. "The Frozen Soul: Sin and Forgiveness in Miura Ayako's Freezing Point." Japan Forum 17.3 (2005): 407-429.

Miura Ayako Literature Museum:  A Japanese-only site that describes the collections on display at the museum and offers a detailed biographical timeline together with a list of posthumous publications.

The World of Miura Ayako:  A blog originally intended to supplement a former website dedicated to Miura; the most recent entry dates back to 2012.

Miyamoto Teru (b. March 6, 1947)

Novelist born in the city of Kobe. After graduating from ōtemon Gakuin University, Miyamoto started working at an advertising agency, but the tedious novels he read in literary magazines inspired him to try his hand at writing. He was awarded the Dazai Osamu Prize for Doro no kawa (River of Mud, 1977), the Akutagawa Prize for Hotarugawa (River of Fireflies, 1977), and the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature for Yūshun (A Fine Horse, 1986). Miyamoto takes the position that professional authors have an obligation to write novels that are interesting.

Miyamoto Yuriko (February 1, 1899 - January 21, 1951)

Novelist born in Tokyo. While still a student at Japan Women’s University, she published the story Mazushiki hitobito no mure (A Crowd of Poor People, 1916). After leaving the university without graduating, she traveled to the United States, where she studied at Columbia University and met her first husband. Her novel Nobuko (1924-26) deals with the failure of this marriage. After a lengthy stay in the Soviet Union, she came back to Japan and married Communist Party leader Miyamoto Kenji, becoming active in the Proletarian Literature movement. She held firmly to her beliefs both during and after the Second World War. Works include Fūchisō (The Weathervane Plant, 1946), Hanshū heiya (The Harima Plain, 1946), Futatsu no niwa (Two Gardens, 1948), and Dōhyō (Mileposts, 1947-50).

Mizukami Tsutomu (March 8, 1919 - September 8, 2004)

Novelist born in Fukui Prefecture. Poverty forced Mizukami’s family to send him to a temple in Kyoto to serve as an acolyte when he was nine years old. Disillusioned by the conduct of the temple's chief priest, however, he left the temple in 1936. Mizukami's literary outlook was shaped by his years at the temple and by the geography and climate of his birthplace, Wakasa. Mizukami entered the Japanese literature department at Ritsumeikan University, but was forced to drop out for financial reasons and because of bad health. While recuperating at home, he began reading literature in earnest. After World War II, he apprenticed himself to the novelist Uno Kōji, under whose influence he wrote the autobiographical Furaipan no uta (Song of the Frying Pan, 1952), which became a best-seller. For the next 10 years, however, Mizukami remained apart from the literary world. Then, in 1960, he published a work on Minamata disease titled Umi no kiba (The Ocean's Fangs), beginning a career as a writer of detective stories on social themes. His autobiographical Gan no tera (Temple of the Geese, 1961) adapted the genre to give expression to the melancholy feelings of a young boy, winning Mizukami the Naoki Prize. He followed this in 1962 with Kiga kaikyō (Starvation Straits). In 1963, under the influence of Matsumoto Seichō’s Ten to sen (Points and Lines), he published Kiri to kage (Fog and Shadows), then turned to the writing of novels dealing with the plaintive fate of women, including Gobanchō Yūgiri-rō (The Pavilion of the Evening Mist at Gobanchō, 1963) and Echizen takeningyō (The Bamboo Dolls of Echizen, 1964). Gradually Mizukami turned away from the depiction of social mores and manners, producing such biographical works as Ikkyū in 1974 and the explicitly autobiographical Teradomari (A Temple Stay) in 1977. Subsequent works included Kinkaku enjō (The Burning of the Golden Pavilion, 1979), an exploration of the psychology behind the famous incident previously fictionalized by Mishima Yukio, Ryōkan (1984), and Utsutake no fue (The Hollow Bamboo Flute, 2002). Mizukami once used the reading "Minakami" as his pen name (and that reading will still occasionally be found), but he later expressed a preference for using his legal name of "Mizukami."

Mori Ōgai (January 19, 1862 - July 9, 1922)

Mori Ōgai was the literary name of Mori Rintarō, the son of the doctor to the daimyō of Tsuwano province (in present-day Shimane Prefecture). Ōgai’s mother was a strict disciplinarian who pushed Ōgai toward the pursuit of academic excellence throughout his youth. At the domain’s Yōrōkan school, Ōgai acquired a solid foundation in the Confucian classics and also in Dutch studies. Ōgai was subsequently sent to Tokyo, where in 1874 he enrolled in the preparatory course of the medical department at Tokyo University, adding two years to his age in order to get in. He graduated from the university at the age 19, becoming the youngest ever to do so, and started a career as an army surgeon.

In 1884, Ōgai was sent by the army to study medicine in Germany. There he came under the influence of the physician Robert Koch, immersing himself in the study of military hygiene. At the same time, with typically prodigious application he familiarized himself with European philosophy and literature. He returned to Japan with a deep awareness of the gap between the civilizations of Europe and Japan.

After returning to Japan in 1888, Ōgai immediately undertook efforts to modernize both Japanese medicine and Japanese literature. In 1889, he published a collection of translated poetry called Omokage (Vestiges). This is considered the first poetic anthology in Japanese to successfully convey a sense of the aesthetic qualities of Western poetry. In the same year Ōgai also founded the influential literary magazine Shigaramizōshi (The Weir), giving rise to what is sometimes called the "Kō-Ro-Shō-Ō Period," after the names of four prominent authors who were active at this time: Ozaki Kōyō, Kōda Rohan, Tsubouchi Shōyō, and Ōgai himself. Stories published by Ōgai during this period (based to a large extent on his own experiences abroad) include Maihime (The Dancing Girl, 1890), Utakata no ki (Foam on the Waves, 1890), and Fumizukai (The Courier, 1891). These works, together with Futabatei Shimei’s Ukigumo (The Drifting Cloud, 1887), are often considered to mark the beginnings of a truly modern Japanese literature (and it is worth mentioning that Maihime marks the first use of first-person point of view in Japanese fiction).

Numerous clashes with superiors over medical policy, and their disapproval of Ōgai’s literary activities, resulted in 1899 in Ōgai's transfer to the cultural backwater of Kokura in Kyūshū. During this time Ōgai published no novels, but the experience did give him time to mature both as a human being and as a writer, and the experience seems to have provided him with much of the material he later used when writing his historical fiction.

In 1907, five years after returning to Tokyo from Kokura, Ōgai was promoted to the position of army surgeon general. No longer faced with the need to concern himself with the opinions of superiors -- and stimulated by the work of Natsume Sōseki as well as by the rise of naturalistic fiction -- Ōgai once again began publishing fiction in the magazine Subaru (The Pleiades). Ōgai’s first story in the colloquial style, Hannichi (Half a Day, 1909), was followed in rapid succession by Ita sekusuarisu (Vita Sexualis, 1909), Seinen (Youth, 1910), Fushinchū (Under Reconstruction, 1910), Mōsō (Delusions, 1911), and Gan (The Wild Goose, 1911).

The suicides in 1912 of General Nogi Maresuke and his wife in the wake of the death of the Emperor Meiji came as a great shock to Ōgai, prompting a turn to historical materials that resulted in Okitsu Yagoemon no isho (The Last Testament of Okitsu Yagoemon, 1912). Other novels in the same vein were Abe ichizoku (The Abe Family, 1913), Ōshio Heihachirō (Ōshio Heihachirō, 1914), Yasui fujin (The Wife of Yasui, 1914), Sanshō dayū (Sanshō the Steward, 1915), Saigo no ikku (The Last Phrase, 1915), Takasebune (The Boat on the Takase River, 1916), and Kanzan Jittoku (Han-shan and Shih-te, 1916). From about 1915, Ōgai began to advocate a more strictly factual approach in dealing with the treatment of historical personages and put this policy into practice with the publication of such biographical works as Shibue Chūsai (1916) and Izawa Ranken (1916). These two different types of historical fiction characterizing Ōgai’s final period are generally classified by critics as historical novels (rekishi shōsetsu) and historical biographies (shiden).

Ōgai died in 1922 from atrophy of the kidneys while still at work on several historical studies. He left behind no direct disciples to carry on his work, but the extraordinary range of his activities, the high seriousness of his purpose, and the enormous influence he exerted on both contemporary and later writers have caused him to be ranked with Natsume Sōseki as one of the preeminent writers of the Meiji period.

  • Modern Japanese Stories: An Anthology . Ed. Ivan Morris. 1961. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1966. Contains "Under Reconstruction."
  • Sansho-Dayu and Other Short Stories. Trans. Tsutomu Fukuda. Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1970.
  • Vita Sexualis. Trans. Kazuji Ninomiya and Sanford Goldstein. 1972. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2001.
  • The Historical Fiction of Mori Ōgai. Ed. David A. Dilworth and J. Thomas Rimer. 1977. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991. A one-volume paperback edition of an earlier two-volume collection of stories.
  • The Wild Geese. Trans. Ochiai Kingo and Sanford Goldstein. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1959.
  • The Wild Goose. Trans. Burton Watson. 1995. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 1998.
  • Youth and Other Stories. Ed. J. Thomas Rimer. 1994. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995.
  • Bowring, Richard J. Mori Ōgai and the Modernization of Japanese Culture. University of Cambridge Oriental Publications 28. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
  • Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.
  • Marcus, Marvin. Paragons of the Ordinary: The Biographical Literature of Mori Ōgai. 1993. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995.
  • McClellan, Edwin. Woman in the Crested Kimono: The Life of Shibue Io and Her Family Drawn from Mori Ōgai's Shibue Chusai. 1985. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
  • Rimer, J. Thomas. Mori Ōgai. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Group, 1975.

The Mori Ogai Memorial Site:  A one-page introduction to a memorial site in a boarding house in Berlin where Ōgai stayed briefly after his arrival in Germany.

The Museum Meiji-Mura:  This site includes a photograph of the house shared (at different times) by both Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki in Tokyo, now relocated to this outstanding open-air architectural museum in Aichi Prefecture. The photograph can be found in the list on this page.

Morisaki Kazue (b. April 20, 1927)

Poet and nonfiction writer born in Korea; a graduate of Fukuoka Women’s Technical College (the present Fukuoka University). Beginning in the late 1950s, Morisaki joined the group publishing Boin (Vowels), a journal of poetry edited by Maruyama Yutaka. After moving to the coal-producing Chikuhō district of northern Kyushu, she founded the magazine Sākuru Mura (Circle Village) along with poet and critic Tanigawa Gan and historian Ueno Eishin. Running through her works is a strong awareness of the oppression suffered by individuals, especially laborers and women, at the hands of the state, and many of her works document this sort of oppression. These include Makkura (Pitch Black, 1961), Dai-san no sei (The Third Sex, 1965), and Karayuki-san (Sold Overseas, 1976). Later works include Inochi hibikiau (Echoes of Life, 1998), about recovering a sense of human Eros in symbiosis with nature.

Mukōda Kuniko (November 28, 1929 - August 22, 1981)

Novelist born in Tokyo. Graduated from the Japanese Literature Department of the Jissen Josen school. She was awarded the Naoki Prize for short stories including Hana no namae (The Name of the Flower, 1980). Mukōda wrote more than 1,000 radio and television screenplays in her career, which was cut short by a tragic plane accident. Other works include Chichi no wabijō (A Father's Apology, 1978), Nemuru sakazuki (The Sleeping Sake Cup, 1979), and Omoide toranpu (Memories of Playing Cards, 1980).

Murakami Haruki (b. January 12, 1949)

Murakami Haruki was born in Kyoto but moved to Kobe shortly afterward with his family. Since his father was a teacher, he formed an acquaintance with books early in life -- especially American novels.

In 1968 Murakami entered Waseda University, where he studied theater. While a student he married a classmate named Yōko, and for three years the couple lived with her parents, relying heavily on them for financial support. In 1974, when Murakami was 25 years old, he and his wife opened a jazz coffee shop in Kokubunji, Tokyo. Five years later, Murakami went to Jingū Stadium in Tokyo to watch a baseball game. In the middle of the game, the urge suddenly came upon him to write a novel. From this time forward, he spent a part of every night writing in his kitchen after the coffee shop closed.

Murakami finished his first novel, Kaze no uta o kike (Hear the Wind Sing) the same year, winning the Gunzō Prize for New Writers. This marked the beginning of a prolific career that shows no sign of slowing down. 1973-nen no pinbōru (Pinball 1973) came out in 1980, and Hitsuji o meguru bōken (A Wild Sheep Chase) won the Noma Literary Award for New Writers in 1982. Together, these three novels form a trilogy that portrays in a hip, witty style the sensibilities of youth growing up in the 1970s. Sekai no owari to hādoboirudo wandārando (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World ) introduced an atmosphere of fantasy and science fiction into Murakami's work and won him the Tanizaki Jun'ichirō Prize in 1985. In 1987 Murakami published the two-volume Noruei no mori (Norwegian Wood ), cementing his position as a popular author. Murakami has since published numerous other novels, short stories and essays, supplemented by highly regarded translations of such American writers as Raymond Carver.

As the leading representative (with Yoshimoto Banana) of the Japanese version of international pop fiction, Murakami enjoys immense popularity both at home and abroad, where he has now sold more novels in translation than any other Japanese writer.

One's initial reaction to Murakami might be to wonder whether his fiction can be called "Japanese" at all. But it is hard to think of anything more characteristic of contemporary Japanese culture than the influence of American and British popular music, for instance, and in that respect there is no question that Murakami is very much indeed a modern Japanese writer.

  • 1Q84. Trans. Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel. Knopf, 2011.
  • A Wild Sheep Chase. Trans. Alfred T. Birnbaum. Kodansha International, 1989.
  • After Dark. Trans. Jay Rubin. Knopf, 2007.
  • After the Quake. Trans. Jay Rubin. Knopf, 2002.
  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: Twenty-four Stories. Trans. Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin. Knopf, 2006.
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Trans. Philip Gabriel. Knopf, 2014.
  • Dance Dance Dance. Trans. Alfred T. Birnbaum. Kodansha International, 1994. Kodansha America, Inc., 1994.
  • First Person Singular: Stories. Trans. Philip Gabriel. Knopf, 2021.
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Trans. Alfred T. Birnbaum. Kodansha International, 1991.
  • Hear the Wind Sing. Trans. Alfred T. Birnbaum. Kodansha International, 1987.
  • Kafka on the Shore. Trans. Philip Gabriel. Knopf, 2005.
  • Killing Commendatore. Trans. Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen. Knopf, 2018.
  • Men Without Women: Stories. Trans. Philip Gabriel and Ted Goosen. Vintage, 2017.
  • Norwegian Wood. Trans. Alfred T. Birnbaum. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1989. Vintage Books, 2000.
  • Pinball, 1973. Trans. Alfred T. Birnbaum. Kodansha International, 1985.
  • South of the Border, West of the Sun. Trans. Philip Gabriel. Knopf, 1999.
  • Sputnik Sweetheart. Trans. Philip Gabriel. Knopf, 2001.
  • The Elephant Vanishes. Trans. Jay Rubin and Alfred T. Birnbaum. Knopf, 1993.
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Trans. Jay Rubin. Knopf, 1997.
  • Underground. Trans. Alfred Birnbaum and Philip Gabriel. Vintage Books, 2001.

Publication dates are for the first English hardback editions, when they exist. Paperback and Kindle editions are readily available. Short stories by Murakami are regularly published in The New Yorker magazine.

  • Rubin, Jay. Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. London: The Harvill Press, 2002.
  • Seats, Michael. Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006.
  • Strecher, Matthew. Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Reader's Guide. New York: Continuum, 2002.
  • Strecher, Matthew Carl. Dances with Sheep: The Quest for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2001.

Alfred A. Knopf maintains an official site for Murakami, although (as only to be expected) it is promotional in nature. There are introductions to and excerpts from Murakami's novels to be found, along with interviews and (screened) contributions from the "community" of fans. A "comprehensive archive of all reviews" from 1989 onward turns out to be a list of adulatory blurbs taken from those reviews; the 30 photographs of Tokyo in a gallery "provided by the author" were in fact taken by one Eizo Matsumura and could have been more informatively captioned.

How Haruki Murakami's '1Q84' Was Translated Into English: A short interview with Philip Gabriel published on the website of The Atlantic on October 24, 2011.

The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami: An article on that appeared after the publication of 1Q84; a print version appeared three days later, on October 24, 2011, in the Sunday Magazine of the New York Times.

The Underground Worlds of Haruki Murakami: A New Yorker magazine interview by Deborah Treisman from February 2019, adapted from stage conversations held in 2008 and 2018 at the New Yorker Festival.

The Waseda International House of Literature (The Haruki Murakami Library): Founded in 2019 and scheduled to open in October 2021, the museum -- located at Murakami's alma mater in Tokyo -- will contain manuscripts, publications, and a variety of other materials from Murakami's personal archives available for public viewing. The building, originally a nondescript reinforced-concrete structure (the webmaster had his own first faculty office there), has been redesigned inside and out by the architectural firm Kengo Kuma and Associates.

Mushanokōji Saneatsu (May 12, 1885 - April 9, 1976)

Mushanokōji Saneatsu, the central figure of the Shirakaba (White Birches) group of writers in the second decade of the twentieth century, was born into the family of a Tokyo viscount. As a junior high school student at the Peers’ School (Gakushūin), he made friends with Shiga Naoya. In high school he came under the sway of the Tolstoyan ideals of self-denial, asceticism, and charity. Mushanokōji left the sociology department of Tokyo University without graduating, and with Peers’School friends Shiga, Kinoshita Rigen, and Ōgimachi Kinkazu formed a literary study group called the Jūyokka Kai (The Fortnight Club).

In 1910, this group started publishing Shirakaba magazine. Under the influence of the Shirakaba group, Saneatsu began to move away from Tolstoy’s idea of self-sacrifice and toward an ideological posture of confident self-affirmation. Omedataki hito (An Innocent, 1911) is the most important work in this vein, and this was followed by Seken shirazu (Babe in the Woods, 1912). With the outbreak of World War I, Saneatsu turned again for inspiration to Tolstoyan humanitarianism. He urged respect for “the will of nature and the will of man,” arriving at the belief that making use of each individual’s potential was the best way to ensure the happiness of all mankind. A rapid succession of major works soon followed: Sono imōto (His Sister, 1915), a play turning on the dilemma of being caught between self-love and love for mankind; Kōfukumono (A Happy Man, 1919) a novel presenting Mushanokōji’s image of an ideal human being; and Yūjō (Friendship, 1920), a novel that portrays the victory of the human ego as it wavers between friendship and love.

The same sort of idealism can be found in the autobiographical novel Aru otoko (A Certain Man, 1923) and the play Ningen banzai (Three Cheers for Mankind, 1922). Mushanokōji even attempted to put his ideals into practice in 1918 by creating a quasi-socialistic “New Village” (Atarashiki Mura) in Hyūga, Kyushu. (Mushanokōji left the village in 1926, and a dam project forced it to relocate to Saitama Prefecture in 1939, where it still operates.) Mushanokōji faded into the literary background in the 1930s and 1940s, although he gained something of a reputation as an artist specializing in the depiction of vegetables like pumpkins and potatoes. Mushanokōji’s last popular work was Shinri sensei (The Teacher of Truth, 1951), a novel that once again holds up for the reader’s admiration a life sincerely led. It is this sincere humanitarianism that continues to appeal to those who admire his works.

  • Akatsuki: Dawn. Trans. Takahide Kikuchi. Tokyo: Information Publishing, 1972.
  • Friendship. Trans. Ryuzo Matsumoto. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1958.
  • Long Corridor: The Selected Poetry of Mushakoji Saneatsu. Trans. Robert Epp. Stanwood, Wash: Yakusha, 1996.
  • Love and Death. Trans. Saburo Yamamura. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1967.
  • New Plays from Japan. Trans. Yozan Iwasaki and Glenn Hughes. 1923. New York: Appleton, 1930. Contains "A Family Affair."
  • The Man of the Flowers. Trans. Jun’ichi Natori. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1955.
  • The Passion and Three Other Japanese Plays. Trans. Noboru Hidaka. Introduction by Gregg M. Sinclair. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1971. Contains "The Passion."
  • Two Fables of Japan Dramatized by Saneatsu Mushakoji. Trans. Jun’ichi Natori. Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1957. Contains "The Man of the Flowers" and "The Rabbit’s Revenge."
  • "Atarashiki Mura in Interwar Japan," an online essay at the Rekolektiv website, which is managed by a self-described "Marxist/anarcho-type historian and activist."
  • Mortimer, Maya. Meeting the Sensei: The Role of the Master in Shirakaba Writers. Leiden: Brill, 2000.

"Atarashiki Mura in Interwar Japan," an online essay at the Rekolektiv website, which is managed by a self-described "Marxist/anarcho-type historian and activist."

The compact, introductory site of the current New Village, in Saitama Prefecture. in Japanese.