Literary awards are listed alphabetically by (unofficial) English title. Official Japanese names are given in parentheses, but in practice these are often shortened by omitting, for instance, the first name of the author associated with the award.
The awards listed here are major awards that continue to be given regularly. For an exhaustive listing of awards with the names of winners, publication details and, in the case of the Akutagawa Prize and Naoki Prize, comments by members of the selection committee, see The World of Literary Prizes website (in Japanese).
Japan's most prestigious literary award. Established in 1935 by Kikuchi Kan, the editor of Bungei Shunjū magazine, in memory of novelist Akutagawa Ryūnosuke; sponsored by the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Literature (Nihon Bungaku Shinkō Kai). Awarded semiannually in January and July to the best short story of a purely literary nature published in a newspaper or magazine by a new or rising author. The winner receives a pocket watch and a cash award of 1 million yen, along with considerable attention from the media.
Established in 2001 by the Asahi Shinbun Company with the purpose of recognizing outstanding achievement in the theater arts in Japan during the previous calendar year. The Grand Prix is awarded to the outstanding play of the year; the Theater Arts Prize is an award for artistic merit in several categories presented to individuals or organizations; the Terayama Shūji Prize is meant to recognize individuals or organizations who have demonstrated artistic innovation; the Akimoto Matsuyo Prize is given to theatrical works, individuals, or organizations that have succeeded in combining popular entertainment with artistic merit; and Special Achievement Awards (tokubetsu shō) are presented to individuals or organizations. Winners receive a medallion and a cash award of 2 million yen (for the Grand Prix) or 1 million yen (for the other prizes).
Established in 1956 by the Association of Contemporary Tank Poets to promote the development (kōjō hatten) of tanka poetry. Awarded annually to a collection of tanka by a new poet. The winner receives a cash award of 100,000 yen.
Established in 2004 by a newly formed Booksellers' Grand Prize Executive Committee (Hon'ya Taishō Jikkō Iinkai) to promote the sale of books printed by commercial publishers. Decided by a vote of employees of bookstores, both brick-and-mortar and online, that offer new publications for sale. Awarded annually to new works of Japanese fiction published between December 1 and the following November 30 that are considered by bookstore employees to be worth recommending to customers. Two ancillary categories are involved: Special Mention for Translated Fiction (Hon'yaku Shōsetsu Bumon), covering the same period as the Grand Prize, and Special Mention for Rediscovered Classics (Hakkutsu Bumon), which is open to works in any genre published at any time preceding the November 30 date-of-publication deadline. In addition, a joint Yahoo News / Booksellers' Grand Prize for Nonfiction was instituted in 2018 under the corporate sponsorship of Yahoo News (Japan).
Bookstore employees -- including part-time employees -- are allowed to nominate three candidates for the Grand Prize, with the top ten vote getters constituting a final short list from which employees then choose three favorites to rank and evaluate. In this second stage of the selection process, first place is worth three points, second place is worth two points, and third place is worth 1.5 points; the candidate with the highest number of votes overall receives the award. (In 2020, 586 employees at 477 bookstores nationwide took part in the first stage of the voting process, and 358 employees at 300 bookstores took part in the second stage; the lower figure for the second stage comes from the requirement that voters read all ten of the short-list candidates.)
The two ancillary categories follow a staggered single-stage voting process, with up to three (unranked) nominations possible in the Special Mention for Translated Fiction category and a single nomination possible in the Special Mention for Rediscovered Classics category. The top three vote getters in the first category and a complete list of the publications in the second category are announced in April, along with the winner of the Booksellers Grand Prize. The Grand Prize winner receives a crystal trophy and a bookshop gift card worth 100,000 yen.
The selection process for the separate Yahoo News / Booksellers Grand Prize for Nonfiction (for works published between July 1 and the following June 30) follows a process similar to that for the Booksellers Grand Prize, with the winner announced in late November. The winner receives a cash award of 1 million yen, intended to defray expenses incurred in the course of conducting research.
Established in 1955 by the Bungei Shunjū publishing company for the purpose of recognizing promising new writers. Previously unpublished manuscripts are solicited twice a year for the award, with the winning entry appearing in Bungakukai magazine. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 500,000 yen.
Established in 1967 by the Kadokawa Shoten publishing company in memory of waka poet Orikuchi Nobuo (who used the pen name Shaku Chōkū). It is currently considered the most prestigious prize in the field of waka poetry. Since 1976, the prize has been sponsored by the Kadokawa Foundation for the Promotion of Culture (Kadokawa Bunka Shinkō Zaidan). In addition to a certificate and commemorative gift, the winner receives a cash award of 500,000 yen.
Established in 1984 by the Association of Contemporary Japanese Poets (Nihon Gendaishijin Kai) to recognize an outstanding anthology of poetry published during the previous year by an established poet. The winner receives a cash award of 500,000 yen and a commemorative gift.
Established in 1965 by the Chikuma Shobō publishing company the year after it revived the magazine Tenbō (first published in 1946), to which Dazai had contributed such stories as "Villon's Wife." Awarded annually to an outstanding, previously unpublished short story by an unrecognized author appearing in a coterie magazine. The precarious financial status of Chikuma Shobō forced it to abandon the award after its 14th presentation in 1978, but it was revived in 1999 when the city of Mitaka offered to co-sponsor it. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1993 by the city of Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary to honor the work of one of Japan's most famous modern poets, to encourage the spread of Japanese culture, and to facilitate the cultural development of the citizens of Maebashi. The prize is awarded annually to the outstanding collection of contemporary poetry published in the year ending in July or August. The winner receives a bronze statuette of Hagiwara, who was born in Maebashi, and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1986 by the haiku magazine Haidan (The Haiku Podium) and sponsored by the Hon'ami Shoten publishing company. An open competition in which candidates submit 30 previously unpublished haiku for consideration by a selection committee. The winner receives a certificate and a cash award of 100,000 yen.
International Twenty-first Century Grand Prize for Nonfiction (Nijūisseiki Kokusai Nonfikushon Taishō). See Shōgakukan Grand Prize for Nonfiction.
Established in 1990 on the twentieth anniversary of Itō's death by a group of residents in Otaru, Hokkaido, a city closely associated with the novelist and critic; jointly sponsored by the Itō Sei Prize for Literature Committee, the city of Otaru, and the Hokkaidō Shimbun. The prize has is awarded to outstanding works by established novelists and critics. The winner receives a bronze sculpture and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1973 by the city of Kanazawa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of novelist Izumi Kyōka and to draw attention to the traditions and natural setting of the Kanazawa area. Awarded annually to a single-volume work of belles-lettres published between August and the following July that demonstrates a notably "romantic" quality. Recommendations are solicited from close to 200 writers, critics, publishers, and newspapers, but the final decision is made by a five-member selection committee. The winner receives a mirror and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1994 by the Kadokawa publishing company and Fuji Television with the dual purpose of recognizing authors who have demonstrated exceptional talent in using horror as a means of elucidating the human condition and "of benefiting all living readers" (dōjidai o ikiru subete no dokusha no tame ni). Awarded annually to a previously unpublished novel in the genre of horror fiction as interpreted broadly. The winner of the Grand Prize receives a cash award of 5 million yen; separate prizes are also given for the categories of long fiction (3 million yen) and short fiction (2 million yen), with total prize money amounting to 10 million yen. Winning stories are published by Kadokawa Shoten and dramatized and broadcast by Fuji Television.
Established in 1980 and jointly sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan and the Tokuma Shoten publishing company. The award is presented annually to the best work of science fiction in any medium. The winner receives a trophy and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1990 by the magazine Kadan (The Tanka Podium) to commemorate its second anniversary and sponsored by the Hon'ami Shoten publishing company. An open competition in which candidates submit 30 previously unpublished tanka for consideration by a selection committee. The winner receives a cash award of 100,000 yen.
Established in 1955 as an annual award for new haiku poets and currently sponsored by the Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation, this prize is often referred to as the Akutagawa Prize of the haiku world. An open competition in which applicants submit 50 previously unpublished verses for consideration by a selection committee composed of four prominent haiku poets. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 300,000 yen, and the winning verses are published in the November issue of the magazine Haiku.
Established in 1955, at the same time as the Kadokawa Prize for Haiku, as a prize for aspiring tanka poets. Like its sister, an open competition sponsored by theKadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation in which applicants submit 50 previously unpublished verses for consideration by a selection committee composed of four prominent tanka poets. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 300,000 yen, and the winning verses are published in the November issue of the magazine Tanka.
Established in 1991 as the Kaikō Takeshi Prize under the sponsorship of TBS Britannica, this underwent a "renewal" at the end of 2002, becoming the Kaikō Takeshi Prize for Nonfiction under the auspices of the Shūeisha publishing company. It is intended to promote work in nonfiction that can be taken to represent a 21st-century approach to nonfiction. Presented annually to a work in any category of nonfiction except translation. Works are solicited at large and reviewed by a selection committee. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 3 million yen.
Established in 1973 by the Kawabata Yasunari Memorial Association (Kawabata Yasunari Kinen Kai) to honor Japan's first Nobel Prize-winning novelist. The Nobel Prize award money was used to finance the Kawabata Prize, which is presented annually to the year's "most accomplished" (kanseido no takai) work of short fiction. The numbering of the award was restarted in 2000 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Kawabata's birth. The winner receives a certificate, a commemorative gift, and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Originally established as a literary award in 1938; revived in 1953 to commemorate the varied accomplishments of novelist and playwright Kikuchi Kan (Kikuchi Hiroshi). Awarded annually to individuals and organizations who in the previous year have demonstrated notable innovation and creativity in any sphere of cultural activity, including literature, film, drama, journalism, broadcasting, and publishing. Sponsored by the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Literature (Nihon Bungaku Shinkō Kai); winners receive a table clock and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 2002 by the Shinchō Bungei Shinkō Kai (Shinchō Society for the Promotion of the Literary Arts). Awarded annually to a work of nonfiction published in Japanese between July 1 and the following June 30 that offers a fresh image of the world based on the demonstration of a free spirit and supple intellect. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1990 by the Mirai Tanka Kai (Association of Tanka of the Future) in recognition of the work of the tanka poet Kōno Aiko, who died in 1989. It is awarded annually to an outstanding tanka anthology or critical work on tanka by an established (chūken) contemporary female poet. The winner receives a certificate and a cash award of 300,000 yen. The 14th award in 2004 was the last given; its successor is the Kuzuhara Taeko Prize.
Established in 2005 by the Teragoya Shobō publishing company as the successor to the Kōno Aiko Prize (first awarded in 1990) in recognition of the work of the tanka poet Kuzuhara Taeko (1907-1985). The prize is awarded annually to an outstanding collection of tanka by an established female poet. The winner receives a certificate and a cash award of 300,000 yen.
Established in 1994 under the sponsorship of the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Literature (Nihon Bungaku Shinkō Kai). The prize underwent a major renewal in 2004 and is now awarded annually to a previously unpublished full-length "entertainment novel" in any genre. The winner receives a clock and a cash award of 5 million yen, and the winning novel is published by the Bungei Shunjū publishing company.
Established in 1987 on the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Shinchō Society for the Promotion of Literary Arts (Shinchō Bungei Shinkō Kai). Along with the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, the Shinchō Prize for Distinguished Scholarship, and the (nonliterary) Grand Prize for Japanese Art, one of the so-called Four Shinchō Prizes (Shinchō Yonshō). Awarded annually to an outstanding work of fiction, criticism, poetry, or drama that is considered to have "blazed a new trail" in the literary world. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1951 by the Association of Contemporary Japanese Poets (Nihon Gendaishijin Kai) with the aim of according recognition to an outstanding anthology of poetry published during the previous year by a new poet. Cash awards (currently 500,000 yen) are awarded from a fund established by Hirasawa Teijirō, who until 1960 remained anonymous as the award's benefactor.
Established in 1991 by the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture. Awarded annually to a literary work written in Japanese by a female author during the preceding calendar year. The winner receives a bronze statuette and a cash prize of 2 million yen.
Established in 1985 in conjunction with the foundation of the Museum of Contemporary Japanese Poetry, Tanka and Haiku (in Iwate Prefecture) to honor the year's best anthologies of poetry (i.e. nontraditional forms), tanka, and haiku. Sponsored by the museum and the Hitotsubashi Sōgō Zaidan. Winners in each of the three categories receive a hand-carved mask and a cash award of 1 million yen.