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).
Nakahara Chūya Prize (Nakahara Chūya Shō)
Established in 1996 by the city of Yamaguchi (with the support of publishers Seidosha and Kadokawa Shoten) in honor of native-son poetNakahara Chūya (1907-37). The award is presented annually to an outstanding collection of contemporary poetry characterized by a "fresh sensibility" (shinsen na kankaku). The winner receives a cash award of 1 million yen, and the winning collection is published in English translation.
Established at the same time as the Akutagawa Prize (1935) by Kikuchi Kan, the editor of Bungei Shunjū magazine, in memory of novelist Naoki Sanjūgo. Awarded semiannually to the best work of popular literature in any format by a new, rising, or (reasonably young) established author. Sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature (Nihon Bungaku Shinkō Kai); the winner receives a watch and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 2001 by the Kadokawa Publishing Company as a revolutionary way of discovering talented new writers. Submissions are open to all "new" writers and may be made at any time; aside from the qualification that it is an award for fiction, no genre restrictions are imposed. In addition, all applicants are promised a written review of their submission within three months of submission. Winners, announced around the end of the year, receive no remuneration other than the 8 percent in royalties (slightly less than the standard 10 percent) they stand to earn from having their winning entries published. The first three awards were made at the end of 2002.
Established in 1982 by the Nitta Jirō Memorial Association (Nitta Jirō Kinen Kai) in accordance with the wishes of Nitta, who died in 1980. Awarded annually to a work in any genre that is based on the nonfictional treatment of history, either past or present, or on materials taken from the natural world (Nitta was an avid mountain climber). The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1941 by the Noma Service Association (Noma Hōkō Kai), an organization formed in accordance with the last wishes of Noma Seiji (1878-1938), founder and first president of the Kōdansha publishing company. Awarded annually to an outstanding new work in one of a variety of literary genres (including nonfiction) published between October and the following September. The winner receives a commemorative plaque and a cash award of 3 million yen.
Established in 1983 under the sponsorship of the Osaka Association for the Promotion of Literature (Osaka Bungaku Shinkō-kai) to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Oda's birth, with the aim of carrying on the long tradition of Kamigata (Kansai) literature. Awarded annually to an outstanding work of fiction by a new author. The winner receives a certificate, a commemorative gift, and a cash award of 500,000 yen; in addition, the winning story is published in Bungakukai magazine.
Established in 2006 to commemorate Ōe Kenzaburō's 50th year as a professional author and the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Kodansha publishing company. Currently, Ōe himself serves as the sole judge, basing his decision on the mode of "literary expression" (bungaku no kotoba) that seems to him to contain the most potential and be the most accomplished. The work must have been published during the previous year, but apparently there are no specific restrictions concerning genre (the first five awards went to works of fiction and criticism). No monetary award is attached, but the winning work is translated into English, French, or German and published worldwide.
Established in 1974 by the Asahi Shinbun Company to commemorate the life and work of novelist Osaragi Jirō (1897-1973). Awarded annually to an outstanding work of fiction or nonfiction as determined by a six-member selection committee based upon recommendations submitted by Asahi Shinbun readers and various "knowledgeable parties" (yūshikisha). The winner receives a plaque and a cash award of 2 million yen.
Established in 2001 by Asahi Shinbun Company to recognize outstanding works of social commentary and analysis in such fields as political science, economics, sociology, and international affairs. The winner receives a plaque and a cash award of 2 million yen.
Established in 1969 by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature (Nihonbungaku Shinkō Kai) in recognition of the formative role played by Ōya in virtually all facets of Japanese mass communication. The prize serves as a professional starting point for outstanding new writers of all types of nonfiction. The winner receives a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 2005 by Poplar Publishing to provide recognition and economic support for writers of previously unpublished works of "entertainment fiction." The prize carries with it a cash award of 20 million yen, which is meant to provide aspiring novelists with the financial security that will allow them to concentrate solely on their creative work for several years. This makes the award the richest of all Japanese literary prizes -- by far -- and although Poplar Publishing denies that it wants to acquire its own stable of talented writers, it does expect the winners to produce for its exclusive use a minimum number of new novels during the time period covered by the award. Certain details of the selection process remain hazy, as do the conditions imposed on the winners; but the response to the first competition, the results of which were announced in June 2006, was such that the number of applicants for other major literary awards for new writers was said to have fallen by as much as 20 percent. Although the stated purpose is to foster new talent, apparently no one is excluded from entering. The novel submitted must be previously unpublished, between 200 and 800 manuscript pages in length, and cannot have been submitted for consideration for any other literary award.
Established in 1994 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Rennyo (1415-99), a Jōdo Shinshū (New Pure Land) priest who revived the waning fortunes of the sect in the 15th century. Sponsored by the Honganji Preservation Foundation with the support of the Kawade Shobō Shinsha publishing company and awarded annually to an outstanding work of nonfiction (broadly interpreted to include criticism, biography, and other genres, and not restricted to religious topics). The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 2 million yen.
Established in 1987 on the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Shinchō Society for the Promotion of Literary Arts (Shinchō Bungei Shinkō Kai). Along with the Yukio Mishima Prize, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the (nonliterary) Grand Prize for Japanese Art, one of the so-called Four Shinchō Prizes (Shinchō Yonshō). This was the only one of the four prizes to have had what might be called a prior history (up to that time, a similar category had been included among the Grand Prize for Japanese Literature awards sponsored by the same publishing company). Awarded annually to a scholarly work of high merit in the fields of biography, essays, historical studies, or nonfiction. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1993 under the name "International Twenty-first Century Grand Prize for Nonfiction" (Nijūisseiki Kokusai Nonfikushon Taishō) by the magazines Shūkan Post and Sapio on the occasion of the former's 25th anniversary, with the aim of encouraging up-and-coming writers of nonfiction to open new critical vistas in the upcoming century. First awarded in 1994, the prize was given its current name in 2000 (presumably because of the change in the millennium). No conditions regarding nationality, age, sex, or profession are imposed, although manuscripts submitted for consideration to the five-member selection committee must be previously unpublished, consist of about 300 pages (of 400 characters each), and deal with a timely topic in such areas as exploration, history, sports, science, or business. The winner receives a cash award of 10 million yen; honorable mentions receive 1 million yen (despite the "international" orientation, all winners through 2002 have been Japanese).
Established in 1977 by the Shūeisha publishing company to promising new writers of fiction. Applicants are encouraged to submit "ambitious" works that deal with contemporary themes in an original manner. Winners receive a commemorative gift and a cash award of 1 million yen; winning stories are published in the November issue of Subaru magazine.
Established in 1967 by the (Association for the Promotion of Literature by Takami Jun (Takami Jun Bungaku Shinkō Kai) in accordance with Takami's last wishes (Takami died in 1965). A portion of Takami's royalties was set aside to start a fund that is now used to present an annual award to an outstanding collection of poetry based upon the recommendations of poets, critics, and journalists. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 500,000 yen.
Established in 1965 by the Chūō Kōronsha publishing company to commemorate its 80th anniversary. Awarded annually to the year's most "representative" work of fiction or drama by any professional writer. The winner receives a commemorative plaque and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1996 by the Sunagoya Shobō publishing company in recognition of the achievements of tanka poet Terayama Shūji (1935-83). It is awarded annually to an outstanding tanka anthology or critical work on tanka by an established (chūken) contemporary male poet. The winner receives a certificate and a cash award of 300,000 yen.
Established in 1997 by the Asahi Shimbun in honor of Japanese cartoonist Tezuka Osamu. All single-volume manga published in the preceding calendar year are eligible for the prizes, which in 2003 were reorganized into four categories: the Grand Prize for Manga, the New Life Prize (for freshness of content and expression), the Short Comics Prize, and the Special Prize (for contributions to "manga culture"). After a preliminary round which includes participation by ordinary readers, members of the selection committee rank the finalists in descending order, with the top vote-getter receiving the Grand Prize for Manga and the second-place finisher receiving Honorable Mention. The Grand Prize for Manga brings the winner a bronze statuette (in the shape of Atom Boy) and a cash award of 2 million yen. Other winners receive a bronze statuette and 1 million yen in cash.
Established in 1994 by the city of Minokamo in Gifu Prefecture on the 40th anniversary of its incorporation to honor the memory of native son Tsubouchi Shōyō. The award is presented annually in recognition of theatrical activities that contribute to a greater awareness of Shōyō's work. The winner receives a certificate, a plaque bearing a relief likeness of Shōyō, and a cash award of 2 million yen.
Established in 1961 to encourage the production of literary works by women; sponsored by the Chūō Kōronsha publishing company. Awarded annually to the best work of fiction by a woman. The winner receives a commemorative plaque and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1987 on the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Shinchō Society for the Promotion of Literary Arts (Shinchō Bungei Shinkō Kai). Along with the Yukio Mishima 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 a new work of fiction considered to exemplify the art of storytelling. The winner receives a commemorative gift and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1980 under the sponsorship of the Kadokawa Shoten publishing company and the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in honor of detective-fiction writer Yokomizo Seishi (1902-1981). Awarded annually to a previously unpublished novel-length mystery (broadly interpreted to include a variety of subgenres). The winner receives a statuette in the shape of fictional detective Kindaichi Kōsuke and a cash award of 10 million yen(!). In addition, the winning story is published by Kadokawa Shoten and dramatized and broadcast nationally by TBS, and if a movie is made, the author is invited to help with production.
First established in 1948 by the Yomiuri Shimbun Company with the aim of building a "cultural nation" (bunka kokka). In the first two years awards were given to works in four categories (novels and plays, poetry, criticism, and scholarly studies). This became five categories in 1950 when the prize was reorganized to accord independent status to plays, and then in 1966 a further reshuffle resulted in a total of six major categories: novels, plays, essays and travel journals, criticism and biography, poetry, and academic studies and translation. Winners receive a commemorative inkstone and a cash award of 1 million yen.
Established in 1967, along with the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Culture, by the Yoshikawa Eiji Citizens' Cultural Promotion Association (Yoshikawa Eiji Kokumin Bunka Shinkō Kai) to commemorate the work of novelist Yoshikawa Eiji. The prize is awarded annually to an outstanding work in a variety of literary genres based on initial recommendations submitted by several hundred professionals working in the arts, media, and other fields. The winner receives a commemorative plaque and a cash award of 3 million yen.
Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers (Yoshikawa Eiji Bungaku Shinjin Shō)
Established in 1980 by the Yoshikawa Eiji Citizens' Cultural Promotion Association (Yoshikawa Eiji Kokumin Bunka Shinkō Kai) to recognize the most promising work of fiction by a new writer published during the preceding year. The winner receives a commemorative plaque and a cash award of 1 million yen.