Meet 3 of Japan’s Most Celebrated Contemporary Writers

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  • Japanese literature is indeed prolific in literary traditions spanning two millennia of writing. Some of Japan’s post-world war writers are Nobel Prize laureates for literature, i.e. Yasunari Kawabata (1968) and Kenzaburo Oe (1994).

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    One of the most celebrated female novelists in Japan is Lady Murasaki, author of the most important literary treasures of the country–The Tale of Genji. Recently, three of Japan’s most celebrated female novelists in the country graced the 2015 Paris Book Fair–Kaori Ekuni (江國香織), Mitsuyo Kakuta (角田光代 ), and Risa Wataya (綿矢りさ). Get to know these esteemed writers through these short biopics.

    Kaori Ekuni

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    Kaori Ekuni is one of the most famous contemporary writers of Japan. She was born in Setagaya, Tokyo on March 21, 1964. It is no surprise that she has chosen the field of arts and literature as her father, Shigeru Ekuni was a haiku poet and an essayist. She started writing children’s stories and made her first debut as a writer when her first book was published in 1987. Two years later, she wrote her first full-length novel for adults in 1989. Three years later, she wrote her second full-length novel entitled Kirakira Hikaru (Twinkle Twinkle) which also won her the Murusaki Shikibu Prize for Literature in 1992. Twinkle Twinkle was also adapted into a film. She then became an active writer in various genres such as novels, essays, picture books, and poetry. In 2004, she bagged the Naoki Prize for her novel Gokyu suru Junbi wa Dekiteita (Getting Ready to Cry My Heart Out). Her most recent recognition in 2012 was the Kawabata Yasunari Prize for Literature for Inu to Hamonica (The Dog and the Harmonica). Among her works include 60 children’s books translated into Japanese.

    Mitsuyo Kakuta

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    Born in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture on March 8, 1967, Mitsuyo Kakuta first debuted as a writer in 1988 while she was still studying at university with her first published novel, Kofuku na Yugi (A Happy Game) winning the ninth Kaien Prize for New writers. She also won the Noma Literary New Face in 1996 for Madoromu yoru no UFO (UFO On a Sleepy Night). Since then she has published several novels in which she also earned the Naoki Prize in 2005 for Taigan no Kanojo (Woman on the Other Shore). She also wrote a contemporary adaptation of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s play Sonezaki Shinju (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki) in 2012.

    Risa Wataya

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    Risa Wataya hails from Kyoto and was born on February 1, 1984. She graduated from Murasakino High School in Kyoto and her first short novel, Insutoru (Install) which she wrote when she was only 17 years old won the 38th Bungei Prize. Three years later (2004) she has won the Akutagawa Prize for the novel Keritai Senaka (The Back You Want to Kick) at an early age of 19. This made her the youngest winner of the Akutagawa Prize. Over 1.2 million copies of Keritai Senaka was sold. In 2008, Wataya-san was invited to the Forum of Young Global Leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2012 she was given the recognition for the Oe Kenzaburo Prize for her novel Kawaiso da ne? (Isn’t It a Pity?).

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