*

upload_article_image

New authors, including women and elderly, rise in Japan

The works recognized by one of Japan's most coveted literary awards, the Naoki Prize, have something new in common: for the first time in 85 years, all six nominated authors are women.

Japan is home to what many consider the world's first novel, "The Tale of Genji," written in the 11th century. Its modern fiction has been defined by Nobel laureates Kenzaburo Oe and Yasunari Kawabata and for decades has been dominated by Haruki Murakami.

But Japanese literature is beginning to look different as new voices, including young writers, women and the elderly, receive recognition.

In this Aug. 26, 2016, photo, Japanese novelist Sayaka Murata smiles after receiving the Akutagawa Prize in Tokyo. Murata, then 36, and still working part-time at a convenience store, shared the stage with actress Naomi Watanabe, known as “the Japanese Beyonce,” as one of Vogue Japan’s “Women of the Year.” Two years later, the English translation of Murata’s novel was an editor’s best-of-the-year choice by the New Yorker, the magazine that catapulted Murakami to stardom. (Kyodo News via AP)

Last Friday, two women — Natsuko Imamura and Masumi Oshima — were awarded the Akutagawa and Naoki prizes. The prize earns the writers prestige and, increasingly, a clear path to wider audiences through translation.

This Nov. 15, 2017, photo shows Japanese novelist Yoko Tawada in Tokyo. Publishers in the United States and Britain are seeing a growing audience for novels in translation, experts say. Translations of half a dozen prize-winning works by female authors from Japan were published last year in the United States, with Tawada’s “The Emissary” taking a 2018 National Book Award for translated work. (Yuka AndoKyodo News via AP)

This Oct. 19, 2018, photo, shows Japanese writer Chisako Wakatake at the Museum of Modern Japanese Literature in Tokyo. Wakatake, 63, won the Akutagawa Prize in 2017 for “I’ll Live by Myself,” a story about a 74-year-old widow adjusting to life alone. She began writing full-time at 55. (Kenichiro KojimaKyodo News via AP)

In this Jan. 18, 2019, photo, Japanese female novelists, from left, Mariko Hayashi, Natsuo Kirino, and Mitsuyo Kakuta attend a literature symposium in Paris. While most of the world associates Japanese literature with male writers, that's changing with a wave of female writers from diverse backgrounds winning top prizes and increasingly being chosen for translation. (Kyodo News via AP)

In this Dec. 10, 1994, photo, Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe displays his medal and diploma after receiving the Nobel Prize for literature at the Concert Hall in Stockholm, Sweden. Japan's modern fiction has been defined mostly by long-established male writers such as past Nobel laureates Oe, that's changing with a wave of female writers from diverse backgrounds winning top prizes and increasingly being chosen for translation. (AP PhotoTobbe Gustavsson)

In this Dec. 10, 1968, photo, Sweden's King Gustaf VI Adolf, left, congratulates Japanese novelist Yasunari Kawabata after presenting the Nobel Prize in literature at Concert Hall in Stockholm, Sweden. Japan's modern fiction has been defined mostly by long-established male writers such as Kawabata, that's changing with a wave of female writers from diverse backgrounds winning top prizes and increasing translation. (AP Photo)

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2018, file photo, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami signs his autograph on his novel "Killing Commendatore" during a press conference at Waseda University in Tokyo. While most of the world associates Japanese literature with male writers, such as the massively popular Murakami, that's changing with a wave of female writers from diverse backgrounds winning top prizes and increasingly being chosen for translation. (AP PhotoEugene Hoshiko, File)