Japanese literature

Japanese literature

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Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Chinese literature
Chinese literature
Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature fictional novels that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese...

, often written in Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

. Indian literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 also had an influence through the diffusion of Buddhism in Japan
Buddhism in Japan
The history of Buddhism in Japan can be roughly divided into three periods, namely the Nara period , the Heian period and the post-Heian period . Each period saw the introduction of new doctrines and upheavals in existing schools...

. Eventually, Japanese literature developed into a separate style in its own right as Japanese writers began writing their own works about Japan, although the influence of Chinese literature and Classical Chinese remained until the end of the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

. Since Japan reopened its ports to Western trading and diplomacy in the 19th century, Western
Western literature
Western literature refers to the literature written in the languages of Europe, including the ones belonging to the Indo-European language family as well as several geographically or historically related languages such as Basque, Hungarian, and so forth...

 and Eastern literature have strongly affected each other and continue to do so.

History


Japanese Literature can be divided into four main periods: ancient, classical, medieval and modern.

Ancient literature (until 794)


Before the introduction of kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 from China, Japanese had no writing system. At first, Chinese characters were used in Japanese syntactical formats, and the result was sentences that look like Chinese but were read phonetically as Japanese. Chinese characters were further adapted, creating what is known as man'yōgana, the earliest form of kana
Kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

, or syllabic writing. The earliest works were created in the Nara period
Nara period
The of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Gemmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō . Except for 5 years , when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kammu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784...

. These include Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

(712), a work recording Japanese mythology and legendary history; Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

(720), a chronicle with a slightly more solid foundation in historical records than Kojiki; and Man'yōshū (759), a poetry anthology. One of the stories they describe is the tale of Urashima Tarō
Urashima Taro
is a Japanese legend about a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded for this with a visit to Ryūgū-jō, the palace of Ryūjin, the Dragon God, under the sea...

, which has been identified as the earliest example of a story involving time travel
Time travel
Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space. Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the...

.

Classical literature (794–1185)


Classical Japanese literature generally refers to literature produced during the Heian period
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

, referred to as the golden era of art and literature. Genji Monogatari
The Tale of Genji
is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be...

(early 11th century) by a woman named Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012...

 is considered the pre-eminent masterpiece of Heian fiction and an early example of a work of fiction in the form of a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

. Other important writings of this period include the Kokin Wakashū (905), a waka
Waka (poetry)
Waka or Yamato uta is a genre of classical Japanese verse and one of the major genres of Japanese literature...

-poetry anthology, and Makura no Sōshi
The Pillow Book
is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi during the 990s and early 11th century in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002....

(990s), the latter written by Murasaki Shikibu's contemporary and rival, Sei Shōnagon
Sei Shonagon
Sei Shōnagon , was a Japanese author and a court lady who served the Empress Teishi around the year 1000 during the middle Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Pillow Book .-Name:...

, as an essay about the life, loves, and pastimes of nobles in the Emperor's court. The iroha
Iroha
The is a Japanese poem, probably written in the Heian era . Originally the poem was attributed to the founder of the Shingon Esoteric sect of Buddhism in Japan, Kūkai, but more modern research has found the date of composition to be later in the Heian Period. The first record of its existence...

poem, now one of two standard orderings for the Japanese syllabary
Syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent syllables, which make up words. In a syllabary, there is no systematic similarity between the symbols which represent syllables with the same consonant or vowel...

, was also developed during the early part of this period.

The 10th century Japanese narrative, Taketori Monogatari
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
, also known as , is a 10th century Japanese folktale. It is considered the oldest extant Japanese narrative and an early example of proto-science fiction....

, can be considered an early example of proto-science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

. The protagonist of the story, Kaguya-hime
Hime
is the Japanese word for princess or a lady of higher birth. Daughters of a monarch are actually referred to by other terms, e.g. , literally king's daughter, even though Hime can be used to address Ōjo....

, is a princess from the Moon who is sent to Earth for safety during a celestial war, and is found and raised by a bamboo cutter. She is later taken back to her extraterrestrial family in an illustrated depiction of a disc-shaped flying object similar to a flying saucer
Flying saucer
A flying saucer is a type of unidentified flying object sometimes believed to be of alien origin with a disc or saucer-shaped body, usually described as silver or metallic, occasionally reported as covered with running lights or surrounded with a glowing light, hovering or moving rapidly either...

. Another notable piece of fictional Japanese literature was Konjaku Monogatarishū
Konjaku Monogatarishu
is a Japanese collection of over one thousand tales written during the late Heian period . The entire collection was originally contained in 31 volumes, of which only 28 remain today...

, a collection of over a thousand stories in 31 volumes. The volumes cover various tales from India
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

, China
Chinese literature
Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature fictional novels that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese...

 and Japan.
In this time, the imperial court particularly patronized the poets, most of whom were courtiers or ladies-in-waiting. Reflecting the aristocratic atmosphere, the poetry was elegant and sophisticated and expressed emotions in a rhetorical style.
Editing the resulting anthologies of poetry soon became a national pastime.

Medieval literature (1185–1603)


During this period, Japan experienced many civil wars which led to the development of a warrior class, and subsequent war tales, histories, and related stories. Work from this period is notable for its insights into life and death, simple lifestyles, and redemption through killing. A representative work is The Tale of the Heike
The Tale of the Heike
is an epic account of the struggle between the Taira and Minamoto clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century in the Genpei War...

(1371), an epic account of the struggle between the Minamoto
Minamoto clan
was one of the surnames bestowed by the Emperors of Japan upon members of the imperial family who were demoted into the ranks of the nobility. The practice was most prevalent during the Heian Period , although its last occurrence was during the Sengoku Era. The Taira were another such offshoot of...

 and Taira
Taira clan
The was a major Japanese clan of samurai in historical Japan.In reference to Japanese history, along with Minamoto, Taira was a hereditary clan name bestowed by the emperors of the Heian Period to certain ex-members of the imperial family when they became subjects...

 clans for control of Japan at the end of the twelfth century. Other important tales of the period include Kamo no Chōmei's
Kamo no Chomei
was a Japanese author, poet , and essayist. He witnessed a series of natural and social disasters, and, having lost his political backing, was passed over for promotion within the Shinto shrine associated with his family. He decided to turn his back on society, take Buddhist vows, and became a...

 Hōjōki
Hojoki
, variously translated as "An Account of My Hut" or "The Ten Foot Square Hut", is an important short work of the Kamakura period in Japan by Kamo no Chōmei. Written in 1212, it describes disasters that befall the people of Kyoto from earthquakes to famine and fire...

(1212) and Yoshida Kenkō's
Yoshida Kenko
was a Japanese author and Buddhist monk. His most famous work is "Tsurezuregusa" , one of the most studied works of medieval Japanese literature. Kenko wrote during the Muromachi and Kamakura periods.-Life and work:...

 Tsurezuregusa
Tsurezuregusa
is a collection of Japanese essays written by the monk Yoshida Kenkō between 1330 and 1332. The work is widely considered a gem of medieval Japanese literature and one of the three representative works of the zuihitsu genre, along with Makura no Sōshi and the Hōjōki.Tsurezuregusa comprises a...

(1331).

Other notable genres in this period were renga
Renga
' is a genre of Japanese collaborative poetry. A renga consists of at least two or stanzas, usually many more. The opening stanza of the renga, called the , became the basis for the modern haiku form of poetry....

, or linked verse, and Noh
Noh
, or - derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Traditionally, a Noh "performance day" lasts all day and...

 theater. Both were rapidly developed in the middle of the 14th century, the early Muromachi period
Muromachi period
The is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1336 to 1573. The period marks the governance of the Muromachi or Ashikaga shogunate, which was officially established in 1338 by the first Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kemmu restoration of imperial...

.

Early-modern literature (1603–1868)


Literature during this time was written during the largely peaceful Tokugawa Period (commonly referred to as the Edo Period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

). Due in large part to the rise of the working and middle classes in the new capital of Edo
Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

 (modern Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

), forms of popular drama developed which would later evolve into kabuki
Kabuki
is classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.The individual kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing , dance , and skill...

. The jōruri
Joruri
can refer to:*Jōruri , a type of sung narrative with shamisen accompaniment, typically found in Bunraku, a traditional Japanese puppet theatre.*Jōruri , an opera by Japanese composer Miki Minoru.*Jōruri-ji , a Buddhist temple near Nara....

 and kabuki dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon
Chikamatsu Monzaemon
Chikamatsu Monzaemon was a Japanese dramatist of jōruri, the form of puppet theater that later came to be known as bunraku, and the live-actor drama, kabuki...

 became popular at the end of the 17th century. Matsuo Bashō
Matsuo Basho
, born , then , was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku...

 wrote Oku no Hosomichi
Oku no Hosomichi
, translated alternately as The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Narrow Road to the Interior, is a major work by the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō considered "one of the major texts of classical Japanese literature."...

(1702), a travel diary. Hokusai
Hokusai
was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. He was influenced by such painters as Sesshu, and other styles of Chinese painting...

, perhaps Japan's most famous woodblock print artist, also illustrated fiction as well as his famous 36 Views of Mount Fuji
36 Views of Mount Fuji (Hokusai)
is an ukiyo-e series of large, color woodblock prints by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai . The series depicts Mount Fuji in differing seasons and weather conditions from a variety of different places and distances. It actually consists of 46 prints created between 1826 and 1833...

.

Many genres of literature made their début during the Edo Period, helped by a rising literacy rate among the growing population of townspeople, as well as the development of lending libraries. Although there was a minor Western influence
Rangaku
Rangaku is a body of knowledge developed by Japan through its contacts with the Dutch enclave of Dejima, which allowed Japan to keep abreast of Western technology and medicine in the period when the country was closed to foreigners, 1641–1853, because of the Tokugawa shogunate’s policy of national...

 trickling into the country from the Dutch settlement at Nagasaki
Dejima
was a small fan-shaped artificial island built in the bay of Nagasaki in 1634. This island, which was formed by digging a canal through a small peninsula, remained as the single place of direct trade and exchange between Japan and the outside world during the Edo period. Dejima was built to...

, it was the importation of Chinese vernacular fiction that proved the greatest outside influence on the development of Early Modern Japanese fiction. Ihara Saikaku
Ihara Saikaku
was a Japanese poet and creator of the "floating world" genre of Japanese prose .-Biography:Born the son of the wealthy merchant Hirayama Tōgo in Osaka, he first studied haikai poetry under Matsunaga Teitoku, and later studied under Nishiyama Sōin of the Danrin School of poetry, which emphasized...

 might be said to have given birth to the modern consciousness of the novel in Japan, mixing vernacular dialogue into his humorous and cautionary tales of the pleasure quarters. Jippensha Ikku
Jippensha Ikku
was the pen name of Shigeta Sadakazu , a Japanese writer active during the late Edo period of Japan. He lived primarily in Edo in the service of samurai, but also spent some time in Osaka as a townsman...

 wrote Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige, which is a mix of travelogue and comedy. Tsuga Teisho, Takebe Ayatari, and Okajima Kanzan were instrumental in developing the yomihon
Yomihon
is a type of Japanese book from the Edo period , that was influenced by Chinese vernacular novels such as Water Margin. Unlike other Japanese books of the period, they had few illustrations, and the emphasis was on the text. Often described as moralistic, the books also featured plot elements taken...

, which were historical romances almost entirely in prose, influenced by Chinese vernacular novels such as Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms
The Three Kingdoms period was a period in Chinese history, part of an era of disunity called the "Six Dynasties" following immediately the loss of de facto power of the Han Dynasty rulers. In a strict academic sense it refers to the period between the foundation of the state of Wei in 220 and the...

 and Shui hu zhuan
Water Margin
Water Margin , also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, All Men Are Brothers, Men of the Marshes, or The Marshes of Mount Liang, is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.Attributed to Shi Nai'an and written in vernacular Chinese, the story, set in the Song Dynasty,...

. Two yomihon masterpieces were written by Ueda Akinari
Ueda Akinari
Ueda Akinari or Ueda Shūsei was a Japanese author, scholar and waka poet, and a prominent literary figure in 18th century Japan...

: Ugetsu monogatari and Harusame monogatari wrote the extremely popular fantasy/historical romance Nansō Satomi Hakkenden
Nanso Satomi Hakkenden
is a Japanese 106 volume epic novel by Kyokutei Bakin. Written over a period of nearly thirty years and published from 1814 to 1842, Bakin had gone blind before finishing the tale, and the final parts were dictated to his daughter-in-law Michi to be transcribed...

in addition to other yomihon. Santō Kyōden
Santo Kyoden
was a Japanese poet, writer and artist in the Edo period. His real name was , and he was also known popularly as . He is the brother of Santō Kyōzan.- Life :...

 wrote yomihon mostly set in the gay quarters until the Kansei
Kansei
was a after Tenmei and before Kyōwa. This period spanned the years from January 1789 through February 1801. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

 edicts banned such works, and he turned to comedic kibyōshi
Kibyoshi
' is a genre of Japanese picture book kusazōshi produced during the middle of the Edo period, from 1775 to the early 19th century. Physically identifiable by their yellow-backed covers, kibyōshi were typically printed in 10 page volumes, many spanning two to three volumes in length, with the...

. Genres included horror, crime stories, morality stories, comedy, and pornography—often accompanied by colorful woodcut prints.

Nevertheless, in the Tokugawa, as in earlier periods, scholarly work continued to be published in Chinese, which was the language of the learned much as Latin was in Europe.

Modern literature (1868–1945)



The Meiji period
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

 marks the re-opening of Japan to the West, and a period of rapid industrialization. The introduction of European literature brought free verse into the poetic repertoire; it became widely used for longer works embodying new intellectual themes. Young Japanese prose writers and dramatists struggled with a whole galaxy of new ideas and artistic schools, but novelists were the first to successfully assimilate some of these concepts.

A new colloquial literature developed centering on the "I novel
I Novel
is a literary genre in Japanese literature used to describe a type of confessional literature where the events in the story correspond to events in the author's life. This genre was founded based on the Japanese reception of Naturalism during the Meiji period. Many authors believed form reflected...

", with some unusual protagonists such as the cat narrator of Natsume Sōseki
Natsume Soseki
, born ', is widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji period . He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales...

's Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat
I Am a Cat
is a satirical novel written in 1905–1906 by Natsume Sōseki, about Japanese society during the Meiji Period; particularly, the uneasy mix of Western culture and Japanese traditions, and the aping of Western customs....

). Natsume Sōseki also wrote the famous novels Botchan
Botchan
Botchan is a novel written by Natsume Sōseki in 1906. It is considered to be one of the most popular novels in Japan, read by most Japanese during their childhood. The central theme of the story is morality.-Narrative:...

and Kokoro
Kokoro
is a novel by the Japanese author Natsume Sōseki. It was first published in 1914 in serial form in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shinbun. While the title literally means "heart", the word contains shades of meaning, and can be translated as "the heart of things" or "feeling"...

(1914). Shiga Naoya
Shiga Naoya
was a Japanese novelist and short story writer active during the Taishō and Showa periods of Japan.-Early life:Shiga was born in Ishinomaki city, Miyagi prefecture. His father, the son of a samurai, was a banker. The family moved to Tokyo when Shiga was three, to live with his grandparents, who...

, the so called "god of the novel," and Mori Ōgai
Mori Ogai
was a Japanese physician, translator, novelist and poet. is considered his major work.- Early life :Mori was born as Mori Rintarō in Tsuwano, Iwami province . His family were hereditary physicians to the daimyō of the Tsuwano Domain...

 were instrumental in adopting and adapting Western literary conventions and techniques. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
Ryunosuke Akutagawa
was a Japanese writer active in the Taishō period in Japan. He is regarded as the "Father of the Japanese short story". He committed suicide at age of 35 through an overdose of barbital.-Early life:...

 is known especially for his historical short stories. Ozaki Kōyō
Ozaki Koyo
was a Japanese author. His real name was Ozaki Tokutarō .-Biography:Ozaki was the only son of Kokusai , a well-known netsuke carver in the Meiji period. He was educated at Tokyo Prefecture Middle School, and later Tokyo Imperial University...

, Kyōka Izumi
Kyoka Izumi
is the pen name of a Japanese author of novels, short stories, and kabuki plays who was active from the late Meiji to the early Shōwa periods. He is best known for a characteristic brand of Romanticism preferring tales of the supernatural heavily influenced by works of the earlier Edo period in...

, and Ichiyo Higuchi represent a strain of writers whose style hearkens back to early-Modern Japanese literature.

In the early Meiji period (1868–1880s), Fukuzawa Yukichi
Fukuzawa Yukichi
was a Japanese author, writer, teacher, translator, entrepreneur and political theorist who founded Keio University. His ideas about government and social institutions made a lasting impression on a rapidly changing Japan during the Meiji Era...

 authored Enlightenment literature, while pre-modern popular books depicted the quickly changing country. Then Realism
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 was brought in by Tsubouchi Shōyō
Tsubouchi Shoyo
__NoTOC__ was a Japanese author, critic, playwright, translator, editor, educator, and professor at Waseda University. He was born Tsubouchi Yūzō , in Gifu prefecture...

 and Futabatei Shimei
Futabatei Shimei
was a Japanese author, translator, and literary critic. Born Hasegawa Tatsunosuke in Edo , Futabatei's works are in the realist style popular in the mid- to late-19th century...

 in the mid-Meiji (late 1880s–early 1890s) while the Classicism of Ozaki Kōyō
Ozaki Koyo
was a Japanese author. His real name was Ozaki Tokutarō .-Biography:Ozaki was the only son of Kokusai , a well-known netsuke carver in the Meiji period. He was educated at Tokyo Prefecture Middle School, and later Tokyo Imperial University...

, Yamada Bimyo and Kōda Rohan
Koda Rohan
who used the pen name was a Japanese author in the Meiji period. His daughter, Aya Kōda, was also a noted author who often wrote about him.Kōda wrote "The Icon of Liberty", also known as "The Buddha of Art" or "The Elegant Buddha", in 1889. A house in which Kōda lived was rebuilt in 1972 by the...

 gained popularity. Ichiyō Higuchi, a rare woman writer in this era, wrote short stories on powerless women of this age in a simple style in between literary and colloquial. Kyōka Izumi
Kyoka Izumi
is the pen name of a Japanese author of novels, short stories, and kabuki plays who was active from the late Meiji to the early Shōwa periods. He is best known for a characteristic brand of Romanticism preferring tales of the supernatural heavily influenced by works of the earlier Edo period in...

, a favored disciple of Ozaki, pursued a flowing and elegant style and wrote early novels such as The Operating Room (1895) in literary style and later ones including The Holy Man of Mount Koya (1900) in colloquial.

Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 was brought in by Mori Ōgai
Mori Ogai
was a Japanese physician, translator, novelist and poet. is considered his major work.- Early life :Mori was born as Mori Rintarō in Tsuwano, Iwami province . His family were hereditary physicians to the daimyō of the Tsuwano Domain...

 with his anthology of translated poems (1889) and carried to its height by Tōson Shimazaki etc. and magazines Myōjō
Myojo
' was the title of a monthly literary magazine first published in Japan between February 1900 and November 1908.The name Myōjō can be translates as either Bright Star or Morning Star. It was the organ of a poetry circle called Shinshisha which had been founded by Yosano Tekkan in 1899...

and Bungaku-kai in early 1900s. Mori also wrote some modern novels including The Dancing Girl (1890), Wild Geese
The Wild Geese (novel)
Mori Ogai's classical novel, The Wild Geese or The Wild Goose was first published in serial form in Japan, and tells the story of unfulfilled love set against a background of social change. The story is set in 1880 Tokyo. The novel contains commentary on the changing situation between the Edo and...

(1911), then later wrote historical novels. Natsume Sōseki
Natsume Soseki
, born ', is widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji period . He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales...

, who is often compared with Mori Ōgai, wrote I Am a Cat
I Am a Cat
is a satirical novel written in 1905–1906 by Natsume Sōseki, about Japanese society during the Meiji Period; particularly, the uneasy mix of Western culture and Japanese traditions, and the aping of Western customs....

(1905) with humor and satire, then depicted fresh and pure youth in Botchan
Botchan
Botchan is a novel written by Natsume Sōseki in 1906. It is considered to be one of the most popular novels in Japan, read by most Japanese during their childhood. The central theme of the story is morality.-Narrative:...

(1906) and Sanshirô (1908). He eventually pursued transcendence of human emotions and egoism in his later works including Kokoro
Kokoro
is a novel by the Japanese author Natsume Sōseki. It was first published in 1914 in serial form in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shinbun. While the title literally means "heart", the word contains shades of meaning, and can be translated as "the heart of things" or "feeling"...

(1914) his last and unfinished novel Light and darkness (1916).

Shimazaki shifted from Romanticism to Naturalism
Naturalism (literature)
Naturalism was a literary movement taking place from the 1880s to 1940s that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character...

 which was established with his The Broken Commandment (1906) and Katai Tayama
Katai Tayama
Katai Tayama was a Japanese author. His most famous works include Inaka Kyōshi and Futon . He is noted for establishing the Japanese literary genre of naturalistic I novels which revolve around the detailed self-examinations of an introspective author...

's Futon (1907). Naturalism hatched "I Novel
I Novel
is a literary genre in Japanese literature used to describe a type of confessional literature where the events in the story correspond to events in the author's life. This genre was founded based on the Japanese reception of Naturalism during the Meiji period. Many authors believed form reflected...

" (Watakushi-shôsetu) that describes about the authors themselves and depicts their own mental states. Neo-romanticism came out of anti-naturalism and was led by Kafū Nagai, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Kōtarō Takamura
Kotaro Takamura
was a Japanese poet and sculptor.-Biography:Kōtarō was the son of Takamura Kōun, a renowned Japanese sculptor.He graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1902, where he studied sculpture...

, Hakushū Kitahara and so on in the early 1910s. Saneatsu Mushanokōji, Naoya Shiga and others founded a magazine Shirakaba in 1910. They shared a common characteristic, Humanism. Shiga's style was autobiographical and depicted states of his mind and sometimes classified as "I Novel" in this sense. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
Ryunosuke Akutagawa
was a Japanese writer active in the Taishō period in Japan. He is regarded as the "Father of the Japanese short story". He committed suicide at age of 35 through an overdose of barbital.-Early life:...

, who was highly praised by Soseki, wrote short stories including Rashōmon (1915) with an intellectual and analytic attitude, and represented Neo-realism in the mid 1910s.

During the 1920s and early 1930s the proletarian literary movement, comprising such writers as Takiji Kobayashi, Denji Kuroshima, Yuriko Miyamoto
Yuriko Miyamoto
was a Japanese novelist active during the Taishō and early Shōwa periods of Japan. Her maiden name was Chūjō 中條 Yuriko.-Early life:Miyamoto Yuriko was born in the Koishikawa district of Tokyo to privileged parents. Her father was a professor of architecture at Tokyo Imperial University...

, and Ineko Sata
Ineko Sata
was a Japanese communist and feminist author of proletarian literature.-Biography:Born in poverty in Nagasaki to young parents , the family moved to Tokyo when Sata was a child. Her first job was in a caramel factory, before working in restaurants where she befriended writers, including Ryūnosuke...

 produced a politically radical literature depicting the harsh lives of workers, peasants, women, and other downtrodden members of society, and their struggles for change.

War-time Japan saw the début of several authors best known for the beauty of their language and their tales of love and sensuality, notably Jun'ichirō Tanizaki and Japan's first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Yasunari Kawabata
Yasunari Kawabata
was a Japanese short story writer and novelist whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author to receive the award...

, a master of psychological fiction. Ashihei Hino wrote lyrical bestsellers glorifying the war, while Tatsuzō Ishikawa
Tatsuzo Ishikawa
was a Japanese author. He was the winner of the first Akutagawa Prize.-Biography:Born in Yokote, Akita Prefecture, Japan, Ishikawa was raised in several places, including Kyoto and Okayama Prefecture. He entered Waseda University's literature department but left before graduating. In 1930 he left...

 attempted to publish a disturbingly realistic account of the advance on Nanjing. Writers who opposed the war include Denji Kuroshima, Mitsuharu Kaneko
Mitsuharu Kaneko
was a Japanese poet.-Biography:Mitsuharu Kaneko was born in Aichi Prefecture, but attended the private Catholic school Gyosei Gakuen in Tokyo. He published his first poetry collection Akatsuchi no Ie in 1919. He was known as an anti-establishment figure, and during the Second World War he...

, Hideo Oguma
Hideo Oguma
was a Japanese poet for the Proletarian literature movement and was noted for writing children's stories, comic books and literary criticism. A Hideo Oguma poetry prize is awarded for new poetry writers.-References:...

, and Jun Ishikawa.

Post-war literature


World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and Japan's defeat, deeply influenced Japanese literature. Many authors wrote stories of disaffection, loss of purpose, and the coping with defeat. Osamu Dazai
Osamu Dazai
was a Japanese author who is considered one of the foremost fiction writers of 20th-century Japan.-Biography:-Early life:Dazai was born , the eighth surviving child of a wealthy landowner in Kanagi, a remote corner of Japan at the northern tip of Tōhoku in Aomori Prefecture...

's novel The Setting Sun
The Setting Sun
is a Japanese novel by Osamu Dazai. It was published in 1947 and is set in Japan after World War II. Principal characters are the siblings Kazuko and Naoji, and their elderly mother. The story shows a family in decline and crisis, like many other families during this period of transition between...

tells of a soldier returning from Manchukuo
Manchukuo
Manchukuo or Manshū-koku was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia, governed under a form of constitutional monarchy. The region was the historical homeland of the Manchus, who founded the Qing Empire in China...

. Shōhei Ōoka won the Yomiuri Prize
Yomiuri Prize
The is a prestigious literary award in Japan. The prize was founded in 1948 by the Yomiuri Shinbun Company to help form a "cultural nation". The winner is awarded one million Japanese yen and an inkstone.-Award categories:...

 for his novel Fires on the Plain
Fires on the Plain
Fires on the Plain is a Yomiuri Prize-winning novel by Ooka Shohei, published in 1951. It describes the experiences of a soldier in the routed Imperial Japanese Army on the Philippines in the final days of World War II....

about a Japanese deserter going mad in the Philippine jungle. Yukio Mishima
Yukio Mishima
was the pen name of , a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor and film director, also remembered for his ritual suicide by seppuku after a failed coup d'état...

, well known for both his nihilistic
Nihilism
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...

 writing and his controversial suicide by seppuku
Seppuku
is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was either used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies , or as a form of capital punishment...

, began writing in the post-war period. Nobuo Kojima's short story "The American School" portrays a group of Japanese teachers of English who, in the immediate aftermath of the war, deal with the American occupation in varying ways.

Prominent writers of the 1970s and 1980s were identified with intellectual and moral issues in their attempts to raise social and political consciousness. One of them, Kenzaburō Ōe
Kenzaburo Oe
is a Japanese author and a major figure in contemporary Japanese literature. His works, strongly influenced by French and American literature and literary theory, deal with political, social and philosophical issues including nuclear weapons, social non-conformism and existentialism.Ōe was awarded...

 wrote his best-known work, A Personal Matter
A Personal Matter
A Personal Matter is a novel by Japanese writer Kenzaburō Ōe . The novel is replete with imagery of death, decay and sex....

in 1964 and became Japan's second winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Mitsuaki Inoue had long been concerned with the atomic bomb and continued in the 1980s to write on problems of the nuclear age, while Shusaku Endo
Shusaku Endo
Shūsaku Endō was a 20th-century Japanese author who wrote from the unusual perspective of being both Japanese and Catholic...

 depicted the religious dilemma of the Kakure Kirishitan
Kakure Kirishitan
is a modern term for a member of the Japanese Catholic Church that went underground after the Shimabara Rebellion in the 1630s.-History:Kakure Kirishitans are called the "hidden" Christians because they continued to practice Christianity in secret. They worshipped in secret rooms in private homes...

, Roman Catholics in feudal Japan, as a springboard to address spiritual problems. Yasushi Inoue
Yasushi Inoue
Yasushi Inoue was a Japanese writer whose range of genres included poetry, essays, short fiction, and novels...

 also turned to the past in masterful historical novels of Inner Asia and ancient Japan, in order to portray present human fate.

Avant-garde writers, such as Kōbō Abe
Kobo Abe
, pseudonym of was a Japanese writer, playwright, photographer and inventor. Abe has been often compared to Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his surreal, often nightmarish explorations of individuals in contemporary society and his modernist sensibilities....

, who wrote fantastic novels such as Woman in the Dunes
Woman in the Dunes
is a film directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on the novel of the same name by Kōbō Abe. The novel was published in 1962, and the film was released in 1964. Kōbō Abe also wrote the screenplay for the film version....

(1960), wanted to express the Japanese experience in modern terms without using either international styles or traditional conventions, developed new inner visions. Yoshikichi Furui tellingly related the lives of alienated urban dwellers coping with the minutiae of daily life, while the psychodramas within such daily life crises have been explored by a rising number of important women novelists. The 1988 Naoki Prize
Naoki Prize
The Naoki Prize is a Japanese literary award presented semiannually. The official name is Naoki Sanjugo Prize. It was created in 1935 by Kikuchi Kan, then editor of the Bungeishunjū magazine, and named in memory of novelist Naoki Sanjugo...

 went to Shizuko Todo for Ripening Summer, a story capturing the complex psychology of modern women. Other award-winning stories at the end of the decade dealt with current issues of the elderly in hospitals, the recent past (Pure- Hearted Shopping District in Kōenji
Koenji
is an area of Tokyo in Suginami ward, west of Shinjuku. The neighborhood is named after some old temples in the area.Kōenji is primarily a bedroom community with easy access to Shinjuku and Tokyo Stations. It was largely unaffected by the 1980s building boom and therefore many of the houses and...

, Tokyo), and the life of a Meiji period
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

 ukiyo-e
Ukiyo-e
' is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters...

 artist. In international literature, Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro OBE or ; born 8 November 1954) is a Japanese–English novelist. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and his family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing...

, a native of Japan, had taken up residence in Britain and won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize.

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami
is a Japanese writer and translator. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered him critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and Jerusalem Prize among others.He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature...

 is one of the most popular and controversial of today's Japanese authors. His genre-defying, humorous and surreal works have sparked fierce debates in Japan over whether they are true "literature" or simple pop-fiction: Kenzaburō Ōe has been one of his harshest critics. Some of Murakami's best-known works include Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood (novel)
is a 1987 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and sexuality. The story's protagonist and narrator is Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo...

(1987) and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
is a novel by Haruki Murakami. The first published translation was by Alfred Birnbaum. The American translation and its British adaptation, dubbed the "only official translations" are by Jay Rubin and were first published in 1997...

(1994–1995). Another best-selling contemporary author is Banana Yoshimoto
Banana Yoshimoto
is the pen name of Mahoko Yoshimoto , a Japanese contemporary writer. She writes her name in hiragana.-Biography:Yoshimoto, daughter of Takaaki Yoshimoto, was born in Tokyo on July 24, 1964...

.

Although modern Japanese writers covered a wide variety of subjects, one particularly Japanese approach stressed their subjects' inner lives, widening the earlier novel's preoccupation with the narrator's consciousness. In Japanese fiction, plot development and action have often been of secondary interest to emotional issues. In keeping with the general trend toward reaffirming national characteristics, many old themes re-emerged, and some authors turned consciously to the past. Strikingly, Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 attitudes about the importance of knowing oneself and the poignant impermanence of things formed an undercurrent to sharp social criticism of this material age. There was a growing emphasis on women's roles, the Japanese persona in the modern world, and the malaise of common people lost in the complexities of urban culture.

Popular fiction, non-fiction, and children's literature all flourished in urban Japan in the 1980s. Many popular works fell between "pure literature" and pulp novels, including all sorts of historical serials, information-packed docudramas, science fiction, mysteries, detective fiction
Japanese detective fiction
, is a popular genre of Japanese literature. It's generally called in Japan.- Name :When the Western detective fictions spread into Japan, it created a new genre called detective fiction in Japanese literature....

, business stories, war journals, and animal stories. Non-fiction covered everything from crime to politics. Although factual journalism predominated, many of these works were interpretive, reflecting a high degree of individualism. Children's works re-emerged in the 1950s, and the newer entrants into this field, many of them younger women, brought new vitality to it in the 1980s.

Manga
Manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

 (comic books) have penetrated almost every sector of the popular market. They include virtually every field of human interest, such as a multivolume high-school history of Japan and, for the adult market, a manga introduction to economics, and pornography. Manga represented between 20 and 30 percent of annual publications at the end of the 1980s, in sales of some ¥400 billion per year.

Cell phone novels appeared in the early 21st century. Written by and for cell phone users
Japanese mobile phone culture
In Japan, mobile phones have become ubiquitous. In Japanese, mobile phones are called keitai denwa , literally "portable telephones," and are often known simply as keitai....

, the novels—typically romances read by young women—have become very popular both online and in print. Some, such as Love Sky
Koizora
, or for short, is a 2005 best-selling Japanese coming of age and romance novel written by Mika. Originally posted on the cell phone website "Mahō no iLand" , where chapters would be released exclusively for mobile reading, Koizora received a hard print publication from Starts Publications in...

, have sold millions of print copies, and at the end of 2007 cell phone novels comprised four of the top five fiction best sellers.

Significant authors and works


Famous authors and literary works of significant stature are listed in chronological order below. (Note that names of people born after 1868 are listed Western style, in accordance with Wikipedia's Manual of Style for Japanese Names). For an exhaustive list of authors see List of Japanese authors:

Classical literature

  • Ōtomo no Yakamochi
    Otomo no Yakamochi
    was a Japanese statesman and waka poet in the Nara period. He is a member of the . He was born into the prestigious Ōtomo clan; his grandfather was Ōtomo no Amaro and his father was Ōtomo no Tabito. Ōtomo no Kakimochi was his younger brother, and Ōtomo no Sakanoe no Iratsume his aunt...

     (c.717–785): Man'yōshū
  • Sei Shōnagon
    Sei Shonagon
    Sei Shōnagon , was a Japanese author and a court lady who served the Empress Teishi around the year 1000 during the middle Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Pillow Book .-Name:...

     (c.~966–c.10??): The Pillow Book
    The Pillow Book
    is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi during the 990s and early 11th century in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002....

  • Murasaki Shikibu
    Murasaki Shikibu
    Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012...

     (c.973–c.1025): The Tale of Genji
    The Tale of Genji
    is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be...


Medieval literature

  • Yoshida Kenkō
    Yoshida Kenko
    was a Japanese author and Buddhist monk. His most famous work is "Tsurezuregusa" , one of the most studied works of medieval Japanese literature. Kenko wrote during the Muromachi and Kamakura periods.-Life and work:...

     (c.1283–1352): Tsurezuregusa
    Tsurezuregusa
    is a collection of Japanese essays written by the monk Yoshida Kenkō between 1330 and 1332. The work is widely considered a gem of medieval Japanese literature and one of the three representative works of the zuihitsu genre, along with Makura no Sōshi and the Hōjōki.Tsurezuregusa comprises a...

  • The Tale of the Heike
    The Tale of the Heike
    is an epic account of the struggle between the Taira and Minamoto clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century in the Genpei War...

    (1371)

Early-modern literature


  • Ihara Saikaku
    Ihara Saikaku
    was a Japanese poet and creator of the "floating world" genre of Japanese prose .-Biography:Born the son of the wealthy merchant Hirayama Tōgo in Osaka, he first studied haikai poetry under Matsunaga Teitoku, and later studied under Nishiyama Sōin of the Danrin School of poetry, which emphasized...

     (1642–1693)
  • Matsuo Bashō
    Matsuo Basho
    , born , then , was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku...

     (1644–1694)
  • Chikamatsu Monzaemon
    Chikamatsu Monzaemon
    Chikamatsu Monzaemon was a Japanese dramatist of jōruri, the form of puppet theater that later came to be known as bunraku, and the live-actor drama, kabuki...

     (1653–1725)
  • Ueda Akinari
    Ueda Akinari
    Ueda Akinari or Ueda Shūsei was a Japanese author, scholar and waka poet, and a prominent literary figure in 18th century Japan...

     (1734–1809)
  • Yokoi Yayū
    Yokoi Yayū
    was a Japanese samurai best known for his haibun, a scholar of Kokugaku, and haikai poet. He was born , and took the pseudonym Tatsunojō. His family are believed to be descendants of Hōjō Tokiyuki.- Life :...

    (1702–1783)
  • Santō Kyōden
    Santo Kyoden
    was a Japanese poet, writer and artist in the Edo period. His real name was , and he was also known popularly as . He is the brother of Santō Kyōzan.- Life :...

     (1761–1816)
  • Jippensha Ikku
    Jippensha Ikku
    was the pen name of Shigeta Sadakazu , a Japanese writer active during the late Edo period of Japan. He lived primarily in Edo in the service of samurai, but also spent some time in Osaka as a townsman...

     (1765–1831)
  • Kyokutei Bakin
    Kyokutei Bakin
    was a late Japanese Edo period gesaku author best known for works such as Nansō Satomi Hakkenden and Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki.-Life:He was born as , he wrote under the pen name which is a pun as the kanji may also be read as Kuruwa de Makoto meaning a man who is truly devoted to the courtesans of...

     (1767–1848)
  • Nakane Kōtei
    Nakane Kōtei
    was a Japanese writer who lived during the late Edo Period and early Meiji Era. Writing under the pen name of Kōtei, his given name was Kiyoshi . He was the second son of Sone Nao , and his patrilineality root was the Kai-Genji clan .- Biography :...

    (1839–1913)
  • Edo Meisho Zue (travelogue
    Travel literature
    Travel literature is travel writing of literary value. Travel literature typically records the experiences of an author touring a place for the pleasure of travel. An individual work is sometimes called a travelogue or itinerary. Travel literature may be cross-cultural or transnational in focus, or...

    , 1834)
  • Hokuetsu Seppu
    Hokuetsu Seppu
    Hokuetsu Seppu is a late Edo-period encyclopedic work of human geography describing life in the Uonuma area of Japan's old Echigo Province, a place known for its long winters and deep snow.First published in Edo in 1837,...

    (work of human geography
    Human geography
    Human geography is one of the two major sub-fields of the discipline of geography. Human geography is the study of the world, its people, communities, and cultures. Human geography differs from physical geography mainly in that it has a greater focus on studying human activities and is more...

    , 1837)

Modern literature


  • Mori Ōgai
    Mori Ogai
    was a Japanese physician, translator, novelist and poet. is considered his major work.- Early life :Mori was born as Mori Rintarō in Tsuwano, Iwami province . His family were hereditary physicians to the daimyō of the Tsuwano Domain...

     (1862–1922)
  • Futabatei Shimei
    Futabatei Shimei
    was a Japanese author, translator, and literary critic. Born Hasegawa Tatsunosuke in Edo , Futabatei's works are in the realist style popular in the mid- to late-19th century...

     (1864–1909)
  • Ito Sachio
    Ito Sachio
    was the pen-name of , a Japanese tanka poet and novelist active during the Meiji period of Japan.-Biography:Itō was born in what is now Sanmu city, Chiba prefecture, as the younger son to a farming family...

     (1864–1913)
  • Ozaki Kōyō
    Ozaki Koyo
    was a Japanese author. His real name was Ozaki Tokutarō .-Biography:Ozaki was the only son of Kokusai , a well-known netsuke carver in the Meiji period. He was educated at Tokyo Prefecture Middle School, and later Tokyo Imperial University...

     (1867–1903)
  • Kōda Rohan
    Koda Rohan
    who used the pen name was a Japanese author in the Meiji period. His daughter, Aya Kōda, was also a noted author who often wrote about him.Kōda wrote "The Icon of Liberty", also known as "The Buddha of Art" or "The Elegant Buddha", in 1889. A house in which Kōda lived was rebuilt in 1972 by the...

     (1867–1947)
  • Natsume Sōseki
    Natsume Soseki
    , born ', is widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji period . He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales...

     (1867–1916)
  • Masaoka Shiki
    Masaoka Shiki
    , pen-name of Masaoka Noboru , was a Japanese poet, author, and literary critic in Meiji period Japan. Shiki is regarded as a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry...

     (1867–1902)
  • Kunikida Doppo
    Kunikida Doppo
    was a Japanese author of novels and romantic poetry during the Meiji period, noted as one of the inventors of Japanese naturalism.-Early life:Kunikida Doppo was born in Chōshi, Chiba prefecture. His real name was Kunikida Tetsuo. While some doubt exists as to his biological father, Doppo was raised...

     (1871–1908)
  • Tōson Shimazaki (1872–1943)
  • Kyōka Izumi
    Kyoka Izumi
    is the pen name of a Japanese author of novels, short stories, and kabuki plays who was active from the late Meiji to the early Shōwa periods. He is best known for a characteristic brand of Romanticism preferring tales of the supernatural heavily influenced by works of the earlier Edo period in...

     (1873–1939)
  • Yonejiro Noguchi
    Yone Noguchi
    Yone Noguchi, or Yonejirō Noguchi, born 野口 米次郎 / Noguchi Yonejirō , was an influential Japanese writer of poetry, fiction, essays, and literary criticism in both English and Japanese. He was the father of the sculptor Isamu Noguchi.-Early life:Noguchi was born in the town of Tsushima, near Nagoya...

     (1875–1947)
  • Takeo Arishima (1878–1923)
  • Akiko Yosano (1878–1942)
  • Kafū Nagai (1879–1959)
  • Naoya Shiga (1883–1971)
  • Kansuke Naka
    Kansuke Naka
    was a Japanese novelist and essayist.He was born in Tokyo. He was a pupil of Natsume Sōseki, who arranged the publication of his first novel, the nostalgic depiction of childhood Gin no saji in Asahi Shimbun...

     (1885–1965)
  • Yaeko Nogami (1885–1985)
  • Takuboku Ishikawa (1886–1912)
  • Jun'ichirō Tanizaki (1886–1965)
  • Kan Kikuchi
    Kan Kikuchi
    , known by his pen name Kan Kikuchi , was a Japanese author born in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. He established the publishing company Bungeishunjū, the monthly magazine of the same name, the Japan Writer's Association and both the Akutagawa and Naoki Prize for popular literature...

     (1888–1948)
  • Hyakken Uchida (1889–1971)
  • Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
    Ryunosuke Akutagawa
    was a Japanese writer active in the Taishō period in Japan. He is regarded as the "Father of the Japanese short story". He committed suicide at age of 35 through an overdose of barbital.-Early life:...

     (1892–1927)
  • Edogawa Rampo
    Edogawa Rampo
    , better known by the pseudonym , was a Japanese author and critic who played a major role in the development of Japanese mystery fiction. Many of his novels involve the detective hero Kogorō Akechi, who in later books was the leader of a group of boy detectives known as the .Rampo was an admirer...

     (1894–1965)
  • Eiji Yoshikawa
    Eiji Yoshikawa
    was a Japanese historical novelist, probably one of the best and most famous authors in the genre. Among his most well-known novels, most are revisions of past works. He was mainly influenced by classics such as The Tale of the Heike, Tale of Genji, Outlaws of the Marsh, and Romance of the Three...

     (1892–1962)
  • Mitsuharu Kaneko
    Mitsuharu Kaneko
    was a Japanese poet.-Biography:Mitsuharu Kaneko was born in Aichi Prefecture, but attended the private Catholic school Gyosei Gakuen in Tokyo. He published his first poetry collection Akatsuchi no Ie in 1919. He was known as an anti-establishment figure, and during the Second World War he...

     (1895–1975)
  • Kenji Miyazawa
    Kenji Miyazawa
    was a Japanese poet and author of children's literature in the early Shōwa period of Japan. He was also known as a devout Buddhist, vegetarian and social activist.-Early life:...

     (1896–1933)
  • Chiyo Uno
    Chiyo Uno
    Chiyo Uno was a female Japanese author who wrote several notable works and had a significant influence on Japanese culture. She was born in a section of Iwakuni known as Kawanishi, "west of the river." Following an initial literary success and winning of a short story prize, Uno left her first...

     (1897–1996)
  • Denji Kuroshima (1898–1943)
  • Shigeji Tsuboi
    Shigeji Tsuboi
    was an influential Japanese poet of the modern era of Japanese literature.-History:Tsuboi was born on the island of Shōdoshima and studied briefly at Waseda University in Tokyo, but he never graduated...

     (1898–1975)
  • Masuji Ibuse
    Masuji Ibuse
    was a Japanese author.-Life and work:Ibuse was born in 1898 to a landowning family in the village of Kamo which is now part of Fukuyama, Hiroshima.At the age of 19 he started studying at Waseda University in Tokyo...

     (1898–1993)
  • Jun Ishikawa (1899–1987)
  • Yasunari Kawabata
    Yasunari Kawabata
    was a Japanese short story writer and novelist whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author to receive the award...

     (1899–1972)
  • Yuriko Miyamoto
    Yuriko Miyamoto
    was a Japanese novelist active during the Taishō and early Shōwa periods of Japan. Her maiden name was Chūjō 中條 Yuriko.-Early life:Miyamoto Yuriko was born in the Koishikawa district of Tokyo to privileged parents. Her father was a professor of architecture at Tokyo Imperial University...

     (1899–1951)
  • Sakae Tsuboi
    Sakae Tsuboi
    was a Japanese novelist and poet.-Early life:Sakae Tsuboi was born in the village of Sakate in Kagawa Prefecture, the fifth daughter of soy sauce barrel maker, Tokichi Iwai...

     (1900–1967)
  • Hideo Oguma
    Hideo Oguma
    was a Japanese poet for the Proletarian literature movement and was noted for writing children's stories, comic books and literary criticism. A Hideo Oguma poetry prize is awarded for new poetry writers.-References:...

     (1901–1940)
  • Motojirō Kajii
    Motojiro Kajii
    was a Japanese author in the early Shōwa period of Japan. He left masterpieces of poetic short stories such as "The Lemon", "Winter Days", and "Under the Cherry Trees"...

     (1901–1932)
  • Takiji Kobayashi (1903–1933)
  • Tatsuzō Ishikawa
    Tatsuzo Ishikawa
    was a Japanese author. He was the winner of the first Akutagawa Prize.-Biography:Born in Yokote, Akita Prefecture, Japan, Ishikawa was raised in several places, including Kyoto and Okayama Prefecture. He entered Waseda University's literature department but left before graduating. In 1930 he left...

     (1905–1985)
  • Fumiko Enchi (1905–1986)
  • Ango Sakaguchi
    Ango Sakaguchi
    was a Japanese novelist and essayist. His real name was Heigo Sakaguchi .-History:From Niigata, Sakaguchi was one of a group of young Japanese writers to rise to prominence in the years immediately following Japan's defeat in World War II...

     (1906–1955)
  • Osamu Dazai
    Osamu Dazai
    was a Japanese author who is considered one of the foremost fiction writers of 20th-century Japan.-Biography:-Early life:Dazai was born , the eighth surviving child of a wealthy landowner in Kanagi, a remote corner of Japan at the northern tip of Tōhoku in Aomori Prefecture...

     (1909–1948)
  • Shōhei Ōoka (1909–1988)
  • Sakunosuke Oda (1913–1947)
  • Ayako Miura
    Ayako Miura
    ' was a Japanese novelist. She published over eighty works of both fiction and non-fiction. Many of her works are considered best-sellers, and a number have been remade as feature-length films....

     (1922–1999)
  • Shusaku Endo
    Shusaku Endo
    Shūsaku Endō was a 20th-century Japanese author who wrote from the unusual perspective of being both Japanese and Catholic...

     (1923–1996)
  • Ryōtarō Shiba
    Ryotaro Shiba
    , born in Osaka, Japan, was a Japanese author best known for his novels about historical events in Japan and on the Northeast Asian sub-continent, as well as his historical and cultural essays pertaining to Japan and its relationship to the rest of the world....

     (1923–1996)
  • Kōbō Abe
    Kobo Abe
    , pseudonym of was a Japanese writer, playwright, photographer and inventor. Abe has been often compared to Franz Kafka and Alberto Moravia for his surreal, often nightmarish explorations of individuals in contemporary society and his modernist sensibilities....

     (1924–1993)
  • Toyoko Yamasaki
    Toyoko Yamasaki
    is a Japanese novelist.A native of Osaka, Yamasaki worked as a journalist for the Mainichi Shimbun from 1945 to 1959 after graduating from Kyoto Women's University in Japanese literature. She wrote her first story Noren in 1957. The following year, she won the Naoki Prize for her second novel Hana...

     (1924–)
  • Yukio Mishima
    Yukio Mishima
    was the pen name of , a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor and film director, also remembered for his ritual suicide by seppuku after a failed coup d'état...

     (1925–1970)
  • Akiyuki Nosaka
    Akiyuki Nosaka
    is a Japanese novelist, singer, lyricist, and former member of the House of Councillors. As a broadcasting writer he uses the name Yukio Aki and his alias as a chanson singer is Claude Nosaka.- Biography :...

    (1930–)
  • Sawako Ariyoshi
    Sawako Ariyoshi
    was a Japanese writer and novelist.-Biography:Born in Wakayama City and a graduate of Tokyo Women's Christian College, Sawako Ariyoshi spent part of her childhood in Java...

     (1931–1984)
  • Hisashi Inoue (1933–2010)
  • Kenzaburō Ōe
    Kenzaburo Oe
    is a Japanese author and a major figure in contemporary Japanese literature. His works, strongly influenced by French and American literature and literary theory, deal with political, social and philosophical issues including nuclear weapons, social non-conformism and existentialism.Ōe was awarded...

     (1935–)
  • Michiko Yamamoto
    Michiko Yamamoto
    , is the pen-name of a Japanese writer of short stories and poetry in Showa and Heisei period Japan. Her real name is Michiko Furuya.-Biography:Yamamoto was born in Nakano, Tokyo and graduated from Atomi University in 1957. Her first three short stories Mahō, Ame no Isu and Betei-san no Niwa...

     (1936–)
  • Kenji Nakagami
    Kenji Nakagami
    Kenji Nakagami was a noted Japanese writer, critic, and poet of buraku ancestry. Nakagami died from kidney cancer in 1992 at the age of 46.- Life :...

     (1946–1992)
  • Haruki Murakami
    Haruki Murakami
    is a Japanese writer and translator. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered him critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and Jerusalem Prize among others.He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature...

     (1949–)
  • Natsuo Kirino
    Natsuo Kirino
    is a Japanese novelist and a leading figure in the recent boom of female writers of Japanese detective fiction.-Biography:A prolific writer, she is most famous for her 1997 novel, Out, which received the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, Japan's top mystery award, and was a finalist for the 2004...

     (1951–)
  • Ryū Murakami
    Ryu Murakami
    is a Japanese novelist and filmmaker. He is colloquially referred to as the "Maradona of Japanese literature".-Biography:Born as Ryūnosuke Murakami in Sasebo, Nagasaki on February 19, 1952...

     (1952–)
  • Banana Yoshimoto
    Banana Yoshimoto
    is the pen name of Mahoko Yoshimoto , a Japanese contemporary writer. She writes her name in hiragana.-Biography:Yoshimoto, daughter of Takaaki Yoshimoto, was born in Tokyo on July 24, 1964...

     (1964–)

Resources

  • Birnbaum, A., (ed.). Monkey Brain Sushi: New Tastes in Japanese Fiction. Kodansha International (JPN).
  • Donald Keene
    Donald Keene
    Donald Lawrence Keene is a Japanologist, scholar, teacher, writer, translator and interpreter of Japanese literature and culture. Keene was University Professor Emeritus and Shincho Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at Columbia University, where he taught for over fifty years...

    • Modern Japanese Literature, Grove Press, 1956. ISBN 0-384-17254-X
    • World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of The Pre-Modern Era 1600–1867, Columbia University Press © 1976 reprinted 1999 ISBN 0-231-11467-2
    • Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era, Poetry, Drama, Criticism, Columbia University Press © 1984 reprinted 1998 ISBN 0-231-11435-4
    • Travellers of a Hundred Ages: The Japanese as Revealed Through 1,000 Years of Diaries, Columbia University Press © 1989 reprinted 1999 ISBN 0-231-11437-0
    • Seeds in the Heart: Japanese Literature from the Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century, Columbia University Press © 1993 reprinted 1999 ISBN 0-231-11441-9
  • McCullough, Helen Craig, Classical Japanese prose : an anthology, Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-8047-1628-5
  • Miner, Earl Roy, Odagiri, Hiroko, and Morrell, Robert E., The Princeton companion to classical Japanese literature, Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-691-06599-3
  • Ema Tsutomu, Taniyama Shigeru, Ino Kenji, Kyoto Shobō © 1977 revised 1981 reprinted 1982

See also

  • List of Japanese authors
  • List of Japanese classic texts
  • Japanese poetry
    Japanese poetry
    Japanese poets first encountered Chinese poetry during the Tang Dynasty. It took them several hundred years to digest the foreign impact, make it a part of their culture and merge it with their literary tradition in their mother tongue, and begin to develop the diversity of their native poetry. For...

  • Aozora Bunko
    Aozora Bunko
    Aozora Bunko is a Japanese digital library. This online collection encompasses several thousands of works of Japanese-language fiction and non-fiction. These include out-of-copyright books or works that the authors wish to make freely available....

     for a repository of Japanese literature

Online text libraries


Resources