Akutagawa Prize and Naoki Prize: Winners Announced
By Grace Briggs-Jones
The Akutagawa Prize is a prestigious Japanese literary award presented biannually, in January and July, created in memory of author Ryunosuke Akutagawa. It was first awarded in 1935 to Tatsuzo Ishikawa. The January award goes to works from the second half of the previous year with the July prize going to works from the first half of the year. Last year’s January winners, awarded for work from late 2021, were Li Kotomi and Mai Ishizawa; July’s winner, awarded for work from early 2022, was Junko Takase. It is currently sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature and is awarded to the best serious literary story published in a newspaper or magazine by a new or rising author. There is a monetary reward of ¥1million and a pocket watch to the lucky winner or winners. Those who judge the award are made up of contemporary writers, literary critics and former winners; when consensus cannot be reached no prize is awarded. There have been a few occasions where no prize has been awarded such as in July 1950, January 1952 and most recently January 2011. In January 2004, the 130th Akutagawa Prize made significant news when two women became the youngest winners of the award. Risa Wataya was just nineteen and Hitomi Kanehara was twenty. In 2013 at seventy-five years old Natsuko Kuroda became the oldest recipient of the prize.
The Naoki Prize is another prestigious Japanese literary award presented biannually, in January and July, created in memory of novelist Naoki Sanjugo. It was first awarded in 1935 to Matsutaro Kawaguchi in January and Uko Washio in July. It is also sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature and is awarded to the best work of popular literature in any format by a new, rising or (reasonably young) established author. It is viewed alongside the Akutagawa Prize as “two sides of the same coin” being inseparable from one another. The prize is also ¥1million and a pocket watch. The winners of both prizes gain a momentous amount of media attention for their winning work which is what holds both awards in such high regard. The January/July system follows the same format at the Akutagawa Prize. There are many years when only one person wins the award but last year’s January winner’s, awarded for works from the second half of 2021, were Toko Sawada and Norikazu Sato, with the July’s winner’s, awarded for works in the first half of 2022, being Shogo Imamura and Honobu Yonezawa.
The winners of this year’s awards were announced on 19 January and celebrated works from the second half of 2022. The two winners of the Akutagawa Prize were Iko Idogawa for Joy of the World published in Crowd magazine in the July issue and Atsushi Sato for Wasteland Family published in New Tide magazine in the December Issue. Iko Idogawa, born 1987, is a graduate of Kwansei Gakuin University from the Faculty of Sociology. She has received the 24th Chuya Nakahara Award for Do, Be Done Utopia published in 2019 and the 43rd Noma Literary Newcomer Award for Here is a Very Fast River published in 2009. Atsushi Sato, born 1982, is a graduate of Tohoku Gakuin University from the Department of English Literature. He lives in Sendai City and works in a Sendai bookstore, where there were hearty celebrations after his win. He won the 49th Shincho Newcomer Award for Januma, his debut, in 2017 and won the Grand Prize of the 20th Novel Subaru for Kyoukai no Enkyo.
The two winners of the Naoki Prize were Satoshi Ogawa for Map and Fist published by Shueisha and Akane Chihaya for Shirogane Leaves published by Shinchosha. Satoshi Ogawa, born 1986, graduated from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Tokyo before dropping out of the doctoral program at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In 2015, he debuted with The Side of Utronica winning the 3rd Hayakawa SF Contest Grand Prize. He also won the 38th Japan Science Fiction Award and the 31st Shugoro Yamamoto Award in 2017 with Game Kingdom. Akane Chihaya, born 1979, graduated from Ritsumeikan University’s Faculty of Letters. She debuted in 2008 with Iogami winning the 21st Novel Subaru Newcomer Award. She has since won the 20th Shimasei Romance Literature Award in 2013 for Atokata and the 6th Watanabe Junichi Literary Award in 2020 for Transparent Night Scent.
With the January winners announced and the celebrations now over we look towards the July award and who could be nominated for their work. Winning such a prestigious prize for literature is a welcome boost to any author and it is also exciting to see where these four winners will go next. A big congratulation to the winners.