A 38-year-old first-time writer is the winner of the 157th Akutagawa Prize for his story “Eiri,” the awards selection committee announced Wednesday.

“It’s a great honor, I’ve only written one work so far. I’ll keep up the good work,” said Shinsuke Numata during a news conference held at a restaurant in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward soon after the announcement.

The story is a fictional tale depicting people’s lives in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Numata was born in 1978 in the city of Otaru, Hokkaido. He was in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, during the quake, but has lived in Iwate Prefecture for the past five years.

By living in Iwate, “I was able to feel (the impact of) the disaster on a more personal level,” he said.

As part of the Akutagawa award, Numata will receive ¥1 million in prize money and a chance to have his work published in Bungeishunju, a well-known monthly literary magazine.

Also announced on the same day, the 157th Naoki Prize will be given to Shogo Sato for his book “Tsuki no Michikake” (“The Waxing and Waning of the Moon”).

While the prestigious Akutagawa Prize is awarded for serious literary work in a short story format, the Naoki Prize is given for more popular literature. Both prizes are handed out biannually.

Born 1955 in the city of Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Sato debut in 1984 with “Eien no Nibun no Ichi” (“Half of Eternity”) that won him the Subaru Prize for literature.

Sato, who could not make it to the news conference in person, gave a short speech and responded to questions from reporters by telephone.

“I guess I won (the prize),” said Sato, who was in Sasebo during the conference.

“I didn’t think it was too late to win the Naoki Prize,” he said. “But I thought, ‘why now’?”

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