Books

Hiroki Takahashi wins Akutagawa literary award, while Rio Shimamoto bags Naoki Prize

Kyodo

Novelist Hiroki Takahashi has won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for up-and-coming authors, while the Naoki Prize for popular fiction has been awarded to writer Rio Shimamoto, the selection committee said Wednesday.

“Okuribi” (“Ceremonial Fire”) by Takahashi, 38, depicts boys engaging in violent games at a junior high school in Aomori Prefecture that is on the verge of closure.

A native of Aomori, Takahashi made his debut with war literature. He had been nominated for the Akutagawa Prize three times, including for his 2014 debut work “Yubi no Hone” (“Finger Bone”), which told the tale of a young soldier during World War II.

Shimamoto, 35, received the Naoki Prize for “First Love,” a mystery novel centering on a female university student arrested over the murder of her father. The Tokyo native made her writing debut when she was in high school.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Tokyo in late August, with each author receiving ¥1 million in prize money.

Candidates for the 159th Akutagawa Prize had included Yuko Hojo for “Utsukushii Kao” (“Beautiful Face”), which stirred controversy after similarities were found between the novel and a nonfiction piece and other books that the author used for reference.

The novel focused on the massive earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku in 2011. Hojo, 32, was criticized for not citing the reference works when her novel appeared in a literature magazine earlier this year, and also for the similarity of expressions found between her novel and the reference material.

The Akutagawa Prize was established in 1935 in memory of Japanese novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The Naoki Prize, created the same year, was named after author Sanjugo Naoki.