In a recent conversation about Japanese literature, translator Yuki Tejima, who runs the book-centric Instagram account @booknerdtokyo, told me, “Women have always had a place in the literary world and they’ve always been widely read, but now there’s a new generation of writers with really strong voices.” That sentiment was reflected in 2022, with female Japanese writers receiving accolades at home and abroad for their work.

Although female writers winning the country’s top literary awards isn’t specific to this year, this summer saw a notable achievement: All five nominees shortlisted for the biannual Akutagawa Prize were women, the first time this has happened since the prestigious literary prize for up-and-coming authors launched in 1935. Junko Takase ended up taking the win for her novel “Oishii Gohan ga Taberaremasu Yoni” (roughly translating to “I wish to be able to eat delicious food”), which Japan Times culture critic Thu-Huong Ha described as a “sinister commentary on feminism and social currency” deceptively baked into themes about food and office politics.

Meanwhile, Misumi Kubo's collection of five short stories "Yoru ni Hoshi o Hanatsu" (which translates to “Releasing stars into the night sky”) won the Naoki Prize for popular fiction, for which four women and one man were nominated.