Two women became the youngest winners Thursday of the Akutagawa Prize, one of Japan’s top literary awards, while two other writers shared the Naoki Prize.
In announcing who had claimed Japan’s two most prestigious literary accolades, organizers handed the 130th Akutagawa Prize to Risa Wataya, 19, and Hitomi Kanehara, 20, whose works have captured the hearts of young readers.
Kaori Ekuni, 39, and Natsuhiko Kyogoku, 40, meanwhile shared the award for the 130th Naoki Prize.
Previously, the youngest Akutagawa winners were all 23-year-old males, among them Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and novelist Kenzaburo Oe, who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994.
Wataya, a native of the city of Kyoto and now a sophomore at Waseda University, was honored for her novel “Keritai Senaka” (roughly translated as “The Back One Wants to Kick”), which was published in the autumn issue of Bungei quarterly magazine.
Wataya had already made a name for herself with the best seller “Install,” which she penned in 2001. The book has been made into a film starring Aya Ueto. The film is scheduled to be shown in the summer.
Wataya’s latest offering is a dryly humorous tale of the relationship between a boy and girl in high school who feel they are outcasts. The work apparently reflects the difficulty young people experience in trying to relate to others.
Kanehara, a native of Tokyo, was honored for “Hebi Ni Piasu” (“Snakes and Earrings”), which was published in the November issue of the monthly magazine Subaru. The work centers on a girl who experiments with her body — such as by getting her tongue pierced — and is set against the backdrop of the adult entertainment scene.