Mieko Kawakami, a former bar hostess and bookstore clerk, was just another obscure singer until she started a blog.

Her poetic, streetwise writing stood out so starkly among Internet diaries in Japan — which, like those around the world, tend to be more informative or gossipy than narrative — that she is now Japan's biggest literary star.

The 31-year-old won this year's Akutagawa Award — named for "Rashomon" author Ryunosuke Akutagawa — Japan's most prestigious honor for a new writer.