Akutagawa Prize for new writers goes to Keio student, Tokyo man

Kyodo News

Mariko Asabuki, a 26-year-old graduate school student at Keio University, and writer Kenta Nishimura have won the Akutagawa Prize for promising writers of serious fiction.

Asabuki, a Tokyo native, won the 144th prize with an award of ¥1 million for her “Kikotowa,” which depicts the memories and dreams of two women through their first reunion in 25 years, the selection committee said Monday.

Her father is the poet Ryoji Asabuki and her great aunt is Tomiko Asabuki, a renowned translator of works by Francoise Sagan.

Nishimura, a 43-year-old Tokyo native, took his prize for “Kueki Ressha,” about a young man working as a day laborer.

At a news conference following the announcement, Asabuki said, “I feel a mixture of happiness and awe.”

Masahiko Shimada, a writer on the Akutagawa Prize selection committee, said Asabuki managed “to create an intricate world in her novel where the past, present and future cross over in the minds (of the characters).”

On Nishimura’s work, Shimada said “it is highly accomplished as an entertainment piece,” and added he has “an unswerving style as a writer.”

Meanwhile, the Naoki Prize, another prestigious literary award for seasoned writers, went to novelists Nobori Kiuchi, a 43-year-old former editor, and Shusuke Michio, a 35-year-old mystery writer.

Kiuchi won for “Hyousa no utau,” a story about a samurai-born man and a courtesan that takes place in the early stage of the Meiji Era, which began in 1868.

Michio, nominated for the prize for the fifth straight year, illustrated the anger and frustration children have toward adults in his work “Tsuki to Kani.”

Miyuki Miyabe, a prizewinning author on the selection committee for the Naoki Prize, praised Michio for succeeding in writing the story “just through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy” and Kiuchi for her careful reading of documents on the Meiji Era.

The award ceremony will take place next month in Tokyo, where each of the winners will receive ¥1 million.