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Japanese literature

Postwar Literature

The immense public demand for fiction in postwar Japan has been fed by the prolific output of its writers. Yasunari Kawabata, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, has been praised for the delicate aesthetic sensibility of his novels. Junichiro Tanizaki, Yukio Mishima, Kobo Abe, Fumiko Enchi, Shusaku Endo, Sawako Ariyoshi, and Kenzaburo Oe, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994, are just a few of the modern Japanese writers who have attracted international admiration.

In their search to define a modern Japanese poetic voice, modern poets and dramatists have both revived old forms and created new means of expression. Akiko Yosano is known for the lushness and eroticism of her tanka; Sakutaro Hagiwara (1886–1942), for his deft incorporation of symbolism into the lyric mode; and Kotaro Takamura, for his free verse on a range of subjects. In modern drama, playwright Junji Kinoshita (b. 1914) borrowed elements from the Japanese folk tradition; Mishima wrote dramatic adaptations of noh plays and Japanese legends, while Minoru Betsuyaku (b. 1937), Makoto Sato (b. 1943), and others pioneered underground theater in the late 1960s.

Although modern Japanese poetry and drama have not received as much attention from the West as have novels and short stories, Japanese literature is recognized as a major branch of world literature, and most major works are available in English translation.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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