Also known by the pen names Yuzuko Aki (1967) and Yuko Ashi (1968). Born: Satoko Tsushima in Mitaka, Tokyo, 30 March 1947; daughter of writer Osamu Dazai (Shuji Tsushima). Education: Attended Oiwake Primary School of Tokyo Gakugei University, 1953-59; Shirayuri Gakuen, 1959-65 (Junior High School, 1959-62; High School, 1962-65); Shirayuri Women’s College, 1965-69; B.A. in English literature; attended Master’s program in Graduate School of Meiji University, 1969-70. Family: Married Yoneyama in 1970 (divorced 1976); one daughter, one son. Career: Member and contributor to Bungei Shuto, 1966-69; worked for Hoso Bangumi Center (Center for Broadcast Programs) and quit for marriage, 1970; frequent contributor to Bungei, Mita Bungaku, Gunzo, Bungakukai, and other major literary journals, from 1969; published collected stories and original works as books, from 1971; lecturer of modern Japanese literature at Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Universite de Paris, 1991-92. Awards: Tamura Toshiko award for literature, 1976; Izumi Kyoka award for fantastic literature, 1977; Joryu Bungaku award for women’s literature, 1978; Noma literature award for young writers, 1979; Kawabata Yasunari award for literature, 1983; Yomiuri literature award, 1987; Tanizaki Jun’ichiro award for literature, Noma literature award, 1998.



Shanikusai (includes Rekuiemu, Aozora, and Shanikusai). 1971.

Doji no kage (includes Kitsune o haramu, Yurikago, and Doji no kage). 1973.

Mugura no haha (includes Mugura no haha and five other stories). 1975.

Kusa no fushido (includes Kusa no fushido, Hana wo maku, and Onibi). 1977.

Yorokobi no shima (includes Shateki, Kusamura, and eight other stories). 1978.

Hikari no ryobun (includes Hikari no ryobun and 11 other stories). 1979.

Suifu (includes Suifu, Tatokai, and three other stories). 1982.

Danmari ichi (includes Numa, Danmari ichi, and nine other stories). 1984.

Oma monogatari [Stories of Encounters with the Uncanny] (includes Fusehime, Kikumushi, and three other stories). 1984.

Mahiru e (includes Mahiru e and two other stories). 1988.

Yume no kiroku (includes Hoyo, Hikari kagayaku itten o, and eight other stories). 1988.

Kusamura—jisen tanpenshu (includes Kusamura, Kuchu buranko, and nine other stories). 1989.


”Rekuiem—inu to otona no tameni” [Requiem—for Dogs and Adults]. 1969.

”Shanikusai” [Carnival]. 1971.

”Yurikago” [The Cradle]. 1971.

”Kitsune o haramu” [Becoming Pregnant with a Fox]. 1972.

”Doji no kage” [The Shadow of a Child]. 1973.

”Ikimono no atsumaru ie” [The House Where Living Things Gather]. 1973.

”Yukuefumei.” 1973; as ”Missing,” translated by Geraldine Har-court in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

”Mugura no haha” [Mother in the Bush]. 1974.

”Hatsujoki.” 1974; as ”A Sensitive Season,” translated by Geraldine Harcourt in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

”Shateki.” 1975; as ”The Shooting Gallery,” translated by Geraldine Harcourt in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

”Kusamura.” 1976; as ”Clearing the Thickets,” translated by Geraldine Harcourt in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

”Kusa no fushido.” 1977; as ”A Bed of Grass,” translated by Yukiko Tanaka and Elizabeth Hanson in This Kind ofWoman: Ten Stories by Japanese Women Writers, 1960-76, 1982.

”Hana o maku.” 1977; as ”To Scatter Flower Petals,” translated by Lora Sharnoff in Japan Quarterly 27(2), 1980; also as ”Scattering Flowers,” translated by Phyllis I. Lyons in Longman Anthology of World Literature by Women 1875-1975, 1989.

”Yorokobi no shima.” 1977; as ”Island of Joy,” translated by Lora Sharnoff in Japan Quarterly 27(2), 1980.

”Minamikaze.” 1978; as ”South Wind” translated by Geraldine Harcourt in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

Choji. 1978; as Child of Fortune, translated by Geraldine Harcourt, 1983.

Hikari no ryobun [The Domain of Light]. 1978.

Moeru kaze [Burning Wind]. 1980.

Yama o hashiru onna. 1980; as Woman Running in the Mountains, translated by Geraldine Harcourt, 1991.

”Numa.” 1981; as ”The Marsh,” translated by Yukiko Tanaka in Unmapped Territories: New Women’s Fiction from Japan, 1991.

Suifu [Water City]. 1982.

”Danmari ichi.” 1982; as ”Silent Traders,” translated by Geraldine Harcourt in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

Hi no kawa no hotori de [At the River of Fire]. 1983.

”Kikumushi.” 1983; as ”Chrysanthemum Beetle,” translated by Geraldine Harcourt in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

”Hoyo.” 1985; as ”An Embrace,” translated by Geraldine Harcourt in The Shooting Gallery, 1988.

Yoru no hikari ni owarete [Chased by the Light of the Night]. 1986.

Hikari kagayaku itten o [The Shining Point of Light]. 1988.

Kaze yo, sora kakeru kaze yo [Wind, O Wind Running in the Sky]. 1995.

Hi no yama—yamazaruki [The Mountain of Fire—The Record of Mountain Monkeys]. 2 vols., 1996-97.

Warai ookami [The Laughing Wolf]. 2000.


Tomei kukan ga mieru toki [When One Sees Transparent Space] (essays). 1977.

Yoru no tipati [A Tea Party at Night] (essays). 1979.

Tsushima Yuko shi ni kiku [An Interview with Yuko Tsushima], in Subaru. December 1979.

Watashi no jikan [My Time] (essays). 1982.

Taidan: Sozoryoku to joseiteki na mono (dialogues with Kenzaburo Oe, on the imaginary and the feminine). 1985.

Hon no naka no shojo tachi [Girls in Books] (essays). 1989.

Kyaria to kazoku (dialogues with Margaret Drabble, on career and family). Iwanami Booklet series, vol. 163, 1990.

Ise monogatari, Tosa nikki—koten no tabi 2 (guide to classic Japanese literature). 1990; revised as Ise monogatari, Tosa nikki o tabi shiyo—koten o aruku 2, 1998. Izumi Kyoka (guide to Kyoka Izumi).

Gunzo nihon no sakka series, vol. 5, 1992.

Ani no yume, watashi no inochi [The Dream of Brother, My Life] (essays). 1999.

Translator, with Nobuko Fukui, Ai no jidai (Kaerestesorg), by Kristen Bjornkjaer. 1990.

Editor & Translator, Tombent, tombent, les gouttes d’argent—Chants du peuple ainou (Collection of the Ainu epic, translated in cooperation with graduate students of Universite de Paris). 1995.

Editor, Jerashi: nihon no meizuihitsu [Jealousy: Best Japanese Essays]. 1997.

Critical Studies:

”Onna ni tsuite” [About Women] by Kojin Karatani, in Han-bungakuron [Anti-Literary Theory], 1979; ”Tsushima Yuko ron” [On Tsushima Yuko] by Yoichi Komori, in Kokubungaku kaishaku to kansho 33(10), 1988; ”The Politics of Miscegenation: The Discourse of Fantasy in ‘Fusehime’ by Yuko Tsushima” by Livia Monnet, in Japan Forum 5(1), 1993; ”Connaissance delicieuse, or the Science of Jealousy: Tsushima Yuko’s ‘The Chrysanthemum Beetle”’ by Livia Monnet, in The Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, edited by Paul Gordon Schalow & Janet A. Walker, 1996; ”When Seeing Is Not Believing: Tsushima Yuko’s ‘Hikarikagayaku itten o”’ by Van C. Gessel, in Currents in Japanese Culture, edited by Amy Vladeck Heinrich, 1997; ”The Reality of Pregnancy and Motherhood for Women: Tsushima Yuko’s Choji and Margaret Drabble’s The Millstone" by Yoshiko Enomoto,in Comparative Literature Studies 35(2), 1998.

Tsushima Yuko has been a leading force in women’s literature in Japan since the end of World War II. Surrounded by the literary tradition of modern Japan, which was largely dominated by male authors, Japanese women writers have ardently sought their voices to pursue their own livelihoods and writing styles against social expectations and literary standards. After the rise of women’s fiction that dramatized the social and cultural changes of women’s status in the 1920s and 1930s, represented by Kanoko Okamoto, Fumiko Hayashi, and Hirabayashi Taiko, women’s writing was somewhat dormant until the emergence of the younger generation in the 1960s led by writers such as Taeko Kono, Minako Oba, and Yuko Tsushima. Their writings unhesitatingly express female experience of sexuality, desire, and motherhood, reframing literature as a site of protest or as a point of departure for changes in both society and literary tradition.

Tsushima’s career as a writer began at age 20, when she started regularly sending manuscripts of her short stories to literary journals. Her sophisticated writing style and subtlety in observation of people’s lives soon caught special attention from major literary journals as well. Although she has published some novels, she is best known for her autobiographical slice-of-life short stories like ”Kusa no fushido” (”A Bed of Grass”) and ”Danmari ichi” (”Silent Traders”). She has also shown her comprehensive knowledge of classic Japanese literature and folktales by intertwining mythic elements with contemporary settings in her writing. While her stories show strong influences from Japanese literary tradition, especially of women writers like Kanoko Okamoto, she has employed a number of ideas and images from Western writers of fantastic fiction as well, such as Edgar Allan Poe and William Faulkner, in addition to Dr. Faustus and Walkure (Valkyrie), from whom she obtained inspirations to begin writing at the earliest stage of her career.

Born as the second daughter of Osamu Dazai, one of the most acclaimed writers of modern Japanese literature, she grew up with the curse of being ”a child of the genius,” compounded with the tragic family issues of her father’s suicide (1948) and her brother’s death (1960). Tsushima’s childhood memories of her brother become the central images in many of her works, in which he appears as an innocent ”chieokure” (retarded) figure who sometimes develops incestuous relationship with his protective sister (the author’s persona). Her brother’s character sometimes overlaps with the image of her physically disabled son who died very young. Throughout her writing career, Tsushima’s biographical elements are closely reflected in the recurrent theme of the family. She challenges the existing ideas of family by sketching lives at the margin of society, such as unwed pregnant women, ambivalent mother-daughter relationships, children with physical/mental disabilities, and ethnic minorities. The various forms of family relationships explored in Tsushima’s works bluntly reject modern Japan’s patriarchal models of the biological family.

Tsushima’s autobiographical writing is often discussed in relation to the tradition of shishosetsu or watakushi shosetsu (known as I-Novel in English), which is the autobiographical novel that established the nucleus of the 20th-century Japanese literature. Unlike the male-dominant shishosetsu that emphasized such literary factors as realism and truthful confession of personal matters, however, Tsushima’s writings present ”reality and dream as attributes of the one and the same dimension” (”An Interview with Tsushima Yuko,” 1979). Her writings also blur various borders of our conceptual categories such as space and time, by juxtaposing the past and the present (e.g., ”I” as a daughter and as a mother), or by inverting the public and the private (e.g., inside and outside the family). One of the most important effects of these techniques is that her stories do not provide the reader any definitive meaning, message, or conclusion after reading. Her stories rather leave the reader with the impression that the author ”neither engages in, nor refuses, but hangs ‘meanings’ in air” (Kojin Karatani, ”Onna ni tsuite,” 1979). This ”hanging of meaning” may indicate the author’s wish to write without limiting words to a certain interpretation, just as her independent female characters represent her wish to live life free from the boundaries of convention.

Tsushima is still considered as one of Japan’s most important writers. She is productively writing fiction and essays, as well as actively participating in literary events, symposiums, and political movements such as bridging projects for Korean, Chinese, and Japanese women’s literature. However, after more contemporary women writers, such as Banana Yoshimoto and Amy Yamada, opened space for casual pop narrative in the 1990s, Tsushima’s writings may appear too literary or too serious to today’s readers. As women’s lives and social obligations quickly change in contemporary Japan, as represented by the increasing rates of unwed mothers and divorces, Tsushima’s concerns are also shifting toward a more diachronic perspective of different generations of women and of Japan’s history since its defeat in 1945. It is important to remember that Tsushima’s fiction does not only mirror the norms and limits of Japanese society, but also tries to find new narratives that can produce social change. For Tsushima, imagination and fantasy are the driving forces to revisit the ideas of reality and history, and this is one of the reasons that makes her a representative writer of contemporary Japanese literature.

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