Jakucho Setouchi

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Jakucho Setouchi
Setouchi Jakucho.png
Born (1922-05-15) 15 May 1922 (age 97)
Tokushima, Tokushima, Japan
Notable worksKashin, Natsu no Owari, Hana ni Toe

Jakucho Setouchi(瀬戸内 寂聴,Setouchi Jakuchō, born May 15, 1922), formerly Harumi Setouchi(瀬戸内 晴美,Setouchi Harumi), [1] is a Buddhist nun, writer, and activist. [2] [3] Setouchi is noted for her biographical novels written as first-person narratives. [4]

The biographical novel is a genre of novel which provides a fictional account of a contemporary or historical person's life. This kind of novel concentrates on the experiences a person had during his lifetime, the people they met and the incidents which occurred. Like other forms of biographical fiction, details are often trimmed or reimagined to meet the artistic needs of the fictional genre, the novel. These reimagined biographies are sometimes called semi-biographical novels, to distinguish the relative historicity of the work from other biographical novels

A first-person narrative is a mode of storytelling in which a narrator relays events from their own point of view using the first person i.e. "I" or "we", etc. It may be narrated by a first person protagonist, first person re-teller, first person witness, or first person peripheral. A classic example of a first person protagonist narrator is Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), in which the title character is also the narrator telling her own story, "I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me".


Early career

Setouchi was born in Tokushima, Tokushima Prefecture to a family that dealt in the sale of religious goods. [3] She attended Tokyo Woman's Christian University and graduated with a degree in Japanese literature. Setouchi married a foreign exchange student sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Beijing. She returned to Japan in 1946 with her daughter. [5] After a love affair with one of her husband's students, she left her house and got an official divorce before leaving for Tōkyō and in order to pursue a writing career.

Tokushima Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Tokushima Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located on Shikoku Island. The capital is the city of Tokushima.

Tokyo Womans Christian University university

Tokyo Woman's Christian University, often abbreviated to Tonjo or TWCU, is a university in Tokyo, Japan.

Japanese literature literature of Japan

Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the separation of Buddhism in Japan. Eventually, Japanese literature developed into a separate style, although the influence of Chinese literature and Classical Chinese remained until the end of the Edo period. Since Japan reopened its ports to Western trading and diplomacy in the 19th century, Western and Eastern literature have strongly affected each other and continue to do so.

Setouchi's first literary award reception for Kashin was criticized as pornography. Upon being awarded the Women's Literary Prize in 1963 for Natsu no Owari, she proved herself as a writer. [3] She has also received one of Japan's more prestigious literary awards, the Tanizaki Prize for her novel Hana ni Toe in 1992. [5]

The Tanizaki Prize, named in honor of the Japanese novelist Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, is one of Japan's most sought-after literary awards. It was established in 1965 by the publishing company Chūō Kōronsha Inc. to commemorate its 80th anniversary as a publisher. It is awarded annually to a full-length representative work of fiction or drama of the highest literary merit by a professional writer. The winner receives a commemorative plaque and a cash prize of 1 million yen.


In 1973 she took vows and became a Buddhist nun in the Tendai school of Buddhism. In 2007 she was installed as a nun at Chūson-ji, a temple in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, and received her name Jakuchō. [3] Her name means "silent, lonely listening." [2] At this time Setouchi also became a social activist, built a center for women, and became a spiritual advisor. [6] She is noted for her opposition to the death penalty in Japan.

Ordination of women discussion of womens possibilities for priesthood

The ordination of women to ministerial or priestly office is an increasingly common practice among some major religious groups of the present time, as it was of several pagan religions of antiquity and, some scholars argue, in early Christian practice.

Tendai is a Mahayana Buddhist school established in Japan in the year 806 by a monk named Saicho also known as Dengyō Daishi. The Tendai school rose to prominence during the Heian Period of Japan, gradually eclipsing the powerful Hosso school and competing with the upcoming Shingon school to become the most influential at the Imperial court. However, political entanglements during the Genpei War led many disaffected monks to leave and in some cases to establish their own schools of Buddhism such as Jodo Shu, Nichiren Shu and Soto Zen. Destruction of the head temple Mount Hiei by warlord Oda Nobunaga further weakened Tendai's influence as well as the geographic shift of Japan's capital to Edo away from Kyoto.

Chūson-ji Buddhist temple in Iwate Prefecture, Japan

Chūson-ji (中尊寺) is a Buddhist temple in the town of Hiraizumi in southern Iwate Prefecture, Japan. It is the head temple of the Tendai sect in Tōhoku region of northern Honshu. The temple claims it was founded in 850 by Ennin, the third chief abbot of the sect. George Sansom states Chūson-ji was founded by Fujiwara no Kiyohira in 1095. Chūson-ji is designated as a Special Historic Site and in June 2011 was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a part of the "Historic Monuments and Sites of Hiraizumi".

The Tale of Genji

Setouchi's vernacular translation of The Tale of Genji from Classical Japanese was published in ten volumes in 1998. The translation used a contemporary voice of the Japanese language and emphasized the heroines of The Tale of Genji over its main character, Genji. [7] The novel was a best seller, and sold more than 2.1 million volumes. [5] [8]

<i>The Tale of Genji</i> classic work of Japanese literature

The Tale of Genji is a classic work of Japanese literature written by the noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu in the early years of the 11th century. The original manuscript no longer exists. It was made in "concertina" or "orihon" style: several sheets of paper pasted together and folded alternately in one direction then the other, around the peak of the Heian period. The work is a unique depiction of the lifestyles of high courtiers during the Heian period, written in archaic language and a poetic and confusing style that make it unreadable to the average Japanese without dedicated study. It was not until the early 20th century that Genji was translated into modern Japanese, by the poet Akiko Yosano. The first English translation was attempted in 1882, but was of poor quality and incomplete.


International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Later career

Setouchi served as president of Tsuruga College in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, from 1988 to 1992. [5] She received the Japanese Order of Culture in 2006. [5]


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  1. Mulhern, Chieko Irie (1994). Japanese Women Writers: A Bio-critical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 345. ISBN   9780313254864.
  2. 1 2 Harding, Christopher. Couched In Kindness: "Jakucho Setouchi: a revered nun and famous novelist " Aeon Magazine. .
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "瀬戸内 寂聴" [Jakucho Setouchi]. Nihon Jinmei Daijiten (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  4. "瀬戸内 寂聴" [Jakucho Setouchi]. Dijitaru Daijisen (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC   56431036. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "瀬戸内 寂聴" [Jakucho Setouchi]. Nihon Daihyakka Zensho (Nipponika) (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC   153301537. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  6. Watanabe, Kazuko (1986). "Writing as political strategy: Asian women's writing". Feminist Issues. Springer-Verlag. 6 (2): 41–52. doi:10.1007/BF02685642.
  7. Kristof, Nicholas D. (May 28, 1999). "The Nun's Best Seller: 1,000-Year-Old Love Story". The New York Times. New York, N.Y. p. 4.
  8. Walker, James. Big in Japan: "Jakucho Setouchi: Nun re-writes The Tale of Genji," Archived 2009-04-26 at the Wayback Machine Metropolis. No. 324.