August 11, 1892
Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
|Died||September 7, 1962 (aged 70)|
|Notable works||Miyamoto Musashi|
Yasu Akazawa (m. 1923),
Fumiko Ikedo (m. 1937)
Eiji Yoshikawa ( Yoshikawa Eiji, August 11, 1892 - September 7, 1962) was a Japanese historical novelist. Among his best-known novels are revisions of older classics. He was mainly influenced by classics such as The Tale of the Heike, Tale of Genji, Water Margin, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, many of which he retold in his own style. As an example, Yoshikawa took up Taiko's original manuscript in 15 volumes to retell it in a more accessible tone and reduce it to only two volumes. His other books also serve similar purposes and, although most of his novels are not original works, he created a huge amount of work and a renewed interest in the past. He was awarded the Cultural Order of Merit in 1960 (the highest award for a man of letters in Japan), the Order of the Sacred Treasure and the Mainichi Art Award just before his death from cancer in 1962. He is cited as one of the best historical novelists in Japan.
He was born Hidetsugu Yoshikawa (? Yoshikawa Hidetsugu) in Kanagawa Prefecture, in what is now a part of Yokohama. Because of his father's failed business, he had to drop out of primary school to work when he was 11 years old. When he was 18, after a near-fatal accident working at the Yokohama docks, he moved to Tokyo and became an apprentice in a gold lacquer workshop. Around this time he became interested in comic haiku. He joined a poetry society and started writing comic haiku under the pseudonym "Kijiro".
In 1914, with The Tale of Enoshima, he won first prize in a novel-writing contest sponsored by the publisher Kodansha. He joined the newspaper Maiyu Shimbun in 1921, and in the following year he began publishing serializations, starting with Life of Shinran.
He married Yasu Akazawa in 1923, the year of the Great Kant? earthquake. His experiences in the earthquake strengthened his resolve to make writing his career. In the following years he published stories in various periodicals published by Kodansha, who recognized him as their number one author. He used 19 pen names before settling on Eiji Yoshikawa. He first used this pen name with the serialization of Sword Trouble, Woman Trouble. His name became a household word after Secret Record of Naruto was serialized in the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun; from then on his writing became much more popular.
In the early 1930s, his writing became introspective, reflecting growing troubles in his personal life. But in 1935, with the serialization of Musashi, about famed swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, in the Asahi Shimbun, his writing settled firmly into the genre of historical adventure fiction.
Upon the outbreak of war with China in 1937 the Asahi Shimbun sent him into the field as a special correspondent. At this time he divorced Yasu Akazawa and married Fumiko Ikedo. During the war he continued writing novels, and became more influenced by Chinese culture. Among the works of this period are Taiko and his re-telling of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
At the end of the war he stopped writing for a while and settled down to enjoy a quiet retirement in Yoshino (present-day Oumeshi) on the outskirts of Tokyo, but by 1947 he had started writing again. His post-war works include New Tale of the Heike, published in the Asahi Weekly (1950), and A Private Record of the Pacific War (1958).
On September 7, 1962, he died from cancer-related complications.
Four of his books have been translated into English. They are:
Translated by Charles S. Terry
Translated by William Scott Wilson
Translated by Fuki Wooyenaka Uramatsu
Translated by Edwin McClellan
The Japanese publisher Kodansha currently publishes an 80-volume series: Yoshikawa Eiji Rekishi Jidai Bunko (?), or Eiji Yoshikawa's Historical Fiction in Paperback. Kodansha numbers the series from 1 to 80.