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1994: Kenzaburo Oe

Kenzaburo Oe was born in Ehime prefecture in 1935. He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in French literature. As a student, he had several pieces of fiction published in newspapers, which led him to pursue a career in writing. Aged just 23, he received the Akutagawa Prize, one of Japan’s most prestigious literary awards. After graduating, he produced such outstanding works as Lavish are the Dead (1957), Prize Stock (1957), A Personal Matter (1964), Hiroshima Notes (1965) and The Silent Cry (1967). Oe’s poetic language to describe the dilemmas we face in the modern world, creating imagined worlds which amaze and perplex. He has enjoyed great critical acclaim globally, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994. He continues to write today.

1968: Yasunari Kawabata

Yasunari Kawabata was born in Osaka prefecture in 1899. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1924, which a bachelor’s degree in Japanese literature. While still a student, stories he had written were published in several literary magazines, and he continued his writing after graduation while working as a teacher. He went on to publish a number of lauded titles, including The Dancing Girl of Izu (1926), Snow Country (1935-37, 1947), The Sound of the Mountain (1949-1954), The House of the Sleeping Beauties (1961) and The Old Capital (1962). Kawabata is known for his narrative mastery, which with great sensitivity captures the essence of the Japanese heart and mind. In 1968, he became the first Japanese national ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his body of work, which has been read and acclaimed throughout the world. He committed suicide in 1972.