was the pen-name
of one of the most prominent women writers in Showa period Japan
. Her maiden name
was Fumi Ueda.
Fumiko Enchi was born in the Asakusa
district of downtown Tokyo
, as the daughter of distinguished philologist
and linguist Kazutoshi Ueda
. Of poor health as a child, she was unable to attend classes in school on a regular basis, so her father decided to keep her at home. She was taught English
and Chinese literature
through private tutors. She was also strongly influenced by her grandmother, who introduced her to the Japanese classics such as The Tale of Genji
, and Kabuki
theater. At 13 her reading list included the works of Oscar Wilde
, Edgar Allan Poe
, Izumi Kyoka
, Nagai Kafu
, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
, and especially Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
, whose sado-masochistic aestheticism particularly fascinated her.
Her literary career began in the 1920s, when she wrote several stage plays that betrayed her sympathies with the proletarian literature movement
. Banshun Soya
(Noisy Night in Late Spring), her first work, was performed at the Tsukiji Shogekijo. She later began to write fiction but unlike her smooth debut as a playwright, she found it very hard to get her stories published.
She also attended the lectures of Kaoru Osanai, the founder of modern Japanese drama. In 1930, she married Yoshimatsu Enchi, a journalist with whom she had a daughter. In 1945 Enchi's home and all her possessions burned during an air raid towards the end of the Pacific War, and for several years immediately after the war she struggled with uterine cancer and surgical complications. She had two major operations, a mastectomy in 1938 and a hysterectomy in 1946.
In 1953, her novel "Himojii Tsukihi" ("Days of Hunger") was finally received favorably and the following year she won an award from the Society of Women Writers. Her novel is a violent, harrowing tale of family misfortune and physical and emotional deprivation. Her next novel was also highly praised: Onna zaka ("The Waiting Years", 1949-1957) won the Noma Literary Prize. It analyzes the plight of women who have no alternative but to accept the demeaning roles that the patriarchal family system had assigned to them. From the 1950s onward, she became quite successful, and wrote numerous novels and short stories exploring female psychology and sexuality.
She was awarded the Order of Culture by the Japanese government in 1985.
Fumiko Enchi died of a heart attack in 1986, and her grave is at Yanaka Cemetery, Tokyo.
- Kaze no gotoki kotoba (The Words like the Wind, 1939)
- Ten no sachi, umi no sachi (The Treasures of Heaven and Sea, 1940)
- Shunju (Spring and Autumn, 1943)
- Onna Zaka (The Waiting Years, 1949-1957), English translation by John Bester.
- Onna Men (Masks, 1958), English translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter.
- Nama miko monogatari (A Tale of False Fortunes, 1965), English translation by Roger Kent Thomas.
- Saimu (Growing Fog, 1976)
- Furusato (A Birthplace, 1926)
- Banshu soya (A Noisy Night in Late Spring, 1928)
- 1969 Tanizaki Prize---Shu wo ubau mono; Kizu aru tsubasa; Niji to shura ()