Fumiko Enchi

Fumiko Enchi (円地 文子 Enchi Fumiko, pen-name of Fumiko Ueda, 2 October 1905 – 12 November 1986) was a Japanese writer.

She was born into a wealthy family in Tokyo, as the second daughter of a famous Japanese scholar, the philologist Kazutoshi Ueda. Because of poor health, Enchi was educated at home, where she was taught English, French and Chinese literature by private tutors, and, from an early age, became familiar with classical Japanese literature. At 13, her reading list included the works of Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, E.T.A. Hoffman, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and Jun’ichiro Tanizaki.

From 1918 to 1922, she attended the girl’s High School of Japan Women’s University, but later abandoned her studies due to poor health. She was encouraged by her father to start publishing her works, and, in 1926, her play “Furusato” (ふるさと, A Birthplace) was published in the journal Kabuki and received positive reviews. Her second play “Banshu soya” (晩春騒夜, A Restless Night in Late Spring, 1928) was published in the September 1928 issue of the magazine Nyonin Geijutsu (女人芸術, Women’s Arts) and performed at the Tsukiji Little Theatre in December 1928, to great acclaim.

Fumiko was a close friend of the writers Hayashi Fumiko and Hirabayashi Taiko, among others, and had an affair with the writer Kataoka Teppei.

In 1930, she married the journalist Enchi Yoshimatsu and they had a daughter. After the birth of her daughter, in 1932, Enchi turned to writing novels. She published a collection of her plays, in 1935, and three novels which sold badly: Kaze no gotoki kotoba (The Words Like the Wind, 1939), Ten no sachi, umi no sachi (The Treasures of Heaven and Sea, 1940) and Shunju (Spring and Autumn, 1943).

She underwent a mastectomy in 1938 and a hysterectomy in 1946, and made a slow recovery. To make matters worse, in 1945, her house was destroyed in a bombing raid. After the war, she started to publish again, and her novels were a huge success.

In 1953, Enchi’s novel Himojii Tsukihi (ひもじい月日, Days of Hunger) was well received by the critics and she won the Women’s Literature Prize in Japan (Joryii Bungakusho), in 1954. Her following novel, Onna zaka (女坂, The Waiting Years, 1957) won the Noma Literary Prize in 1957. Her novel A Tale of False Fortunes (Nama miko monogatari, 1965) won the 1966 Women’s Literature Prize in Japan. Three of her stories were selected for the Tanizaki Prize in 1969: Ake o Ubau Mono (1956, That Which Steals Red), Kizuaru Tsubasa (1960, The Injured Wing), and Niji to Shura (1968, Rainbow and Carnage). Between 1967 and 1973, she worked through her 10-volume translation of Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) to modern Japanese.

Fumiko wrote over 35 novels and more than 150 short stories, but only three of her novels and three of her stories have been translated into English. In 1979, she was made a Person of Cultural Merit in Japan, and, in 1985 was awarded the Order of Culture by the Japanese government. She was elected to the Japan Art Academy the following year, in 1986.

Fumiko Enchi died of a heart attack on November 12th, 1986.


  • 1926 Furusato (A Birthplace)
  • 1928 Banshu sōya (A Restless Night in Late Spring)
  • 1935 Sekishun(惜春)
  • 1939 Onnazaka(女坂)
  • 1939 Onna no fuyu(女の冬)
  • 1939 Kaze no gotoki kotoba(風の如き言葉)
  • 1939 Haru sekiryo(春寂寥)
  • 1940 Nihon no yama(日本の山)
  • 1940 Ten no sachi chi no sachi(天の幸・地の幸)
  • 1941 Nanshi no haru(南枝の春)
  • 1943 Shunju
  • 1955 Ashita no koibito(明日の恋人)
  • 1956 Ake o ubau mono(朱を奪ふもの)
  • 1957 Kiri no nake no hanabi(霧の中の花火)
  • 1957 Tsuma no kakioki(妻の書きおき)
  • 1957 Taiyō ni muite himawari no yō ni(太陽に向いて向日葵のように)
  • 1957 Onnazaka(女坂)
    • The Waiting Years, tr. John Bester
  • 1957 (妖)
  • 1958 Onna kotoba(女ことば)
  • 1958 Aki no mezame(秋のめざめ)
  • 1958 Onnamen(女面)
    • Masks, tr. Juliet Winters Carpenter
  • 1958 Nimai esugata(二枚絵姿)
  • 1959 Hakumei no hito(薄明のひと)
  • 1959 Tsuma ha shitte ita(妻は知っていた)
  • 1959 Tōkyō no tsuchi(東京の土)
  • 1962 Fuyumomiji(冬紅葉)
  • 1959 Obei no tabi(欧米の旅)
  • 1959 Onna no himitsu(女の秘密)
  • 1960 Watashi mo moete iru(私も燃えてゐる)
  • 1960 Otoko to iu mono(男というもの)
  • 1960 Kōgen jojō(高原抒情)
  • 1960 Rijō(離情)
  • 1962 Fūfu(夫婦)
  • 1965 Nama miko monogatari 
    • A Tale of False Fortunes  tr. Roger Kent Thomas
  • 1976 Saimu

Short stories in Anthologies

  • The Mother of Dreams and Other Short Stories: Portrayals of Women in Modern Japanese Fiction, ed. Makoto Ueda (1986)
    • “Blind Man’s Buff” (tr. Beth Cary)
  • The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories, ed. Jay Rubin (2018)
    • “A Bond for Two Lifetimes—Gleanings” (tr. Phyllis Birnbaum)
  • Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, ed. Theodore W. Goossen (1997)
    • “The Flower-Eating Crone” (tr. Lucy North)

About her

  • “Die Zauberin. Zum Tode von Enchi Fumiko”, Bochumer Jahrbuch der Ostasienforschung, Band 10, ed. Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit,1987, pp. 325–331.
  • Dangerous Women, Deadly Words: Phallic Fantasy and Modernity in Three Japanese Writers, by Nina Cornyetz (1999)
  • Japanische Gegenwartsliteratur: Ein Handbuch, ed. Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit (2000)
  • Images of Japanese Women: A Westerner’s View, by Bettina L. KnappWhitston (1992)
  • Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction, ed. Noriko Mizuta Lippit and Kyoko Iriye Selden (1991)
  • Das elfte Haus. Erzählungen japanischer Gegenwarts-Autorinnen, ed. Barbara Yoshida-Krafft (1987)
  • “Enchi Fumiko: A Writer of Tales” by Juliet W. Carpenter, Japan Quarterly 37- 3, 1990.
  • “Enchi Fumiko and a Hidden Energy of the Supernatural” by Wayne Pounds, Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese 24-2, 1989. pp. 167-183.
  • Enchi Fumiko’s Literature: The Portrait of Women in Enchi Fumiko’s Selected Works, by Naoko Alisa Reiger (1986)
  • “Eroticism and the Writings of Enchi Fumiko” by Yoko McClain, Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese 15-1, 1980.
  • “The Medium of Fiction: Fumiko Enchi as Narrator” by Van C. Gessel, World Literature Today: 62-3. 1988.
  • “Twin Blossoms on a Single Branch: The Cycle of Retribution in Onnamen” by Doris Bargen, Monumenta Nipponica 46-2. 1991.
  • Daughters of the Moon: Wish, Will, and Social Constraint in Fiction by Modern Japanese Women, by Victoria V. Vernon (1988)
  • Japanese Women Novelists in the 20th Century: 104 biographies, 1900-1993, by Sachiko S. Schierbeck (1994)
  • Modern Japanese Writers, ed. Jay Rubin (2001)
  • The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature: From 1945 to the present, by J Thomas Rimer (2007)

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