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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.
Minakami Tsutomu

Minakami Tsutomu (水上 勉), March 8, 1919 - September 8, 2004), also known as Mizukami Tsutomu, was a popular and prolific Japanese author of novels, detective stories, biographies, and plays. Many of his stories were made into movies.

Minakami was born in Wakasa, Fukui prefecture, to a poor family. Between the ages of 9 and 12, he was a novice in a Zen temple in Kyoto. Disillusioned by the conduct of the temple's chief priest, however, he left the temple in 1936.

Minakami entered Ritsumeikan University to study Japanese literature, but dropped out for financial reasons and because of bad health. In 1952 the autobiographical Furaipan no uta (Song of the Frying Pan), became a best-seller. In 1960, his story centering on Minamata disease, Umi no kiba (The Ocean's Fangs), started his career as a writer of detective stories on social themes.

His autobiographical Gan no tera (Temple of the Geese) won the Naoki Prize in 1961, and was adapted for film by Kawashima Yuzo (1962). He followed this in 1962 with Kiga kaikyo (Starvation Straits, 1962) which was made into a film under the same name by Tomu Uchida (A Fugitive from the Past, 1965), and Kiri to kage (Fog and Shadows, 1963), then novels dealing with women's concerns, including Gobancho Yugiri-ro (The Pavilion of the Evening Mist at Gobancho, 1963) and Echizen takeningyo (The Bamboo Dolls of Echizen, 1964). He won the 1975 Tanizaki Prize for his biography Ikkyu (一休). Minakami’s story Suisen (Daffodils) was published in 1963.