by Suzanne Kamata
Every year, the Japan Media Festival is held in a different prefecture in conjunction with the national holiday, Culture Day. This year, the festival was held in Tokushima Prefecture, where I live. I attended the exhibition of prize-winning manga, electronic games and anime with my eight-year-old son. While he was off checking out the video games, I had a look at the award-winning manga.
I was pleased to see that three of four excellence prizes were awarded to women artists. Of particular interest was Ohoku, drawn by Fumi Yoshinaga , in which historical roles are reversed. In this story, women are shogun. Although in reality powerful men had hundreds of beautiful women at their disposal, in this drama, women wield the power. When they seek sexual satisfaction, they choose from the 3,000 beautiful men in the inner palace (ohoku).
In Japan, manga stories are serialized in monthly magazines and then, when complete, later published in book form. Although Ohoku is not yet complete, the judges were so impressed with this social commentary that they awarded Yoshinaga an Excellence Prize.
Other prizes went to Ima Ichicko for her gorgeously drawn Hyakkiyakosyo, in which, according to judges’ remarks, “beautiful and scary specters make us aware that death and life exist very close to each other, ” and Hiromi Morishita, who employs a singular style to tell stories about the lives of the denizens of a big city neighborhood in Osaka Hamlet.
Kazuko Chikuhama, the writer of Shiritori, was awarded an encouragement prize along with illustrator Kenichi Chikuhama.
In a nation where women leaders in politics and business are few and far between, it’s encouraging, indeed, to see women making waves in media.
Suzanne Kamata is the author of Losing Kei and the editor of the anthologies The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan and Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs.