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Jakucho Setouchi

Jakucho Setouchi

Jakucho Setouchi
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Novelist
Is Writer Buddhist monk Monk Novelist Bhikkhuni
From Japan
Type Literature Religion
Gender female
Birth 15 May 1922, Tokushima, Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku, Japan
Age: 98 years
The details


Jakucho Setouchi (瀬戸内 寂聴, Setouchi Jakuchō, born May 15, 1922), formerly Harumi Setouchi (瀬戸内 晴美, Setouchi Harumi), is a Buddhist nun, writer and activist. Setouchi is noted for her biographical novels written as first-person narratives.

Early career

Setouchi was born in Tokushima, Tokushima Prefecture to a family that dealt in the sale of religious goods. She attended Tokyo Woman's Christian University and graduated with a degree in Japanese literature. Setouchi married a foreign exchange student sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Beijing. She returned to Japan in 1946 with her daughter. After a love affair with one of her husband's students, she left her house and got an official divorce to leave for Tōkyō and pursue a writing career.

Setouchi's first literary award reception for Kashin was criticized as pornography. Upon being awarded the Women's Literary Prize in 1963 for Natsu no Owari, she proved herself as a writer. She has also received one of Japan's more prestigious literary awards, the Tanizaki Prize for her novel Hana ni Toe in 1992.


In 1973 she took vows and became a Buddhist nun in the Tendai school of Buddhism. In 2007 she was installed as a nun at Chūson-ji, a temple in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, and received her name Jakuchō. At this time Setouchi also became a social activist, built a center for women, and became a spiritual advisor. She is noted for her opposition to the death penalty in Japan.

The Tale of Genji

Setouchi's vernacular translation of The Tale of Genji from Classical Japanese was published in ten volumes in 1998. The translation used a contemporary voice of the Japanese language and emphasized the heroines of The Tale of Genji over its main character, Genji. The novel was a best seller, and sold more than 2.1 million volumes.


  • Joshidaisei Chu Airin (1957) Qu Ailing the Coed -- received the Shinchosha Coterie Magazine Award
  • Miren (1963) Lingering Affections
  • Kiji (1963) Pheasant translated by Robert Huey in ISBN 978-4-77002-976-8
  • Beauty in Disarray translated by Sanford Goldstein and Kazuji Ninomiya ISBN 978-0-80483-322-6
  • Natsu no owari (1963?) The End of Summer translated by Janine Beichman ISBN 978-4-77001-746-8. A collection of linked stories detailing her own adulterous affair.
  • Hana ni toe (1992?) Ask the Blossoms, a novelized biography of the classical poet-priest Saigyo.
  • Basho (2001) Places

Later career

Setouchi served as president of Tsuruga College in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, from 1988 to 1992. She received the Japanese Order of Culture in 2006.


  • 1962 Women's Literature Prize for Natsu no Owari
  • 1992 Tanizaki Prize for Hana ni Toe
  • 2001 Noma Prize in literature for Basho
  • 2006 Order of Culture of Japan
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