1 June 1904|
|Died||12 October 1998
|Literary movement||Proletarian literary movement, Postwar Democratic Movement|
|Notable works||Crimson (Kurenai), In the Shade of Trees (Juei), Summer Bookmark (Natsu no shiori), Standing in Time (Toki ni tatsu)|
Ineko Sata (佐多 稲子 Sata Ineko?, 1 June 1904 – 12 October 1998) was a well respected Japanese author, closely connected to the proletarian literary movement, the Japanese Communist Party, and the Women's Democratic Club. Many critics have also called her a feminist writer.
Born in Nagasaki to young, unmarried parents (her father was 18, her mother 15), Sata moved to Tokyo while still a child. Her first job was in a caramel factory, but she later went on to work in restaurants where she befriended several writers, including Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. In 1922 her poems were published for the first time in Shi to jinsei ("Poetry and life").
Working at the Koroku café-bar in Hongo, near Tokyo University, she met Nakano Shigeharu who would remain a lifelong friend. Along with Nakano, left-wing writers Hori Tatsuo and Tsurujirō Kubokawa ran the progressive literary magazine Roba (Donkey). Nakano inspired Sata to write her first short story, Kyarameru koba kara (From the Caramel Factory) in 1928. Having already divorced her first husband, she then married Kubokawa.
While praised by such luminaries at Kawabata Yasunari for drawing on modernist literary techniques, Sata became increasing involved in issues related to workers and the labor movement. In 1929, she spoke out against the treatment of women workers in cigarette factories. In 1931, she defended the striking workers of the Tokyo Muslin Factory. As a member of the Proletarian Literature Movement, she wrote a series of short stories about the lives of ordinary working men and women. These included Kyoseikikoku (Compulsory Extradition), about the rights of migrant Korean workers and Kambu joko no namida (Tears of a Forewoman).
In 1932 she joined the outlawed Japan Communist Party (JCP). She became close to JCP leaders Kenji Miyamoto and Takiji Kobayashi, the former imprisoned until 1945 and the latter tortured to death by police in 1933. In 1935 she was arrested for anti-war activism and spent two months in jail. This experience is described in part in her semi-autobiographical novel, Kurenai (Crimson), which was serialized from 1936-38 and focuses on the troubled married life of a woman writer much like Sata. Sata's strong opinions were often at odds with the official Communist Party platform; juggling the many demands she faced as a writer, activist, mother and wife, she eventually became estranged from her husband, whom she finally divorced in 1945. Having been forced by the authorities to sever her connection with the Communist Party in the mid-1930s, she eventually collaborated with the authorities by writing literature in support of the Japanese war effort during WWII.
With the end of the war in 1945 Sata's writing re-emerged as part of the new democratic movement. In 1946 she rejoined the JCP (Japanese Communist Party), although, as before, she often voiced vehement criticism of the party. Her wartime experiences were the subject of Watashi no Tōkyō Chizu (My Tokyo Map), which was written between 1946 and 1948. In 1954 she wrote Kikai no naka no seishun (Youth among the Machines). Her collected works were issued in 15 volumes in 1958–59. She would write Onna no yado ("Women's Lodgings") in 1963 and Omoki nagarani (On a Heavy Tide) in 1968–69.
By 1964 Sata had rejoined the JCP after yet another expulsion. She was one of the founders of the new Women's Democratic Club – her activities in the organization, judged divisive from the perspective of the party mainstream, led to another expulsion from the JCP.
Sata was awarded the Noma Prize in 1972 for her book Juei (The Shade of Trees), which deals with the relationships between Chinese and Japanese people in Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bomb. In 1973, she was offered the Geijutuin Onshisho (Imperial Art Academy Prize) for her life's work, but she refused the award as she regarded it as a nationalist congratulation prize. She accepted the Kawabata Prize for short stories in 1977.
In 1983, Sata received the Asahi Prize for the entire body of her work. She gave an acceptance speech which expressed regret for her contributions to the war effort.
Her long-time colleague Nakano Shigeharu died in 1979. Her book about him, Natsu no Shiori – Nakano Shigeharu o okuru (Memories of Summer – a Farewell to Shigeharu Nakano) was awarded the Mainichi Art Award in 1983.
Most of Sata's work was translated into Russian in the Sixties and Seventies. Two short stories from the prize-winning collection Toki ni tatsu (Standing Still in Time) have been translated into English. The 1986 story Chisai yama to tsubaki no ki (Camellia Blossoms on the Little Mountain) appeared in Japanese Literature Today, the English magazine issued by the Japan PEN Club. A recent English translation is "Water" (Mizu), appearing in Stories from the East, The East Publications, 1997. A partial translation of Watashi no Tōkyō chizu (My Tokyo Map) appears in Tokyo Stories: A Literary Stroll, University of California Press, 2002, Lawrence Rogers, editor. Her short story Iro no Nai E ("The Colorless Paintings") appears in Kenzaburo Oe's edited collection The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath. A native of Nagasaki, she did not experience the bombing, but through this story she shares her concern regarding the Hibakusha's (atomic bombing survivor) silence, though without being openly critical of it. Samuel Perry has translated her short story "White and Purple" , which won a William Sibley Memorial Translation Prize in 2012.
- Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era. 2nd Ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-231-11435-4
- Obituary: Ineko Sata by James Kirkup, The Independent (Great Britain), 29 October 1998.
- Telling Lives: Women's Self-writing in Modern Japan, By Ronald P. Loftus, Translated by Ronald P. Loftus, University of Hawaii Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8248-2834-8