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Sakunosuke Oda (織田 作之助 Oda Sakunosuke?, born October 26, 1913 - January 10, 1947) was a Japanese writer. He is often grouped together with Osamu Dazai and Ango Sakaguchi as the Buraiha. Literally meaning ruffian or hoodlum faction, this label was not a matter of a stylistic school but one bestowed upon them by conservative critics disparaging the authors' attitudes and subject matter.
Oda’s writing career spans both prewar and postwar Japan. A native of Osaka, he wrote mostly of life in that city and the customs and manners of the common people there. In 1939, his story Zokushu (俗臭, Vulgarity) was a candidate for the Akutagawa Prize. The following year, Oda published Meoto Zenzai (夫婦善哉). Named after an Osaka sweet shop, it follows the life of a couple whose relationship survives despite the persistent wastefulness, debauchery, and unkept promises of the erring man.
Oda's characters usually did not fit into what were traditionally considered appropriate either in their humanness or their stubborn individuality as in Roppakukinsei (六白金星, Six White Venus, 1946), or out of the cruel necessity of survival. In the story Sesō (世相, The State of the Times, 1946), Oda described the first months of the occupation period following Japan's surrender to end World War II which were marked by food shortages so severe that government rations were not enough even to sustain life: people were forced to turn to the black market just to procure the food they needed for their own survival.
Meoto zenzai, Roppakukinsei, and Sesō, along with another story, Ki no miyako (木の都, City of Trees, 1943–44), have been translated by Burton Watson and published together as Stories of Osaka Life (Columbia University Press, 1990; Weatherhill, 1994). Several of his stories have been made into movies, including Deep autumn (秋深き Aki fukaki?) (2008) and, most notably, Meoto zenzai, which has been adapted four times, including the award-winning 1955 film directed by Toyoda Shirō and starring Morishige Hisaya and Awashima Chikage.
During Oda's lifetime, several of his works were banned, but he was also championed by others for his ability to write candidly about the human condition with the sympathy and wit for which his native Osaka is famous. Oda also wrote radio drama scenarios and submitted a script to a magazine that was later made into the film Kaette kita otoko (還って来た男, The returnee, 1944), by Kawashima Yūzō, that director's commercial debut. In addition to his fiction, Oda wrote many critical essays, most notably "Kanōsei no bungaku" (可能性の文学, The literature of possibility, 1946).
In 1947, suffering from a lung hemorrhage, Oda died in Tokyo Hospital. After the funeral, Osamu Dazai, his friend and fellow writer, published an emotional eulogy blaming the critics for Oda’s sudden death. More likely, it was from a recurrent bout of tuberculosis.
He is buried in Osaka.
In 1963, a monument was erected by his friends and colleagues near Hozenji Temple in Osaka. Hozenji Yokochō and its surrounding alleys were the setting for Meoto Zenzai.
In 1983, under the sponsorship of the Osaka Bungaku Shinkōkai, a literary prize was established in Oda's name to commemorate the 70th anniversary of his birth with the aim of carrying on the long tradition of Kansai literature. It is awarded annually to an outstanding work of fiction by a new author.
An inscribed photograph of Oda hangs in the Osaka restaurant Jiyūken (自由軒). Jiyūken opened as a coffee and snack shop in 1910 and has become known for its style of "curry rice". The shop appeared in Oda's writing. The inscription says that author Oda has passed on but left us some of the good curry rice flavor in his writing. The autographed photograph shows Oda apparently at work on his writing seated at a table in Jiyūken.
- Meoto Zenzai online text (Japanese)