November 28, 1897|
June 10, 1996 (aged 98)|
|Occupation||short story writer, serial writer, magazine editor|
|Notable works||Ohan, Confessions of Love|
Chiyo Uno (宇野 千代 November 28, 1897 – June 10, 1996) was a female Japanese author who wrote several notable works and was a known kimono designer. She had a significant influence on Japanese fashion, film and literature. She was born in a section of Iwakuni known as Kawanishi, "west of the river." Following an initial literary success and winning of a short story prize, Uno left her first husband and moved to Tokyo. Like many young Japanese of the 1920s, Uno was fascinated with American and European culture and dress and was one of the first women in Japan to bob her hair like a flapper. Beyond hairstyles, Uno also began to pursue the life of a free-spirited woman. She wanted to be a mo ga, or modern girl, and not confined to just the role of supportive wife and mother. She became part of the Bohemian world of Tokyo, having liaisons with other writers, poets and painters.
Confessions of Love
In 1933, Uno published the novel Confessions of Love (色ざんげ, Iro-zange), which brought her much fame. The book details an artist and his various love affairs, and his unsuccessful suicide attempt with his mistress. Uno not only had a romance with Seiji Tōgō, the artist the novel was based on, but she then turned their involvement into a best-selling story. She also wrote convincingly from the perspective of a man in Confessions of Love, which further added to her book’s appeal.
Shortly after the success of Confessions of Love, Uno started a magazine called Sutairu (スタイル), or Style, which was the first of its kind in Japan to focus on foreign fashions. In terms of her own native fashion, Uno also proved talented at designing kimonos. Style took up much of her time through the following decades, yet she continued to write and to intrigue a faithful audience of Japanese women, who found a sense of liberation in Uno’s prose. Even if Uno's readers remained within conventional boundaries themselves, they could escape briefly through her stories of lovers and entanglements. And despite her obvious femininity, from Confessions of Love throughout her literary career, Uno was able to write skillfully from both male and female voices. Uno also became successful as a kimono designer, and along with her assistant designer Tomiyo Hanazawa, Uno traveled to the United States to stage the first kimono fashion show in the United States in 1957.
In later years, Uno’s popularity was given formal status as she was recognized by the Emperor and assumed the honor of being one of Japan’s oldest and most talented female writers. In 1983 she published the memoir I Will Go On Living (Ikite Yuku Watakushi), which was widely read and adapted for television. She frankly stated that the essence of her life was to have not followed anyone else's rules and to have done as she pleased. Married often with varying success, Uno found it difficult to stick with just one man, and it was said that she would even move to a new house every time a major affair or marriage ended.