Kosugi Tengai

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Kosugi Tengai
Kosugi Tengai
Kosugi Tengai
Native name 小杉天外
Born (1865-11-07)7 November 1865
Misato, Akita, Japan
Died 1 September 1952(1952-09-01) (aged 86)
Kamakura, Japan
Resting place Kenchō-ji, Kamakura, Japan
Occupation Writer and literary critic
Language Japanese
Alma mater Chuo University
Genre novels, literary criticism, short stories

Kosugi Tengai (小杉天外, November 7, 1865 – September 1, 1952) was the pen-name of a novelist in Meiji, Taishō and Shōwa period Japan. His real name was Kosugi Tamezō. He is considered the founder of the naturalism movement in modern Japanese literature.

Kosugi was born in what is now Misato, Akita Prefecture. He moved to Tokyo in 1886 to attend the English Law College (the forerunner of Chuo University, but soon dropped out to devote himself to writing full-time. The start of his career was hardly auspicious. When he brought a sample of his writing to Mori Ōgai, he was encouraged to “look for another profession”. Undeterred, he visited Ozaki Kōyō, who confided to Izumi Kyōka that Kosugi would “never realize his ambition” to become a novelist. However, in 1890, Kosugi became a disciple of literary critic and satirical author Saitō Ryokuu, and began writing political novels under Saitō’s direction.[1]

He was hired by the literary magazine Shincho gekan in 1897, but was transferred by the magazine to the newspaper Hōchi Shimbun.

He published his first novel, Hatsusugata, a story about a geisha and her relationship with men from different social strata in 1900. He followed with a sequel, Hayariuta, in 1902, which was one of his most successful works. Kosugi attempted to write in a realistic and objective manner, without intruding the thoughts or comments of the author into the story narrative, which was considered rather revolutionary for the time. In the forward to Hatsusugata, he commented that he "seeks to move the reader not by the unusual, but by what is normal and average.".[2] Familiar with Zola and other French authors, his experimentation towards realism is considered a forerunner of a Japanese style of naturalism. Although often compared to his contemporary, Nagai Kafū, Kosugi has been criticized for having two-dimensional characters who meet predictable fates based on family or environmental situations.

Kosugi was elected to the Japan Art Academy in 1948. In his later years, he also turned towards the genre of historical fiction.

His grave is at the sub-temple of Myōkō-in, at Kenchō-ji in Kamakura.

See also[edit]


  • Campbell,, Alan. editor (1993). Japan:An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Kodansha. ISBN 406205938X.
  • Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Irmela. Rituals of self-revelation: shishōsetsu as literary genre and socio-cultural phenomenon. Harvard University Asia Center (1996). ISBN 0-674-77319-5


  1. ^ Inoue, Charles Shiro (1998). The Similitude of Blossoms: A Critical Biography of Izumi Kyōka. Harvard University Asia Center. ISBN 0674808169. page 52
  2. ^ Hijiya-Kirschnereit. Rituals of Self-Revelation. page 22.