Sawako Ariyoshi (有吉 佐和子 Ariyoshi Sawako, 20 January 1931 – 30 August 1984) was a prolific female Japanese writer, known for such works as The Doctor's Wife and The River Ki. She was known for her advocacy of social issues, such as the elderly in Japanese society, and environmental issues. Several of her novels describe the relationships between mothers and their daughters. She also had a fascination with traditional Japanese arts, such as kabuki and bunraku. She also described racial discrimination in the United States, something she experienced firsthand during her time at Sarah Lawrence, and the depopulation of remote Japanese islands during the 1970s economic boom.
Sawako Ariyoshi was born on January 20, 1931, in Wakayama City, Japan, and spent part of her childhood in Indonesia. The family returned to Japan in 1941, and quickly moved from Tokyo to Wakayama to live with her grandmother to escape the bombings. After the war, the family returned to Tokyo, where she attended high school and later college at Tokyo Women's Christian University. She published several short stories in various journals while still in Japan. She also was nominated for the Bungakukai Prize for New Writers and the Akutagawa Prize, both for her work, Jiuta. She was also nominated for the Naoki Prize for Shiroi ōgi in 1957.
In 1959, Ariyoshi moved to the United States and spent a year studying at Sarah Lawrence College. After she left Sarah Lawrence, she worked for a publishing company, and continued publishing short stories and journal articles. Two of her works, Hishoku and Puerutoriko nikki, are based on her experiences in New York. She also joined a dance troupe, and traveled extensively to get material for her novels, such as China Report. She was also the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1959. Additionally, she received some Japanese literary awards, and even made an appearance on popular Japanese TV show Waratte iitomo!. She is credited as a writer for multiple Japanese TV shows and movies, including adaptations of her books. In 1962, she married Jin Akira and had a daughter. They divorced in 1964. She died due to acute heart failure on August 30, 1984.
Ariyoshi was a prolific novelist and one of Japan's most famous female writers. In her works, she dramatizes significant issues, such as the suffering of the elderly, the effects of pollution on the environment, and the effects of social and political change on Japanese domestic life and values. She focuses especially on the lives of women. Her novel The Twilight Years depicts the life of a working woman who is caring for her elderly, dying father-in-law. Among Ariyoshi's other novels is The River Ki, an insightful portrait of the lives of three rural women: a mother, daughter, and granddaughter. One of the characters, Hana, is based on her own grandmother. Her 1966 novel The Doctor's Wife has marked her as one of the finest postwar Japanese women writers, according to the Japan Times. The Doctor's Wife is a historical novel dramatizing the roles of nineteenth-century Japanese women, and chronicles the life of the wife of a pioneer Japanese doctor, Hanaoka Seishū. She was nominated for many awards, and won several, including the first Mademoiselle Reader's Award for Tsudaremai, the sixth Fujin Kōron Readers’ Award, and the twentieth Art Selection Minister of Education Award, both for Izumo no Okuni.
- Rakuyō no Fu "Verse of the Setting Sun" (1954)
- Jiuta "Ballad" (1956)
- Shiroi ōgi "The White Folding Fan" (1957)
- Masshirokenoke "The White Ones" (1957)
- Ningyō jōruri "Puppet Jōruri" (1958)
- Homura "Homura" (1958)
- Kinokawa "The River Ki" (1959)
- Kiyu no shi "The Death of Kiyu" (1962)
- Koge "Incense and Flowers" (1962)
- Tsudaremai "Linked Dance" (1962)
- Aritagawa "The River Arita" (1963)
- Hishoku "Not Because of Color" (1964)
- Puerutoriko nikki "Puerto Rico Diary" (1964)
- Ichi no ito "One Thread" (1964-5)
- Hanaoka Seishū no tsuma "The Doctor's Wife" (1966)
- Hidakagawa "The River Hidaka" (1966)
- Fushin no toki "The Time of Distrust" (1967)
- Midaremai "Chaotic Dance" (1967)
- Umikura "The Dark Ocean" (1967-8)
- Izumo no Okuni "Kabuki Dancer" (1969)
- Kōkotsu no hito "The Twilight Years" (1972)
- Fukugō osen "The Complex Contamination" (1975)
- Kazu no miyasama otome "Her Highness Princess Kazu" (1978)
- Chūgoku repōto "China Report" (1978)
- Nihon no shimajima, mukashi to ima "The Japanese Islands: Past and Present" (1981)
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- Japan : an illustrated encyclopedia. Kōdansha., 講談社. (1st ed ed.). Tokyo: Kodansha. 1993. ISBN 9784069310980. OCLC 27812414.
- "Sawako Ariyoshi's 'The River Ki' explores characters who swim against life's current | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
- "'The Doctor's Wife' fictionalizes the life of Japan's pioneering anesthetist | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2018-02-10.