Sayaka Murata

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Sayaka Murata
Native name
Born (1979-08-14) August 14, 1979 (age 42)
Alma materTamagawa University
Notable works
  • Gin iro no uta (ギンイロノウタ)
  • Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (しろいろの街の、その骨の体温の)
  • Konbini ningen (コンビニ人間)
Notable awards

Sayaka Murata (村田沙耶香 Murata Sayaka; born August 14, 1979) is a Japanese writer. She has won the Gunzo Prize for New Writers, the Mishima Yukio Prize, the Noma Literary New Face Prize, and the Akutagawa Prize.


Murata was born in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, in 1979. As a child she often read science fiction and mystery novels borrowed from her brother and mother, and her mother bought her a word processor after she attempted to write a novel by hand in the fourth grade of elementary school.[1] After Murata completed middle school in Inzai, her family moved to Tokyo, where she graduated from Kashiwa High School (attached to Nishogakusha University) and attended Tamagawa University.[2]

Kashiwa High School

Her first novel, Jyunyū (Breastfeeding), won the 2003 Gunzo Prize for New Writers.[3] In 2013 she won the Mishima Yukio Prize for Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, Of Body Heat, Of Whitening City), and in 2014 the Special Prize of the Sense of Gender Award.[4][5] In 2016 her 10th novel, Konbini ningen (Convenience Store Person), won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize,[6] and she was named one of Vogue Japan's Women of the Year.[7] Konbini ningen has sold over 1.5 million copies in Japan[8] and in 2018 it became her first book to be translated into English, under the title Convenience Store Woman.[9] It has been translated into more than 30 languages.[8]

Murata worked part-time as a convenience store clerk in Tokyo for eighteen years until 2017.[10]

Writing style[edit]

Murata's writing explores the different consequences of nonconformity in society for men and women, particularly with regard to gender roles, parenthood, and sex.[11] Many of the themes and character backstories in her writing come from her daily observations as a part-time convenience store worker.[10] Societal acceptance of sexlessness in various forms, including asexuality, voluntary and involuntary celibacy, especially within marriage, recurs as a theme in several of her works, such as the novels Shōmetsu sekai (Dwindling World) and Konbini ningen (Convenience Store Person), and the short story "A Clean Marriage."[12][13] Murata is also known for her frank depictions of adolescent sexuality in work such as Gin iro no uta (Silver Song)[14] and Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, of Body Heat, of Whitening City).[15] In Satsujin shussan she depicts a future society which may be seen as dystopic for the use of Reproduction Technologies and the strange system called Birth-Murder System.[4]


Challenging Taboos[edit]

Murata often places challenging taboos at the forefront of her most popular works.[16] The title Earthlings focuses on an 11-year-old girl named Natsuki, with her boyfriend and cousin, Yuu, who believes themselves to be aliens due to their tumultuous relationship with their family. The story quickly develops into a harsh tale containing themes of "sexual abuse, murder, and cannibalism."[16] Murata states on challenging taboos: "For example, murder is said to be taboo, but then why is it considered acceptable if it’s legitimate self-defense or capital punishment? I sensed the ambiguity in my childish mind. And I felt a physical repulsion and fear inside me toward incest and cannibalism, although I didn’t know why they were forbidden. I wondered where those emotions came from.”[16] Murata believes that the more she writes about the questioning of these taboos, the closer she will come to the "real truth of things."[16]


The topic of conformity is common in Japanese literature and culture, and Murata frequently questions its validity, especially in Convenience Store Woman.[17] Conformity is often placed at the heart of Japanese culture, a notion that Murata frequently explores within her works.[17] In this work, Keiko, the main heroine, finds herself trying to escape from reality's expectations of marrying and choosing a traditional career.[18] Keiko eventually finds that her convenience store job is her only way to feel in touch with society, a "normal cog in society."[17]


Many of Murata's main heroines find themselves in asexual relationships, such as Natsuki in Earthling and Keiko in Convenience Store Woman. [19][20] Asexuality is a theme that coincides with questioning the standards society typically expects from citizens, a notion that Murata explores frequently.[16] The asexuality prevalent in Murata's works can also be attributed to Japan's rising aversion towards sex.[18]

Global Warming and Climate Change[edit]

Murata published a short story within the anthology titled Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change detailing a dystopian Japanese society built upon ranks given to humans based upon the likelihood that they survive until they're 65 with anyone falling below a specific rank becoming "feral."[21] The short story titled Survival detailed the accounts of the world if global warming was left unattended, with torrential rain showers becoming commonplace and the remaining animals of the world only including humans, cockroaches, and cats. The increased likelihood of precipitation is supported heavily as well as the likelihood of cockroaches remaining as the Earth's only surviving species if climate change was left uninhibited.[22][23]


Year Prize Title Notes
2003 Gunzo Prize for New Writers[3] Jyunyū (授乳) Won
2009 Mishima Yukio Prize[5] Gin iro no uta (ギンイロノウタ) Nominated
2009 Noma Literary New Face Prize[24] Gin iro no uta (ギンイロノウタ) Won
2010 Mishima Yukio Prize[5] Hoshi ga sū mizu (星が吸う水) Nominated
2012 Mishima Yukio Prize[5] Tadaima tobira (タダイマトビラ) Nominated
2013 Mishima Yukio Prize[5] Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (しろいろの街の、その骨の体温の) Won
2014 Sense of Gender Awards[25] Satsujin shussan (殺人出産) Won
2016 Akutagawa Prize[6] Konbini ningen (コンビニ人間) Won


Books in Japanese[edit]

  • Jyunyū (Breastfeeding) Kodansha, 2005, ISBN 9784062127943
  • Gin iro no uta (Silver Song), Shinchosha, 2009, ISBN 9784103100713
  • Mausu (Mouse), Kodansha, 2008, ISBN 9784062145893
  • Hoshi ga sū mizu (Water for the Stars), Kodansha, 2010, ISBN 9784062160971
  • Hakobune (Ark), Shueisha, 2011, ISBN 9784087714289
  • Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, Of Body Heat, Of Whitening City), Asahi Shimbun, 2012, ISBN 9784022510112
  • Tadaima tobira, Shinchosha, 2012, ISBN 9784103100720
  • Satsujin shussan (The Murder Births), Kodansha, 2014, ISBN 9784062190466
  • Shōmetsu sekai (Dwindling World), Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2015, ISBN 9784309024325
  • Konbini ningen (Convenience Store Person), Bungeishunju, 2016, ISBN 9784163906188
  • Chikyu Seijin (Earthlings), Shinchosa 2018, ISBN 9784103100737

Books in English[edit]

Short Stories and Other Works in English[edit]

  • A Clean Marriage (short story), English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Granta 127: Japan, 2014.[29]
  • A First-Rate Material (short story), English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Freeman's: The Future of New Writing, 2017, ISBN 9780802127297.[30]
  • The Future of Sex Lives in All of Us (article), English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori,The New York Times, 2019.[31]
  • Survival (short story), English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Penguin Books, Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a World Divided, 2020, ISBN 9780143133926.[32]
  • Faith (short story), English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Granta: The Online Edition, 2020.[33]
  • Final Days (short story), English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Freeman's: Change, 2021, ISBN 9780802158970.[34]
  • A Summer Night's Kiss (short story), English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Astra: Ecstasy, 2022.[35]


  1. ^ "村田沙耶香インタビュー「バイトは週3日、週末はダメ人間です」". Bungeishunjū (in Japanese). August 20, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  2. ^ "印西出身の村田沙耶香さん 入学時文集「いつか理想の自分に」 二松学舎大学付属柏高、母校も喜びに沸く /千葉". Mainichi (in Japanese). July 21, 2016. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Gunzo Awards". Gunzo (in Japanese). Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Specchio, Anna (July 5, 2018). "Eutopizing the Dystopia. Gender Roles, Motherhood and Reproduction in Murata Sayaka's "Satsujin Shussan"". Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory. 4 (1): 94–108. doi:10.24193/mjcst.2018.5.06. ISSN 2457-8827.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Mishima Yukio Prize (Official Website)".
  6. ^ a b Kikuchi, Daisuke (July 20, 2016). "Convenience store worker who moonlights as an author wins prestigious Akutagawa Prize". The Japan Times. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  7. ^ "高畑充希、飛躍の一年を回顧「台風の目にいるような感じ」". Oricon News. Nov 24, 2016. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Roger Tagholm (January 31, 2019). "Granta buys new Sayaka Murata novel". Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  9. ^ Freeman, John (November 16, 2017). "In Praise of Sayaka Murata". Literary Hub. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Rich, Motoko (June 11, 2018). "For Japanese Novelist Sayaka Murata, Odd Is the New Normal". New York Times (subscription required). Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  11. ^ Rich, Motoko (June 11, 2018). "For Japanese Novelist Sayaka Murata, Odd Is the New Normal". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  12. ^ Fallon, Claire (June 12, 2018). "Amid All The Talk Of Incels, A Solitary Woman's Story". HuffPost. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  13. ^ Tapley Takamori, Ginny (April 24, 2014). "Translator's Note: A Clean Marriage". Granta. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  14. ^ "Silver Song". Books from Japan. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  15. ^ "Of Bones, of Body Heat, of Whitening City". Books from Japan. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Aliens and Alienation: The Taboo-Challenging Worlds of "Earthlings" Author Murata Sayaka". 2020-11-04. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  17. ^ a b c ""Convenience Store Woman": Life by the Book". 2018-06-11. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  18. ^ a b "Sayaka Murata's Eerie "Convenience Store Woman" Is a Love Story Between a Misfit and a Store". The New Yorker. 2018-06-21. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  19. ^ Hayes, Stephanie (2020-11-09). "A Dystopian Novel That Challenges Taboos and Refuses Judgment". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  20. ^ Garner, Dwight (2018-07-23). "'Convenience Store Woman' Casts a Fluorescent Spell". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  21. ^ "A Trip Through a Wounded Landscape: On John Freeman's "Tales of Two Planets"". Cleveland Review of Books. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  22. ^ Witze, Alexandra (2018-11-20). "Why extreme rains are gaining strength as the climate warms". Nature. 563 (7732): 458–460. doi:10.1038/d41586-018-07447-1.
  23. ^ Ro, Christine. "The animals that will survive climate change". Retrieved 2021-12-05.
  24. ^ "過去の受賞作品". Kodansha (in Japanese). Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  25. ^ "2014年度 第14回Sense of Gender賞". The Japanese Association for Gender Fantasy and Science Fiction (in Japanese). August 29, 2015. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  26. ^ "Convenience Store Woman". Grove Atlantic. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  27. ^ "Earthlings". Grove Atlantic. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  28. ^ "Life Ceremony". Grove Atlantic. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  29. ^ Murata, Sayaka (April 24, 2014). "A Clean Marriage". Granta. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  30. ^ "Freeman's: The Future of New Writing". Freeman's. October 10, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  31. ^ Murata, Sayaka (December 2, 2019). "The Future of Sex Lives in All of Us". The New York Times.
  32. ^ "Tales of Two Planets: 9780143133926". Penguin Random House. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  33. ^ Murata, Sayaka (November 18, 2020). "Faith". Granta. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  34. ^ "Freeman's: Change". Grove Atlantic. October 12, 2021. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  35. ^ Murata, Sayaka (April 12, 2022). "A Summer Night's Kiss" (Literary magazine). Astra House. ISBN 9781662619007. Retrieved May 27, 2022.

External links[edit]