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Tsutsui Yasutaka

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1934-    ) Multiple-award winning author, sometime actor and scenarist, whose works of Absurdist SF and commentary on the Media Landscape made him one of the Big Three of Japanese sf in the twentieth century, alongside Shinichi Hoshi and Sakyō Komatsu. He is best understood first as Japan's answer to the New Wave of the 1960s and 1970s, and such social satirists as Robert Sheckley, Norman Spinrad and Kurt Vonnegut Jr; his later works form the basis of Japan's sf postmodernism (see Postmodernism and SF).

Tsutsui graduated from Dōshisha University, Kyoto, in 1957 with a master's thesis on psychoanalysis and surrealism, and worked for several years at a branch of the Nomura design firm, spending his bonus money to produce the sf Fanzine Null (1961-1964). Null attracted many young members of the Japanese sf community, including Kazumasa Hirai and Taku Mayumura, folding after its eleventh issue as Tsutsui was drawn into activities at the third Japanese Daicon Convention, professional authorship for S-F Magazine, and screenwriting for the Anime television series Super Jetter (1965). He became closely associated with the sf author Sakyō Komatsu, and eventually lampooned Komatsu's Nippon Chinbotsu with "Nippon Igai Zenbu Chinbotsu" ["Everything Apart From Japan Sinks"] (1973 All Yomimono), which won the following year's Short Form Seiun Award. From 1973-7 he was the honorary editor of Neo-Null, whose regulars included Baku Yumemakura, Hiroshi Yamamoto and Akira Hori. Arguably, the influence of both magazines should be attributed not to their initial appearance, but the reprinting of their best stories in several mass-market collections edited by Tsutsui from 1975-1985.

His first novel, 48 Oku no Mōsō ["4.8 Billion Delusions"] (1965) recalls Evelyn Waugh's Scoop (1938), with interfering celebrities somehow pushing an insignificant dispute between fishermen into an all-out war. He won the first Seiun Award for long-form fiction with Reichōrui, Minami-e ["Primates South"] (1969), a Cold War satire in which a series of misunderstandings and unhappy coincidences lead to the End of the World, after which the sole remnant of human life is a piece of music set to autoplay on a dead planet. Similarly well received within Japanese fandom is his Dassō to Tsuiseki no Samba ["Samba of Running and Chasing"] (1972), a darkly self-referential spoof redolent of Barry Malzberg, in which the narrator is forced to become an sf author by order of a Kafka-esque job suitability office.

Although garlanded with serious accolades worldwide, Tsutsui is best known in the mainstream for his early Young Adult book Toki o Kakeru Shōjo ["The Girl Who Leapt Through Time"] (1965 Chū-3 Course, 1966 Kō-1 Course; fixup 1967), serialized in two magazines for middle- and high-school students, later adapted into several films, television serials, Manga and an award-winning Anime (see Toki o Kakeru Shōjo). Almost as influential is his Nanase trilogy of Telepathy stories beginning with Kazoku Hakkei (1970-1971 Shōsetsu Shinchō; 1972 trans Adam Kabat as Portraits of Eight Families 1989), in which a psychic housemaid is an unwilling witness to the true feelings behind the genteel exchanges between her employers. In the picaresque sequel Nanase Futatabi (1975), Nanase meets others with variant forms of ESP. The final volume, Oedipus no Koibito (1977), returns Nanase to the workplace in administration at an elite school, where her eavesdropping on others' true thoughts is represented in both text and images on facing pages. Similar experiments recur in other Tsutsui works, including Kyojin-tachi ["Virtual Men"] (1981), in which several pages are left blank when the narrator loses consciousness. He also wormed his way into a new field by writing the stage play Star (1976), which won the Media Seiun Award for Tsuneari Fukuda in 1977.

Tsutsui's work since the 1980s reflects an increasing interest in metafiction (see Fabulation), particularly the Oulipo movement and the works of John Barth and Jorge Luis Borges. Zanzō ni Kuchibeni o ["Lipstick on an After-Image"] (1989) dropped specific characters in the Japanese syllabary from certain chapters, leading to a highly experimental lipogrammatic novel in which the words were literally falling off the page. Appreciating the reluctance of readers to engage with such a game of language, the publisher Chūō Kōron-sha initially offered it for sale with a money-back guarantee. Asa no Gaspard ["Gaspard in the Morning"] (1992), the story of an individual immersed in a Massively Multiplayer Online Game, first appeared as a daily serial sponsored by the Asahi Net bulletin board, in which Tsutsui continually solicited reader feedback to steer plot and characterization.

Tsutsui has courted controversy throughout his career, with a crusade against political correctness that has occasionally led to accusations of misogyny, racism and intolerance. He embarked on a self-imposed authorial strike from 1993-1996, after his story "Muteki Keisatsu" ["Unmanned Police"] (coll Nigiyaka-na Mirai 1968) was dropped from a Kadokawa anthology for schools on the grounds of an unacceptable treatment of epilepsy. The incident was recounted in Tsutsui's collection of essays and diary entries Warai-inu-rō no Chōbō ["View from the House of the Laughing Dog"] (anth 1994), and in Nuiko Satō's book-length study Nanika Okashii: Tsutsui Yasutaka 'Mujin Keisatsu' Kadokawa Kyōkasho Tenkan Sabetsu Mondai ["Something Weird: Yasutaka Tsutsui's 'Unmanned Police' and the Kadokawa Textbook Epilepsy Discrimination Problem"] (1995). However, during his well publicized absence from print, he was intensely active in digital media, publishing his first "digital book" Tsutsui Yasutaka Yonsenji Gekijō ["Yasutaka Tsutsui's 4000-character Theatre"] (1994 ebook) for the Japanese PC-9800 system. A selection of short stories, the work took its name from the number of Japanese characters per piece: 4000 continuous characters would fill roughly five pages in a B-format paperback. He also appeared in a television commercial for Macintosh Computers (1995), and was instrumental in the setting up of the e-book server Japan Literature Net (JALInet).

Despite increased attention from Anglophone publishers in the early twenty-first century, his direct availability in English remains a mere fraction of his domestic output. "Tatazumi Hito" (1974 Shōsetsu Shinchō) was translated by David Lewis as "Standing Woman" (February 1979 Omni) and subsequently anthologized in The African Bomb and Other Stories (1986), a limited Japan-only publication intended for students of English, containing just three pieces. Both this and the later, larger English anthology Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (anth 2006 trans Andrew Driver) are named after particular Tsutsui collections, but cherry-pick stories from all across his work. "Ore ni Kansuru Uwasa" (1972 Shōsetsu Shinchō, trans as "Rumours About Me"), a prefiguring of 15-minute fame in which the protagonist realizes that the mass media are following his every move, appears in both collections, in rival translations. Hell (2003; trans Evan Emswiler 2007) in which the newly-deceased are tormented by reliving their worst moments as a Time Loop, is the most substantial of his works to appear in English.

Tsutsui is well-represented in cross-media adaptations, not only with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) but also with Nanase adapted several times for television and film (see Nanase Futatabi), two television serials based on Fugō Keiji ["Millionairess Detective"] (2005-6) and over 20 film adaptations of his work, including Ore no Chi wa Tanin no Chi ["My Blood is the Blood of Another"] (1974), Watashi no Grandpa ["My Grandpa"] (2003) and Paprika (2006). Most of his most famous works have also been adapted into Manga. "The Last Smoker" and "Salmonella Men on Planet Porno" (both 2009) were broadcast as radio plays on BBC Radio Four and Three respectively. Non-sf work includes the historical collection Tsutsui Junkei (coll 1969), named for a sixteenth-century samurai warlord whom Tsutsui playfully imagines to be a distant ancestor, as well as the section on the history of Japanese SF in the influential nonfiction study SF Kyōshitsu ["SF Classroom"] (1971). Throughout his career, he has also periodically worked as an actor and pundit, and has written several volumes of self-criticism, analysing subtexts within his own work. His Aho no Kabe (2010) is a polemic directed against modern mankind, daring humanity to vault the titular "idiot wall" that prevents true peace and prosperity.

The Checklist below includes several French editions of Tsutsui's work unavailable in English, on the assumption that they may be more accessible to interested parties with no Japanese. Many of the later collections shuffle stories from their predecessors, subdivided by broad themes such as humour, the grotesque, or satire. [JonC]

Yasutaka Tsutsui

born Osaka, Japan: 24 September 1934




  • Kazoku Hakkei (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1972) [coll of linked stories: Nanase: binding unknown/]
    • Portraits of Eight Families (Tokyo: Kōdansha English Library, 1989) [Japan-only trans of the above by Adam Kabat: Nanase: pb/Mari Maeno]
      • What The Maid Saw: Eight Psychic Tales (New York: Kōdansha International, 1990) [international edition of the above with student notes removed: Nanase: hb/The Douglas Brothers]
        • The Maid (Richmond, UK: Alma Books, 2010) [vt of the above: Nanase: pb/]
  • Nanase Futatabi ["Nanase Again"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1975) [coll of linked stories: Nanase: pb/]
  • Oedipus no Koibito ["The Lover of Oedipus"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1977) [coll of linked stories: Nanase: pb/]


individual titles

  • 48 Oku no Mōsō ["4.8 Billion Delusions"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shōbo, 1965) [binding unknown/]
  • Umanokubi Fu'unroku ["Chronicle of the Horse's Head Crisis"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shōbo, 1965) [binding unknown/]
  • Tōkaidō Sensō ["The Tōkaidō War"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shōbo, 1965) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Vietnam Kankō Kōsha ["The Vietnam Tourist Bureau"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shōbo, 1967) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Africa no Bakudan ["The African Bomb"] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 1968) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Nigiyaka-na Mirai ["The Bustling Future"] (Tokyo: San'ichi Shōbo, 1968) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Alfalfa Sakusen ["The Alfalfa Strategy"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shōbo, 1968) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Gensō no Mirai/Africa no Chi ["Fantasy Future/African Blood"] (Tokyo: Namboku-sha, 1968) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Reichōrui, Minami-e ["Primates South"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1969) [binding unknown/]
  • Tsutsui Junkei (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1969) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Honky Tonk (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1969) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Waga Yoki Ōkami ["My Good Wolf"] (Tokyo: San'ichi Shōbo, 1969) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Boshizō ["Mother and Child Portrait"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1970) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Uma wa Doyō ni Aozameru ["Horses Turn Pale on Saturdays"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shōbo, 1970) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Dassō to Tsuiseki no Samba ["Samba of Running and Chasing"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shōbo, 1971) [binding unknown/]
  • Nihon Rettō Nanamagari ["Eight Bends on the Japanese Archipelago"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1971) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Sanchōme wa Sensō desu ["Third Street is at War"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1971) [binding unknown/Gō Nagai]
  • Zokubutsu Zukan ["Picture Book of Vulgarity"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1972) [binding unknown/]
  • Shōgun ga Mezameta Toki ["When the Shogun Awoke"] (Tokyo: Kawade Shōbo, 1972) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Nōkyō Tsuki-e Iku ["Off to the Luna Co-operative"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1973) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Otoko Tachi no Kaita E ["Pictures Made By Two Men"] (Tokyo: Kawade Shōbo, 1974) [binding unknown/]
  • Ore no Chi wa Tanin no Chi ["My Blood is the Blood of Another"] (Tokyo: Kawade Shōbo, 1974) [binding unknown/]
  • Ore ni Kansuru Uwasa ["Rumours About Me"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1974) [binding unknown/]
  • Weekend Shuffle (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1974) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Warau-na ["Don't Laugh"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1975) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Metamorphosis Guntō ["Metamorphosis Archipelago"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1976) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Babbling Sōseiki ["Babbling Genesis"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1978) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Fugō Keiji ["Millionairess Detective"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1978) [binding unknown/Hiroshi Manabe]
  • Oi Naru Josō ["The Great On-ramp"] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 1979) [binding unknown/]
  • Uchū Eisei Hakurankai ["Universal Hygiene Expo"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1979) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Kyojin Tachi ["Virtual Men"] (Tokyo: Chūō Kōron-sha, 1981) [binding unknown/]
  • Erotic Kaidō ["Erotic Avenue"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1981) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Kyokō Sendan ["Fleet of Fantasy"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1984) [binding unknown/]
  • Ilya Muromets (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1985) [binding unknown/]
  • Kushizashi Kyōju ["Professor on a Skewer"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1985) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Tabi no Ragosu ["Lagos on a Journey"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1986) [binding unknown/Osamu Tezuka]
  • Kutabare PTA (Go To Hell, PTA) (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1984) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Uta to Jōzetsu no Senki ["War Chronicles of Song and Loquacity"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1987) [binding unknown/]
  • Yumenokizaka Bunkiten ["Dreamtree Hill Junction"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1987) [binding unknown/]
    • Le Censeur des Rêves (Paris: Stock, 1998) [French translation of the above by Jean-Christian Bouvier, Jean-François Laffont and Tadahiro Oku: pb/]
  • Genshijin ["Primitive Man"] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 1987) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Kyōgaku no Kōya ["Prairie of Astonishment"] (Tokyo: Kawade Shōbo, 1988) [binding unknown/]
  • Yakusai Hanten ["Yakusai Chinese Restaurant"] (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1988) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Feminism Satsujin Jiken ["The Feminism Murders"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1989) [binding unknown/]
  • Zanzō ni Kuchibeni o ["Lipstick on an After-Image"] (Tokyo: Chūō Kōron-sha, 1989) [binding unknown/]
  • Bungakubu Tadano Kyōju ["Professor Tadano of the Literature Department"] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shōbo, 1990) [binding unknown/]
  • Lautrec-Sō Jiken ["The Lautrec Villa Murders"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1990) [binding unknown/]
  • Yoru no Konto, Fuyu no Konto ["Night Tales, Winter Tales"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1990) [binding unknown/]
  • Asa no Gaspard (Gaspard in the Morning) (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbun-sha, 1992) [binding unknown/Hiroshi Manabe] [binding unknown/]
  • Paprika (Tokyo: Chūō Kōron-sha, 1993) [binding unknown/]
    • Paprika (Richmond, UK: Alma Books, 2009) [English translation of the above by Andrew Driver: binding unknown/]
  • Saigo no Denrei ["The Last Despatch"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1993) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Tsutsui Yasutaka Yonsenji Gekijō ["Yasutaka Tsutsui's 4000-character Theatre"] (PC-9800, 1994) [ebook: na/]
  • Kazoku Bamen ["Family Scenes"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1995) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Jazz Shōsetsu ["Jazz Stories"] (Tokyo Bungei Shunjū, 1996) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Jaganchō ["Evil-Eye Bird"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1997) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Teki ["Enemy"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1998) [binding unknown/]
  • Watashi no Grandpa (My Grandpa) (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 1999) [binding unknown/]
  • Engazzio Shireitō ["Engazzio Command Tower"] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2000) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Gyoran Kannon Ki ["Records of the Gyoran Kannon"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2000) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Kyōfu (Fear) (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2001) [binding unknown/]
  • Tengu no Otoshibun ["Fallen Book of the Crow-Demons"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2001) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Saigo no Kitsuensha ["The Last Smoker"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2002) [coll: binding unknown/Kotobuki Shiriagari]
  • Katamuita Sekai ["The Tilted World"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2002) [coll: binding unknown/Kotobuki Shiriagari]
  • Kinjo Meiwaku ["Disturbing the Neighbours"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 2002) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Chōkai no Heya ["The Punishment Room"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 2002) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Kaibutsutachi no Yoru ["Night of the Phantoms"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 2002) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Suima no Iru Natsu ["Summer of the Sleep Fairy"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 2002) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Hell (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2003) [binding unknown/]
    • Hell (Richmond, UK: Alma Books, 2007) [English translation of the above by Evan Emswiler: hb/]
  • Waga Ai no Zeimusho ["My Beloved Tax Office"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 2003) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Cameroid Monbushō ["The Cameroid Ministry of Education"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 2003) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Porno Wakusei no Salmonella Ningen (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2005) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Ginrei no Hate ["End of the Silver Age"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2006) [binding unknown/]
  • Nihon Igai Zembu Chinbotsu ["Everything Apart From Japan Sinks"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2006) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Kyosen Bellas Letras ["The Great Ship Bellas Letras"] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2007) [binding unknown/Ryōhei Yanagihara]
  • Dancing Vanity (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2008) [binding unknown/]

juveniles (selected)

  • Toki o Kakeru Shōjo ["The Girl Who Leapt Through Time"] (Tokyo: Seikōsha, 1967) [fixup: binding unknown/]
    • La Traversée du Temps (Paris: L'Ecole des Loisirs, 2007) [French trans of the above by Jean-Christian Bouvier: pb/Yoshiyuki Sadamoto]
    • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Richmond, Greater London: Alma Books, 2011) [trans of the above by David Karashima: pb/photographic]
  • Midori-ma no Machi ["Town of the Green Devils"] (Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbun-sha, 1970) [binding unknown/]
  • Mirrorman no Jikan ["Time of the Mirrorman"] (Tokyo: Inner Trip-sha, 1975) [binding unknown/]
  • Saikin Ningen ["Bacteria Man"] (Tokyo: Shuppan Geijutsu-sha, 2000) [coll: binding unknown/]

nonfiction (selected)

works as editor (selected)

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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