In this Japanese name, the family name is Sata.
Born (1904-06-01)1 June 1904
Nagasaki, Japan
Died 12 October 1998(1998-10-12) (aged 94)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation Writer
Literary movement Proletarian literature

Ineko Sata (佐多稲子 Sata Ineko?, 1 June 1904 – 12 October 1998) was a Japanese communist and feminist author of proletarian literature.


Born in poverty in Nagasaki to young parents (her father 18, her mother 15), the family moved to Tokyo when Sata was a child. Her first job was in a caramel factory, before working in restaurants where she befriended writers, including Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. In 1922 her poems were published for the first time in Shi to jinsei ("Poetry and life").

Working at the Koroku cafe-bar in Hongo, near Tokyo University, she met Nakano Shigeharu who would remain a lifelong friend. Along with Nakano, left-wing writers Hori Tatsuo and Tsurujirō Kubokawa ran the progressive literary magazine Roba (Donkey). Nakano inspired Sata to write her first published novella, Kyaramaru koba kara (From the Caramel Factory) in 1928. Then, after a failed first marriage, she married Kubokawa.

Sata became increasing concerned with issues related to workers. In 1929, she spoke out against the treatment of women workers in cigarette factories. In 1931, she defended the striking workers of the Tokyo Muslin Factory. As a member of the Proletarian Literature Movement, she wrote a series of novels on the lives of ordinary working men and women. These included Kyoseikikoku (Compulsory Extradition), about the rights of migrant Korean workers and Kambu joko no namida (Tears of a Forewoman).

In 1932 she joined the outlawed Japan Communist Party (JCP). She became close to JCP leaders Kenji Miyamoto and Takiji Kobayashi, the latter tortured to death by police in 1933. In 1935 she was arrested and spent two months in prison.

These experiences became the basis for her novel, Kurenai (Scarlet), in 1936. Her strong-willed political opinions, often highly unorthodox from an official party point of view, led her to become estranged from the Party. Sata was one of the first Communists in Japan to reject Stalinism. Pressured by the imperial authorities, she had to suffer the humiliation of the tenkō process (literally, a change of direction) a term used to describe a formal rejection of affiliation with the JCP. Conflicting conditions at this time placed Sata under profound stress and she attempted suicide.

While the late 1930s saw increasing government censorship and a decline in the Proletarian Literature Movement Sata continued to write: in 1938, she produced Juju shinryoku (Fresh Green of Trees) and in 1940 Suashi no musume (A Barefoot Girl).

With the end of the war in 1945 Sata's writing re-emerged. Changes in her personal attitudes led her to divorce her husband the same year. In 1946 she rejoined the JCP, although, as before, she would often voiced vehement criticism of the direction of the party. Her wartime experiences were the subject of Watashi no Tōkyō Chizu (My Tokyo Map), written between 1946 and 1948. In 1954 she wrote Kikai no naka no seishun (Youth among the Machines). Her collected works were issued in 15 volumes in 1958-59. She would write Onna no yado ("Women's Lodgings") in 1963 and Omoki nagarani (On a Heavy Tide) in 1968-69.

In 1964, Sata had rejoined the Japan Communist Party after yet another expulsion. She was one of the founders of the new Women's Democratic Club–her activities in the organization, judged divisive from the perspective of the party mainstream[1], led to another expulsion from the JCP.

Sata was awarded the Noma Prize in 1972 for her book Juei (The Shade of Trees), which deals with the relationships between Chinese and Japanese people in Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bomb. In 1973, she was offered the Geijutuin Onshisho (Imperial Art Academy Prize) for her life's work, but she refused the award as she regarded it as a nationalist congratulation prize. She accepted the Kawabata Prize for short stories in 1977.

In 1983, she received the Asahi Prize for the entire body of her work. She gave an acceptance speech which expressed regret for her contributions to the war effort.

Her long-time colleague Nakano Shigeharu died in 1979. Her book about him, Natsu no Shiori - Nakano Shigeharu o okuru (Memories of Summer - a Farewell to Shigeharu Nakano) was awarded the Mainichi Art Award in 1983.

Most of Sata's work was translated into Russian in the Sixties and Seventies. Two short stories from the prize-winning collection Toki ni tatsu (Standing Still in Time) have been translated into English. The 1986 story Chisai yama to tsubaki no ki (Camellia Blossoms on the Little Mountain) appeared in Japanese Literature Today, the English magazine issued by the Japan PEN Club. A recent English translation is "Water" (Mizu), appearing in Stories from the East, The East Publications, 1997. A partial translation of Watashi no Tōkyō chizu (My Tokyo Map) appears in Tokyo Stories: A Literary Stroll, University of California Press, 2002, Lawrence Rogers, editor.

See also


  1. Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era. 2nd Ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. ISBN 0231114354
  • Obituary: Ineko Sata by James Kirkup, The Independent (Great Britain), 29 October 1998.
  • Telling Lives: Women's Self-writing in Modern Japan, By Ronald P. Loftus, Translated by Ronald P. Loftus, University of Hawaii Press, 2004, ISBN 0824828348
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