Ueda Akinari or Ueda Shūsei (上田 秋成, July 25, 1734 in Osaka
– August 8, 1809 in Kyoto) was a Japanese author, scholar and waka
poet, and a prominent literary figure in 18th-century Japan. He was
an early writer in the yomihon genre and his two masterpieces, Ugetsu
Monogatari ("Tales of Rain and the Moon") and Harusame Monogatari
("Tales of Spring Rain"), are central to the canon of Japanese
3 See also
Born to an
Osaka prostitute and an unknown father, Ueda was adopted in
his fourth year by a wealthy merchant who reared him in comfort and
provided him with a good education. As a child he became gravely ill
with smallpox, and although he survived, he was left with deformed
fingers on both hands. During his illness, his parents prayed to the
god of the Kashima Inari Shrine, and Ueda felt that this deity had
intervened and saved his life. Throughout his life he remained a
strong believer in the supernatural, and this belief seems to inform
important elements of his literature and scholarship such as his most
famous work, a collection of ghost stories titled Ugetsu
He inherited the Ueda family oil and paper business when his adoptive
father died. However, he was not a successful merchant, and he lost
the business to a fire after running it unhappily for ten years.
During this time, he published several humorous stories in the
ukiyo-zōshi style, literally translated as "tales of the floating
Taking the fire as opportunity to leave the business world, Ueda began
studying medicine under Tsuga Teishō, who in addition to teaching
Ueda to be a doctor also taught him about colloquial Chinese fiction.
In 1776 he began to practice medicine and also published Ugetsu
Monogatari. This work places Ueda alongside
Takizawa Bakin among the
most prominent writers of yomihon — a new genre that represented a
dramatic change in reading practices from the popular fiction that
came before it.
In addition to his fiction, Ueda was involved in the field of research
known as kokugaku, the study of philology and classical Japanese
Kokugaku was often typified by a rejection of foreign
influences on Japanese culture, notably Chinese language,
Confucianism. Ueda took a highly independent position within these
circles, and his vigorous polemical dispute with the leading scholar
of the movement, Motoori Norinaga, is recorded in the latter's
dialogue Kagaika (呵刈葭 1787–1788). Some argue that Ueda also
worked out this conflict in stories such as those appearing in Ugetsu
Monogatari by beginning his stories grounded on Chinese stories and
moral and intellectual discourses and that he then foregrounded a
Japanese sensibility by calling on supernatural elements and having
his characters feel deep emotion (as opposed to Chinese reliance on
In the years after his wife's death in 1798 he suffered from temporary
blindness, and although eventually sight returned to his left eye from
that point on he had to dictate much of his writing. It was at this
time that he began working on his second yomihon, and he finished the
first two stories of what would be
Harusame Monogatari ("Tales of the
Spring Rain") in around 1802. Harusame is quite different from
Ugetsu Monogatari. Among other differences, Harusame does not invoke
the supernatural, and the stories are of greatly varied length. The
story titled Hankai is about a disreputable ruffian who suddenly
Buddhism and spends the rest of his life as a monk.
In 1809, Ueda died at the age of 76 in Kyoto.
Ugetsu Monogatari ("Tales of Rain and the Moon") (1776)
Harusame Monogatari (春雨物語, Harusame monogatari) (1809)
^ Keene, Donald. 1976. World within Walls: Japanese Literature of the
Pre-Modern Era, 1600–1867. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
^ Hamada, Kengi. "About the Author". In Tales of Moonlight and Rain.
New York: Columbia University Press.
^ Reider, Noriko T. 2002. Tales of the
Supernatural in Early Modern
Japan: Kaidan, Akinari,
Ugetsu Monogatari. Edwin Mellen Press.
^ Washburn, Dennis. “Ghostwriters and Literary Haunts: Subordinating
Ethics to Art in
Ugetsu Monogatari.” Monumenta Nipponica 45.1 (1996)
^ Ueda Akinari. 1974.
Ugetsu Monogatari: Tales of Moonlight and Rain
Trans by Leon M. Zolbrod. George Allen and Unwin Ltd.
^ Zolbrod, Leon M., trans. and ed. Introduction.
Tales of Moonlight and Rain. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1974.
^ Donald Keene World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the
Pre-Modern Era 1978 Page 371 "... of antiquity, the product of his
long association with kokugaku scholars, occupied him during most of
his mature years, and only at the end of his life did he tum again to
fiction, when he wrote
Harusame Monogatari (Tales of the Spring
ISNI: 0000 0001 0891 0170
BNF: cb12006177r (data)