Taiwan-born author Li Kotomi, who won the Akutagawa Prize, speaks at a Tokyo hotel on July 14, 2021. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) – Taiwanese-born novelist Li Kotomi won the Akutagawa Award for Emerging Writers on Wednesday, becoming the second person to win the prestigious literary award without Japanese being her mother tongue, the authors said. organizers of the award.

Li, 31, received the award for her novel “Higanbana ga Saku Shima” (An Island Where the Red Spider Lily Blooms), the story of a young girl who, upon reaching an isolated island, faces her story hidden.

In 2008, Chinese-born novelist Yang Yi became the first person whose mother tongue is not Japanese to receive the award.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank my readers,” Li said at a press conference held the same day after the award winners were announced.

Born in 1989, Li started learning Japanese at the age of 15 and arrived in Japan in 2013 after graduating from National Taiwan University. After graduating from Waseda University, she released her first novel “Hitorimai” (Dance Alone) written in Japanese in 2017.

Taiwanese media celebrated Li’s victory on Thursday, widely reporting that she is the first author from the autonomous island to achieve recognition from the Japanese literary circle.

Hisaki Matsuura, one of the Akutagawa Prize judges, called Li’s novel “an ambitious work”.

“In an age of globalization, there is historical significance (that she won the award),” Matsuura said of Li’s accomplishments as he joined the online press conference.

Li said she believed that the writings of authors whose mother tongue was not Japanese brought a new perspective to the Japanese literary world. “I am proud that each of our works updates Japanese literature,” she said before receiving the award.

The other Akutagawa Prize winner was Japanese novelist Mai Ishizawa, 41, who studies in Germany. Her work “Kai ni Tsuzuku Basho nite” (In a place that follows seashells) tells the story of a woman living in Germany who remembers the terrible earthquake-tsunami of 2011 that hit northeastern Japan .

The biennial Akutagawa Prize was established in 1935 in memory of Japanese novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The prize money is 1 million yen ($ 9,100).