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Ueda Akinari

(1734-1809). Scholar, poet, and fiction writer; best known for his collection of nine tales of the supernatural, Ugetsu monogatari (1776; tr Tales of Moonlight and Rain, 1974). Born to a woman in Osaka's pleasure quarters, Akinari was adopted at the age of three by a former samurai named Ueda, who worked as an oil and paper merchant. He later worked in the family business, but when the business was destroyed by fire he studied medicine and then made a living as a doctor for eleven years. While engaged in medicine, he taught, edited, and wrote commentaries on classic works of literature. His Ugetsu monogatari ranks among the best-known works in the classical tradition. Employing a network of references and allusions to historical persons, places, and events, it also shows influence from Chinese classical and popular literary traditions -- all of which combine to produce a work of great elegance and eerie beauty. He is also counted as one of the best waka poets of his time, and toward the end of his life he focused primarily on prose fiction, leaving a collection of 10 tales, Harusame monogatari (1808; tr Tales of the Spring Rain, 1975). (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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