Akutagawa Ryunosuke is one of the literary giants of 20th century Japanese and world literature. Japan's most prestigious literary award, the Akutagawa Prize was established in 1935 in his honour and remains highly coveted by Japanese writers. Akutagawa was born in 1892, the son of a Tokyo milkman and committed suicide in 1927. During his brief life-time, he wrote over 150 short stories, but never a full length novel. He also wrote haiku under the pseudonym, Gaki. In 1914, he published his short story 'Rashomon' which won him considerable praise and he followed that up with another highly acclaimed short story 'The Nose'. His reputation as one of the first great Japanese modernists in literature was already established during his lifetime. In 1950, the great Japanese film director, inspired by the work of Akutagawa, released his classic film 'Rashomon'.
Akutagawa was an avid reader of ghost stories, Chinese and Japanese classics as well as Poe, de Maupassant, Anatole France, Kipling and other masters of the short story. His works probe psychological themes such as decadence, obsession, the grotesque all combined in a highly dramatic narrative style. Howard Norman, the translator, was born in Japan, worked for most of his life in Japan and was invested by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Rising Sun, 5th class, in 1983. He died in Toronto in 1987. Naoko Matsubara, the illustrator, is one of the most accomplished and internationally renowned woodcut artists whose works are housed in many museums and galleries around the world.