Uno, Chiyo (1897–1996)

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Uno, Chiyo (1897–1996)

Japanese novelist. Born in 1897 in Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan; died of pneumonia on June 10, 1996, in Tokyo, Japan; married three times; children: one (died at birth).

Born in 1897, Chiyo Uno was a well-known Japanese writer who scandalized her country in the 1920s and 1930s. She was married three times—she had only one child, who died hours after birth in 1920—and had several tumultuous love affairs with other writers and artists. One such was painter Seiji Togo, who had attempted suicide (by slashing his throat) with his previous lover. Uno was intrigued by this story, introduced herself, and the two lived together for many years. In 1927, she further shocked the conservative nation by cutting her hair short; this was such a radical move that when children saw her, they screamed and ran away.

Uno was known for her work as well as her lifestyle, however. In 1921, she won the Prize of Jijishinpo for A Powdered Face. Her 1935 novel Confessions of Love was based on Togo's love affairs and was set in Japan during the Roaring '20s. The following year, she and another lover, Kitahara Takeo, founded Japan's first fashion magazine, Style.

Uno's best-known work is Ohan, a story about the relationship between two women who share the same lover. The novel earned the author the Noma Prize for Literature in 1957. Her other novels include A Dollmaker, Tenguya Hisakichi, A Cherry of Pale Pink, and To Stab. Uno became a member of the Japanese Academy of Arts in 1972, and in 1982 was awarded the Kikuchi Kan Prize. Her memoir, I Will Go On Living (1983), became a Japanese bestseller and a television movie. Her advice columns for lovelorn young women were also collected in a book. Despite her scandalous past, Uno was recognized as a "person of cultural merit" by the Japanese government in 1990 and received a title from the emperor. She died of pneumonia in 1996, age 98.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

"Chiyo Uno" (obituary). The Day [New London, CT]. June 11, 1996.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer