Nahoko Uehashi

Nahoko Uehashi was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1962. Since the publication of her first book in the »Moribito« series in 1996 she has been counted among the most prominent names in Asian fantasy literature. After completing her studies in cultural anthropology she did her doctorate on indigenous Australians.She currently teaches at the Kawamura Gakuen Women’s University as an associate professor.

Since childhood Uehashi has maintained an enthusiasm for her country’s traditional folk myths. The epic cosmos found in them, alongside influences from her work as a cultural anthropologist, provide rich raw material from which she creates fantastic stories and heroic characters. She designs realistic fantasy worlds, enjoyed by adults and children alike. Her career as a writer began with the novel »Seirei no Ki« (1989; t: The sacred tree). In 1996 the publication of »Seirei no Moribito« (Eng. »Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit«, 2008), the first volume in her Moribito series, made her into a bestselling author. The ten-book collection chronicles the journey of the spear fighter Balsa in a unique world that reflects the author’s Asian roots. Forced to flee political intrigue in her homeland at the age of six, as an adult Balsa leads an unsettled life as a bodyguard in the New Yogo Empire. She has dedicated herself to saving lives to atone for the blood shed on her account. The book, described as »haunting and original, and full of wisdom and compassion« by Lian Hearn, recounts how Balsa protects Prince Chagum from those who seek to destroy him because he is the carrier of a water spirit born every hundred years.

The author’s true-to-life portrayals of characters, their society and individual destinies transform her fiction into a contemporary comment on love and hate, ethnic conflicts and the fragility of the social order. The Moribito series has sold over 1.5 million copies in Japan, been translated into English, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin and has also been successful in other versions, such as Manga, radio drama and anime film adaptations. Uehashi’s latest novel, »Kemono no soja« (2006; t: The beast player) examines the never-ending opposition of the human and the animal, and transports the reader to the Ryoza empire, which is ruled by the pure-hearted Yoje, believed to have descended from the gods. The empire uses »Toda«, giant fighting snakes, for defence, and only the orphan girl Erin knows how to tame them. The rights of the novel have been sold to Germany, France, Korea, Sweden, and Thailand.

Nahoko Uehashi’s work has received many awards. These include the Sankei Children’s Book Award (1997) and the Iwaya Sazanami Literary Award (2002) for the Moribito series, and the Noma Children’s Book Award (2004), for »Koteki no Kanata« (2003; t: Beyond the werefox’s flute). In addition, »Kami no Moribito – Raiho-hen« (2004; t: Guardian of the awful god – God’s Appearance) was selected for the IBBY honour list. The author lives near Tokyo.

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