Kazufumi Shiraishi, left, and Joh Sasaki
According to Mainichi, Jurors, however, found no winner for the 142nd Akutagawa Prize for new writers of fiction -- for the first time since 1999 -- though co-writers Omori Kyodai ("Omori brothers") were touted to be among the favorite contenders.
Shiraishi, 51, whose late father, Ichiro Shiraishi, was also a Naoki Prize winner, became the first novelist in the award's history to become a second-generation winner. There is no such precedent with the Akutagawa Prize.
The 59-year-old Sasaki's "Haikyo ni kou," published by Bungeishunju Ltd., is a police novel set in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, while Shiraishi's "Hokanaranu hitoe," published by Shodensha Inc., is a romantic fiction comprising two short novellas.
"It was totally unexpected and pleasing. I was surprised at being awarded for novellas as I'd previously been devoted to full-length novels," said Shiraishi. "I wanted the (award-winning) novel to contain plenty of elements that every reader can find enjoyable."
Shiraishi's father Ichiro (1931-2004), who was known as a leading writer of historical maritime novels, had been nominated for the Naoki Prize seven times before finally winning it in 1987.
"(By combining me and my father's nominations) our family has been nominated for the prize 10 times in total," said the younger Shiraishi. "It's like we've been cursed by the prize. I had wanted to get away from it as soon as possible," he said.
The younger Shiraishi started writing novels as a university freshman, after he criticized his father's novels and was told: "Why not write yourself if you are going to comment on my work that way?"
When he showed his fantasy novel to his father, written with a fountain pen given to him by his dad, his father was impressed: "You don't need to find a job (if you can write such a wonderful story)."
"The moment I thought I might be a novelist, that was when my luck ran out," the younger Shiraishi jokingly recalled.
The selection committee of the semiannual prizes met at Shinkiraku, a Japanese-style restaurant in Tokyo's Tsukiji district, on Thursday evening. The awarding ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 19 at Tokyo Kaikan in Chiyoda Ward.