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Mon Nov 15, 2021, 09:28 PM Nov 2021

Jakucho Setouchi: A freewheeling nun who bucked conventional norms for women

Jakucho Setouchi used to say “To live is to love,” and that is exactly how the Buddhist nun and author lived her life to the fullest before she died last week at age 99.

Setouchi, known for her charm and flair for wit, spent the latter half of her life as a nun, delivering inspirational sermons and carving out a reputation as a popular orator and TV guest. But prior to beginning her religious journey in 1973, the Tokushima native established herself first and foremost as a writer — and a controversial one at that — who penned a number of biographical novels about feminist activists and women who fought the powers that be.


As an author, though, she got off to a rocky start. In 1957, she published “Kashin” (“A Flower Aflame”), a novel noted for its unbridled depiction of love and sex that scandalized Japan’s literary world so much that she was essentially “ostracized,” as she put it later, from major literature magazines for the next five years.


The obvious turning point for her was in 1973 when she, in the middle of her very successful career as an author, surprised the nation by suddenly committing herself to Buddhism. Not that this foray into religion stopped her from writing, producing more than 400 works in her lifetime.


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