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Rui Umezawa

Rui Umezawa was born in Tokyo. He left Japan as a child as his father, a theoretical physicist, pursued career opportunities in Europe, the United States and then Canada. He studied comparative literature and completed a M.A. at the University of Alberta in 1986. His thesis is entitled: Deconstruction and Hermeneutics: A Comparative Study of Two Interpretive Approaches. In 1988 he moved to Toronto where he continues to live and work. Since 2012 he has been chief advisor to the Consul-General of Japan in Toronto.

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)

Aiko’s Flowers

Illustrated by Yuji Ando.
Toronto: Tundra Books, 1999.
PZ7 .U38 A45 1999

Publisher’s Synopsis

People around the world love the beautiful art of ikebana, or Japanese flower arrangement. But for little Aiko, who would rather be playing video games like her brother, it brings only frustration. The flowers droop and look awkward in her clumsy fingers. … She can’t even understand why she has to learn ikebana at all, just because her mother did, and her mother before her.

Strange Light Afar book cover

Fiction (Juvenile, Folklore)

Strange Light Afar

Illustrated by Mikkio Fujita.
Toronto: Groundwood, 2015.
PZ49.41 .U44 2015

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

A bitterly jealous brother, a samurai who makes the ultimate sacrifice, a cold-hearted husband, a monk who mistakes desire for piety, a fraudulent merchant who meets his match in a supernatural river otter — the motives underlying these traditional Japanese folktale characters are explored with haunting results.

Prompted by the sometimes illogical and perplexing actions of folktale characters (Why doesn’t the wolf kill Little Red Riding Hood right away?), master storyteller Rui Umezawa revisits eight popular Japanese folktales, delving beneath their sometimes baffling plot lines to highlight the psychological motivations behind the characters’ actions. …

Evocative and haunting illustrations by the stunningly talented Mikiko Fujita add to the eerie beauty of this collection. A detailed afterword outlines the author’s storytelling approach and provides source material for each tale.


The Truth About Death and Dying

Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2002.
Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2003.
PS8591 .M49 T78 2003

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Rui Umezawa’s first novel weaves in and out of the lives of three generations of the Hayakawa family, starting during World War II in Japan and ending in
present-day Toronto. The story is tragic, hilarious, lyrical and universal, tracing the legacy of war and the past on one
family’s fortunes and memories.

Awards and Honours

2003 Commonwealth Book Prize — Best First Book–Caribbean & Canada Region (Nominated)

Anthology (Memoir, Juvenile)

Umezawa, Rui. “Shadow Play.” In Piece by Piece: Stories About Fitting Into Canada, edited by Teresa Toten. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2010, 139-150.


Publisher Groundwood

Publisher Penguin Random House Canada