Novelist, Buddhist nun Setouchi Jakucho dies at 99

Japanese writer and Buddhist nun Setouchi Jakucho has died at the age of 99.

A publishing house and other sources said she died of heart failure at a hospital in Kyoto on Tuesday.

Setouchi was born in 1922 in Tokushima City, western Japan.

She began writing novels after graduating from university and made her professional debut in 1957.

Her love stories and biographical novels were particularly popular among female readers for their lively depictions of new types of women who were economically and psychologically independent.

In 1973, at the age of 51, Setouchi became a Buddhist nun and took on the Buddhist name Jakucho. She said she wanted to explore a new way of living as a writer.

She continued to write novels that dealt with aspects of human nature such as sex and old age through female characters who devoted their lives to love, art, and faith.

In 1998, she completed her translation of the 11th-century novel "The Tale of Genji." Her version renewed interest in the literary classic about the court life of prince Hikaru Genji. It was praised for its readability and fresh perspective of focusing on the women surrounding the prince.

Setouchi was awarded the Order of Culture, Japan's highest cultural honor, in 2006.

She traveled around Japan giving sermons and listening to people's problems as a nun for over 30 years.

Following the massive quake and tsunami in March 2011, she visited the devastated areas in northeastern Japan to encourage survivors.