A prize established in 1988 by the Shinchosha Publishing Company, in memory of the popular author Shugoro Yamamoto (1903–67). Shinchosha had close ties with Yamamoto during his career, and is the publisher of his Complete Works.
Yamamoto is known for the many bestsellers he produced as a writer of historical and period fiction, especially stories that portrayed the lives of unknown commoners and masterless samurai. Among the most famous of his works is Akahige shinryotan (Stories of Red Beard's Clinic), a collection of linked stories about an Edo-period physician who ministered to the poor. The work is known to audiences outside Japan through the 1965 film adaptation by Akira Kurosawa, Red Beard.
The prize is awarded annually to "a new work of fiction with compelling narrative power." While the Mishima Yukio Prize, established at the same time, is directed at literary fiction, this award focuses on a broad range of genre fiction, including historical and period fiction, mysteries, fantasies, erotica, and more. Banana Yoshimoto received the prize for Goodbye Tsugumi (tr. 2002; original title TUGUMI) early in her career.