The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi: Detective Stories of Old Edo
376pp. January 2007
The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi: Detective Stories of Old Edo
Author: Kido, Okamoto; Translator: MacDonald, Ian;
Specially selected for the Japanese Literature Publishing Project

"That year, quite a shocking incident occurred. . . ." So reminisces old Hanshichi in a story from one of Japan’s most beloved works of popular literature, Hanshichi torimonochô. Told through the eyes of a street-smart detective, Okamoto Kidô’s best-known work inaugurated the historical detective genre in Japan, spawning stage, radio, movie, and television adaptations as well as countless imitations. This selection of fourteen stories, translated into English for the first time, provides a fascinating glimpse of life in feudal Edo (later Tokyo) and rare insight into the development of the fledgling Japanese crime novel.

Once viewed as an exclusively modern genre derivative of Western fiction, crime fiction and its place in the Japanese popular imagination were forever changed by Kidô’s "unsung Sherlock Holmes." These stories—still widely read today—are crucial to our understanding of modern Japan and its aspirations toward a literature that steps outside the shadow of the West to stand on its own.

With an introduction by the translator

"This excellent translation by Ian MacDonald invites readers to enter the world of Edo. His 25-page introduction effectively orients readers in the ‘Hanshichi world,’ and also introduces the life of Okamoto Kido. . . . This translation is a major introduction to the history of popular literature in modern Japan." —Japanese Studies (winter 2008)

"An entertaining collection of detective stories. . . . The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi offers a special pleasure for readers familiar with the Tokyo area, where well-known place names appear on every page, but with startling different details." The Daily Yomiuri (21 April 2007)

"It’s a mystery how anyone survived old-time Edo. Danger stalked the geta-clad at every turn: vendettas by tetchy samurai, hauntings by ill-used whores, the occasional spirit abduction and even attack by river otter. Yes, river otter, those vicious, furry carnivores that might leap onto your umbrella during a rainstorm and scratch your face into ribbons. That is just some of the fascinating, if wacky and creepy Edo Period (1603–1867) world that pops up in [this] highly entertaining translation. . . . [An] engaging collection of stories [that will] appeal to mystery, history and river-otter fans alike." Asahi Weekley (14 April 2007)

"The stories are fast-paced and eventful . . . light-hearted, good-humoured, and generally fun." —

Author: Kido, Okamoto; Translator: MacDonald, Ian;
Ian MacDonald was awarded first prize in the Shizuoka International Translation Competition in 1997 and has translated the stories of Mishima Yukio, Kurahashi Yumiko, and Izumi Kyôka, among others.
Read an excerpt (PDF).


The Ghost of Ofumi

The Stone Lantern

The Death of Kampei

The Room over the Bathhouse

The Dancer’s Curse

The Mystery of the Fire Bell

The Daimyo’s Maidservant

The Haunted Sash Pond

Snow Melting in Spring

Hiroshige and the River Otter

The Mansion of Morning Glories

A Cacophony of Cats

Benten’s Daughter

The Mountain Party