Japan's Edgar Allen Poe

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

Hello Everyone!


Tomorrow, Japanese Table will meet at Qdoba at 6:30.  Hope everyone can make it!
明日、6時半にQdobaで、Japanese Tableがありますので、よろしくお願いします。


Japanese Counter of the Week:

In Japanese, counter words or counters (josūshi 助数詞) are used along with numbers to count things, actions, and events.

ぶ bu    部    Copies of a magazine or newspaper, or other packets of papers


Japanese Fact of the Week


When it comes to Japanese fiction, Edogawa Rampo (pseudonym of Hirai Tarō, 1894–1965) is the acknowledged grand master of Japan’s golden age of crime and mystery fiction. In the early part of his career, he created the Japanese gothic mystery, developing the work of Edgar Allan Poe and related nineteenth century writers in a distinctly Japanese form.  Before Rampo died, in 1965, he had written and edited over twenty books. But this month, an unpublished manuscript of an essay by Edogawa Rampo, dating back to 1936 and recently found in Rikkyo University’s archives, shows that the mystery novelist suffered anxiety despite the high popularity of his works.


Edogawa Rampo — whose name is meant to be read as a punning reference to ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ — remains popular and influential in Japan. His work remains in print, in various different editions, and his stories provide the background for a steady stream of film, television, and theatrical adaptations. Japan’s annual prize for the best book by a mystery author is awarded in his name, and he is one of several writers and artists who made the area of Tokyo west of Ikekuburo Station famous as the “Montparnasse of Tokyo.”  His stories continue to be adapted into Japanese horror movies, and his work has influenced a generation of anime and manga artists and writers.  


The newly uncovered document comprises 38 manuscript paper sheets. A team of researchers led by Seikei University Prof. Yusuke Hamada found it among papers that Rampo’s family members entrusted to Rikkyo University after his death.  The manuscript is dated from June 18 to July 5 of 1936. The title was rewritten several times from, for example, “Dare nimo Atenai Tegami” (A letter not to be sent to anyone), to finally “Dokugo” (Monology).  In the margin of the paper sheets, he wrote “Not to be published” in red ink.


Edogawa Ranpo was very much inspired by the novels and stories of Tanizaki Junichiro, who did write many of such erotically tinted, macabre stories in the first decades of the 20th century, starting with the famous The Tattooer from 1910.  In the manuscript, he confessed, “For me now, writing novels is grotesque reality.” The manuscript indicates that he was worried about his work as a novelist even though his stories, such as those in the “Kaijin Niju Manso” (The Fiend with Twenty Faces) series, were highly popular.

However, although some of his works are known for their erotic, grotesque, or bizarre themes, he also wrote a number of novels for young readers that involved a young boy named Kogoro and the adolescent Kobayashi as the leaders of a group of young sleuths called the "Boy Detectives Club" (少年探偵団 Shōnen tantei dan). These works were wildly popular and are still read by many young Japanese readers, much like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew mysteries are popular mysteries for adolescents in the English-speaking world. In fact, the popular Manga and Anime character Detective Conan takes his first name (Conan) from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his last name (Edogawa) from Edogawa Rampo.  



His influence is widespread. In May, at Studio Ghibli (Hayao Miyazaki’s studio), the Mitaka no Mori Ghibli Museum opened a new exhibit featuring artwork by Miyazaki inspired by Ghost Tower, a 1939 mystery novel by Edogawa Ranpo.  The exhibit, which is be called “Welcome to the Ghost Tower” (or in Japanese Yurei-to he yokoso), features artwork by Miyazaki and introduce Edogawa Ranpo’s novel through manga. Though Edogawa Ranpo was a prolific and original writer, Ghost Tower was actually based on Ruikō Kuroiwa’s adaption of A Woman in Grey, published in 1898 and written by British author Alice Muriel Williamson. Miyazaki, who first encountered Edogawa Ranpo’s Ghost Tower in middle school, took inspiration from the novel for his 1979 film The Castle of Cagliostro.


He’s even inspired musicians - at Ozzfest this year, Americans were introduced to Ningen Isu, whose name literally means “Human Chair,” a Japanese heavy metal band in the vein of old-school traditional heavy metal heroes.  Ningen Isu is the name of one of Ranpo's more popular works; in fact, that story was not only made into a film of its own, it also inspired Michel Gondry’s short film “Interior Design”, which was featured in the compilation film “Tokyo!”


Interested in more stories by Rampo?  Check out Amazon.com



Or, you can check out Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace, an upcoming TV anime inspired by the works of Japanese mystery author Edogawa Rampo.  2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Rampo's passing, and this new anime looks appropriately mysterious and spooky to bear the name of the influential writer.

Here’s a trailer:



The Japan News