Japanese Mysteries Before World War II
The early popularity of mystery fiction in Japan was clearly influenced by the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which sought to modernize Japan along Western lines. During the early Meiji era, existing Japanese crime fiction provided a base on which Western mysteries could be built. The Kabuki plays of Kawatake Mokuami (Yoshimura Yoshisabur, also Kawatake Shinshichi; 1816-1893) featured underworld figures such as thieves, murderers, and swindlers as primary characters and were innovative works within the Japanese tradition. Kanagaki Robun (Nozaki Bunz; 1829-1894), a comedic writer, depicted evil women and humorous characters in works that appealed to Japanese audiences for their adept depiction of new, confusing Western influences. However, it was Ruiko Kuroiwa’s “Muzan” that established the tradition of Western-style mysteries written by Japanese authors.
Japanese mystery fiction began to follow two different trends. Some writers created realistic stories emphasizing logic and pretending to tell of true criminal investigations, and others wrote mysteries that embraced the irrational and bizarre inherent in the notion of crime as a transgression against social norms. Tanizaki Jun’ichir (1886-1965) became part of the latter group when he wrote his influential Shisei (1910; the tattoo).
The magazine Shin Seinen (1920-1950; new youth) published both foreign detective stories in translation as well as original Japanese works....
(The entire section is 402 words.)