Japanese Literature : Seishi Yokomizo – Part 2 –
Kousuke first appeared in “Honjin Satsujin Jiken”, the Case of the Honjin Murder, which was a serialization in a magazine in 1946.
“Honjin”, in this case, was a hotel for officers of the government, top samurais like “daimyou” who were directory under the Shogun and noble people in the Edo period.
He looks rather dull and untidy, so people who don’t know about him tend to feel he is unreliable and criminal(s) think it’s easy to outwit him.
This reminds me of old TV detective “Columbo”, although Kindaichi was created much before.
In “Honjin”, there is a description that Kindaichi probably looks like Tony Gillingham from “The Red House Mystery” by A. A. Milne.
I have got no idea how similar they are because I’ve never read the Milne’s novel, although I have the book somewhere in my house.
Other descriptions about him in “Honjin” are:
- Looks like 25-26 years old.
- Medium (actually, rather small) build, fair-skin, shaggy hair, and a non-descript face.
- Wearing kimono and haori (a Japanese coat) which has too many wrinkles, “hakama” (a Japanese traditional trouser) which is too loose to distinguish its pleats, “tabi” socks on feet (almost worn-out with a hole at a toe) , worn-out “geta” (a Japanese traditional footwear), and a battered hat.
- Holding a walking stick.
His appearance is now seemed to be peculiar, but in “Honjin”, it is said this kind of fashion was not rare in Tokyo back then.
However, he kept this traditional fashion until his supposed-to-be last case, which is set in 1973.
His favourite hat is an “Okama-bou”. (okama shaped hat)
“(O)kama” is a Japanese deep pot with a round bottom.
“Tabi” is ankle-high socks with a separation between the big toe and other toes.
They are suitable when you wear a Japanese traditional footwear like “zouri” and “geta”.
“Geta” is a wooden clog with usually two wooden pieces (“Ha”, tooth in Japanese) below the base board and two thongs called “hana-o”.
Common “geta” have two teeth, but a “Tengu”, a Japanese monster, wears one tooth “geta”.
Also, there are “geta” with a shoe-like sole.
Kousuke’s name is from “Kyousuke Kindaichi” (1882-1971), who was a famous Japanese linguist from Iwate prefecture in north east area of Japan.
(I once had a Japanese dictionary edited by his son “Haruhiko”, who was also a linguist.)
The linguist “Kyousuke” is also referred in “Honjin”.
The detective “Kousuke” is probably from the same area as the linguist, because he has a strong accent of the area.
“Kousuke” has habits to scratch his head hardly and stutter badly when he get excited.
According to Yokomizo, the authour had a scratching habit himself.
Japanese Sherlock who can’t prevent murders
Kindaichi is often involved with a serial murder.
Despite his reputation as a “great” sleuth, he almost always fails to prevent murders as long as I know.
In “Yatsuhaka-mura” for example, six people were killed after Kindaichi’s arrival, and surprisingly he later boldly said “I knew who the killer is from the start”.
Still, he keeps his good name as long as he solves the case no matter how useless he is to save the intended victims.
Other sleuths created by Yokomizo
“Ningyou Sashichi” (“Ningyou” means puppet or doll) is probably the second best known character.
It’s set in the Edo era, and said to be one of the five great Edo-period mysteries.
There are 180 stories in total, and adapted to TV and films.
Actually I didn’t know it was written by Yokomizo, although I’ve heard of the name “Ningyou Sashichi”.
I have bought three e-books with short stories, so I’m going to read them some time in the near future.
“Rintarou Yuri” is also created by Yokomizo, but I even didn’t know the name.
#Seishi Yokomizo (1)
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