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Friday, August 9, 2013

Sherlock Holmes in Japan

It's understandable that many of us Sherlockians are Anglo-American oriented. Sherlock Holmes was an Englishman who was "always happy to meet an American" (NOBL). But the world of Sherlock Holmes is much bigger.

Facebook puts me in touch with Sherlockians in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Poland, and Portugal. Now I have learned that the Japan Sherlock Holmes Club is the largest society of Holmes fans in the world, with 1200 members at its height. One of the members of that club, Hirayama Yuichi, BSI, has just published a fascinating book of essays under the marvelous title East Wind Coming.

Hirayama (his family name, which traditionally comes last even though it is first on the book's cover) edited and published The Shoso-in Bulletin, an excellent international Holmes journal in English, from 1991 until he ended publication in 2004. Many of the essays in this collection appeared there first.

One of the delights of the book is the breadth of the subject matter. As one might expect there is a lot about the state of Sherlockiana in Japan and a lot about Japanese detective fiction in general. Several other essays also look east. I particularly liked the article about the difficulties in translating the word "study" in A Study in Scarlet.

But there's far more of interest in this book than the Japanese material. Other highlights include a second look at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London (Hirayama finds it dissatisfying but impossible for a Sherlockian to ignore) and a very clever argument that Holmes wore dentures which he used to good effect in his disguises (Hirayama is a dentist by profession).

In an essay called "The Game is Afoot!" Hirayama draws a wonderful distinction between his life as a Sherlockian and his membership in the Arthur Conan Doyle Society: "It is one thing to play a game of Monopoly, and another to study someone who invented monopoly. Playing the game is not a substitute for studying history. They are completely different matters." 

This Japanese Sherlockian and the British scholar John Hall play the game in a most interesting way in the final section of the book. Going story by story through the first nine Adventures, each challenges the other with up to three questions provoked by the story. The answers range from scholarly to highly inventive.  

This book will find a nice place on my shelves next to the few copies of The Shoso-in Bulletin that I happen to have.

East Wind Coming is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones . Fans outside the US and UK can get free delivery from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nookand Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

1 comment:

  1. Germany, Sweden , Italy and Portugal. And what about Poland, I wonder? ;-P CR