Check Out These Five Japanese Crime Writers (Who Aren't Higashino Keigo) - Dcgridmod (2023)

Until recently, non-Japanese interested in reading Japanese mystery novels were mostly out of luck. Virtually the only author whose works received English translations with any regularity was Higashino Keigo. As of 2023, nearly a dozen of his novels, including entries in the Detective Galileo and Police Detective Kaga series, are available in English.

Keigo is a fabulous writer and his works are well worth a read for any mystery fan. Dr. Yukawa Manabu – aka “Detective Galileo” – is a fascinating character, a physicist who uses his scientific mind to help him solve complicated crimes. Novels like The devotion of suspect X And Under the midnight sun will challenge even the most avid reader of crime novels. (Note: Links to Amazon are affiliate links.)

But Keigo is far from the only talented Japanese mystery novelist out there. There are so many more, and some of them are finally starting to make their way to the West.

In recent years, publisher Pushkin Press has launched its Pushkin Vertigo label, which focuses on detective fiction. The label publishes English translations of works by authors such as Friedrich Duerrenmatt, Baroness Orczy, Frederic Dard and many others. Several Japanese authors have published their works in English under the Pushkin Vertigo imprint. [1] Here are five that mystery fans should definitely check out!

Yokomizo Seishi

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One of the most iconic names in Japanese detective fiction is Kindaichi Kosuke. Author Yokomizo Seishi brought this eccentric detective to life. A scruffy-looking fellow with a stutter who tends not to leave much of an impression on people who meet him, Kindaichi is nonetheless able to solve the most complicated of murders using only his powers of observation. Many of Kindaichi’s novels feature closed-room murder mysteries, which Yokomizo found particularly compelling. They often face the consequences of Japanese society’s problems. Examples include arranged marriages, lingering remnants of the feudal class system, and family trauma and separations caused by war.

An extremely prolific author despite his frail health, Yokomizo wrote a total of 77 books with Kindaichi. Until recently, only Curse of the Inugami never been translated into English. Now, Pushkin Vertigo aims to bring a large number of Kindaichi books to an English-speaking audience. Currently, Pushkin translates about one Kindaichi novel a year. As of 2023, five are available. Translators involved in the project include Louise Heal Kawai, Yumiko Yamazaki, Bryan Karetnyk and Jim Rion. [2]

Where to start: The Honjin Murders

Ayatsuji Yukito

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The mystery genre fascinates Ayatsuji Yukito, a fact that is evident in all of his published works. As one of his characters puts it, he sees crime novels as thrilling puzzles to solve and deals with topics such as – in his own words – “famous detectives, grand mansions, suspicious residents, bloody murders, bewildering situations, [and] shocking schemes”. [3]

Ayatsuji is a founding and still active member of the Honkaku Mystery Writers’ Club, an organization dedicated to writing honkaku – meaning “authentic” or “orthodox” – mysteries containing elements such as those mentioned above.

Another quite prolific author, Ayatsuji has written several loosely related mystery series as well as standalone novels in the mystery and horror genres. The best known of these is the Bizarre House or Bizarre Mansion Murders series, which focuses on a series of buildings with unique layouts and architectural quirks that play a major role in the crimes committed there (similar to Netflix’s recent release Glass Onion.) So far, two books, The Decagon House murders And The Mill House murders, are available through Pushkin Vertigo translated by Ho-Ling Wong. His horror series Other it is also available through Yen Press and is translated by Karen McGillicuddy. [4]

Where to start: The Decagon House murders

Shimada Soji

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A “fair play” mystery is one in which the author provides all the clues to the audience first the detective reveals the killer and summarizes who, how and why. The author encourages readers of a fair play detective story to solve the crime themselves.

Examples of fair play mysteries include most of the Poirot stories by Agatha Christie, the movies Knives out And glass onion, and the numerous novels of the Japanese author Shimada Soji. Shimada, a proponent of Honkaku mysteries along with Ayatsuji, strongly believes that a good detective novel is not just an interesting story, but a completely solvable puzzle presented to the reader. Many of his books also include a short interlude in which a narrator tells the reader that he now has all the clues needed to identify the whodunnit.

Yet another prolific author on this list, Shimada’s works are generally divided into the Detective Mitarai Kiyoshi series and the Detective Yoshike Takashi series, named after their respective protagonists. He has also written several independent mystery novels and short stories. He is often referred to as the “Uncrowned King” of Japanese mystery writers, as he has received many nominations for prestigious awards but rarely won them.

Pushkin Vertigo has published two of his novels, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders And Murder in the crooked house. Both are from the Detective Mitarai Kiyoshi series. Zodiac murders was translated by Ross and Shika Mackenzie and crooked house by Louise Heal Kawai. [5]

Where to start: The Tokyo Zodiac Murders

Takagi Akimitsu

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Takagi Akimitsu was a man of many passions. All his life he studied metallurgy, law, history of espionage, detective genre and other subjects. He had an interest in the history and culture of tattooing in Japan. Photographs of him are currently the largest archive of images on the subject. The nonfiction book The Tattoo Writer collect these images.

His most famous novel, The Tattoo Murder Case, a mystery about the death and mutilation of a woman with tattoos all over her body, reflects her passion and knowledge on the subject.

The Case of the Tattoo Murder is the first in his Detective Kamizu Kyosuke series, which consists of over a dozen novels. He has also written a shorter series with prosecutor Kirishima Saburo. The works in this series combine the genres of mystery and legal thriller and reflect Takagi’s extensive study and interest in the Japanese legal system. Pushkin Vertigo recently released a new translation of The Case of the Tattoo Murder translated by Deborah Boehm. Soho Crime has also translated and published his Honeymoon to nowhere And The informant from the Kirishima Saburo series. [6]

Where to start: The Case of the Tattoo Murder

Togawa Masako

Togawa Masako saw the limited role women often played in the mystery genre and decided to change that.

In Togawa’s numerous novels, women are not just beautiful victims for men to kill, mourn and avenge. Women are heroes, women keep secrets, women are active participants in crime and shady dealings, and yes, some women are killers. In addition to pioneering the role of women in Japanese mystery novels, Togawa Masako was also a singer, songwriter, actress, cabaret owner, feminist, urban planner, and lesbian icon.

Amidst her plethora of careers, Togawa Masako has written over 30 novels and dozens of short stories. She was open to drawing inspiration for her novels from her own experiences as a politically and socially active woman living in Tokyo. Her debut novel The master key, won the Edogawa Ranpo Prize. Both The master key And The woman killer are available through Pushkin Vertigo, translated by Simon Grove. Grove also translated Slow fuse And A kiss of fire, published by Dodd Mead. [7]

Where to start: The master key

These are just a few of hundreds of mystery novels written by dozens of talented Japanese authors. It is hoped that the translation of these works will be the start of a growing trend. It’s definitely possible that more and more Japanese crime novels will finally make it to the West in the next few years. If you are interested in getting into Japanese mysteries, there has never been a better time than now!


[1] Pushkin dizzy.

[2] JP Book Registry.

[3] Ayatsuji, Yukito. The Decagon House murders. Published by Pushkin Vertigo. 2020.

[4] Kodansha Bunko. “Ayatsuji Yukito’s House.”


[6] Book Registry Jp.高木彬光のおすすめランキング.


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