The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in Japan, X2

Private Life Chapter 15: The Japanese translations

An advertisement for the 1992 Japanese translation of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The book was translated by Japanese Sherlockians Tsukasa Kobayashi and Akane Higashiyama, who have translated a number of Sherlockian classics for Japanese readers

I have written about these editions before, and as I have occasionally done during these chapters, I will be quoting myself a bit. I’ve also uncovered a few new details since addressing these books in 2014.

I also want to once again thank Masamichi (Mitch) Higurashi, “Baron Adelbert Gruner” in the Baker Street Irregulars. Before acquiring a copy of the translated edition, I wrote him asking if he could recommend a book dealer in Japan. As a gift, Mitch sent me a copy of the 1987 hardback. Equally impressive was a detailed bibliographic note that filled in the details about these two editions — a lifesaver since I can’t read Japanese.

It was an incredible gift and shows the great generosity one finds with many BSI. 

A few years later, I was in the lower level of Otto Penzler’s bookshop and found a copy of the Japanese paperback edition.  Better yet, the paperback copy contained a folded one-sheet advertisement for that edition. All good, right?

But the promotional page (published above) offered a tantalizing additional bit of information. It appears that before the first Japanese edition was published, chapters of Private Life translated by Tsukasa Kobayashi (“Baritsu” in the BSI) and Akane Higashiyama (also “Baritsu” in the BSI) were serialized in the Japanese edition of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

(There is a nice literary echo here. Several chapters of Starrett’s book appeared in U.S. magazines before or about the same time as the 1933 original edition came out.)

What to do about the EQMM chapters? After all, if I was going to own every publication of Private Life, these were essential. Quite by accident, I learned of a dealer on the West Coast who was offering a few issues of the Japanese EQMM. We exchanged email and sure enough, these were issues that had a few of the serialized chapters of Private Life.

Based on internal evidence and some guesswork, I believe my three issues contain the following chapters from the Pinnacle edition:

  • March 1980: “Enter Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”

  • November 1980: “Ave Sherlock.”

  • January 1981: “The Real Sherlock Holmes”

But my run of Japanese EQMM's with the Private Life chapters is not complete. So the hunt goes on.

From Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine No. 19, January 1981.

Mitch Higurashi’s greatly helpful information is cited whenever possible. Where Mitch’s name is not used, you’re reading my best guesswork. I try to make it clear which is which. If you find an error here, it's mine and not Mitch's.

With that in mind, let’s look at the books.

First Japanese edition, 1987

Japanese title: Sherlock Holmes No Shiseikatsu,

4. 75 X 7.5 inches, hardbound.

Published on Dec. 25, 1987 in Tokyo, Japan by Bungie Shunjush, 368 pages.

List price: 1,500 yen (NET)

ISBN: 4-16-341950-0

Cover jacket photo: Tsukasa Kobayashi

Cover jacket design: Masanori Sakata

Photos and illustrations not in the original edition were prepared by the translators.

Though the copyright notice is “1960 by The University of Chicago,” this edition is a translation of the 1975 Pinnacle Books paperback edition. It was that edition which contains Michael Murphy’s essay, “The Private Life of Vincent Starrett.” Murphy’s essay is included here.

There is also a translator’s afterword by Tsukasa Kobayashi and Akane Higashiyama on pp. 364-366.

Show here are the illustrated dust jacket, with and without the blue band, the cover with the name of the book in English and the copyright page.

Thoughts on the 1987 edition

  • The relationship between this edition and the Pinnacle edition goes beyond the text. Take a look at the style of the title that’s used on both the dustjacket cover and the book’s cover, shown above.

    Now compare this with the back cover of the Pinnacle edition.  The type style is very similar, as you can see.

  • Speaking of the book's dust jacket, take a look at the bas relief of Holmes just under the title. It is a reproduction of the plaque erected at the Reichenbach Falls in 1957 by the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota and the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

    I wonder if they ever thought that their plaque would be on the cover of Starrett’s masterpiece in Japan some 30 years later? 

    Probably not.

  • I like knowing that Murphy’s adulatory essay on the author, “The Private Life of Vincent Starrett,” is part of this edition. It makes information about Starrett available to the Japanese Sherlockian community. I like to think both Starrett and Murphy would have appreicated this..

Second Japanese edition, 1992

Again, Mitch has kindly provided the following information:

Japanese title: Sherlock Holmes no Shiseikatsu

4 1/8 X 5 7/8 inches, paperback.

Published on May 7, 1992 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in Tokyo, Japan, 328 pages

List price: 640 yen (NET)

ISBN: 4-309-46101-8

Cover jacket design: BISE and Kiyoshi Awazu

Photos and illustrations not in the original edition were prepared by the translators.

There is also a translator’s afterword by Tsukasa Kobayashi and Akane Higashiyama on pp. 318-321.

 Unlike American paperbacks, this paperback has a dust jacket. Illustrations of the jacket with and without the purple band are included here, along with the paperback’s cover and title page.

Thoughts on the 1992 paperback edition

  • Unlike the hardback, this is a translation of the 1933 original edition and carries a copyright notice of 1933 by Vincent Starrett.

  • Both editions are illustrated with photographs, but there are some differences from their American cousins. I’ve included a few scans of the photos here, showing one image found in all the editions (American, British and Japanese) of Beeton’s Christmas Annual, plus a few other images just found in the Japanese editions.

  • It’s worth noting that the Japan Sherlock Holmes Club is quite active. These are just a few of the books that have been published by the society or its members. Some are translations of American standard works; others are original Japanese commentary. For more information, they have an English website with more details.

 Next Time: A Guest Post on the 75th Anniversary edition.

Have patience, loyal readers. We have rounded the far turn and the end is in sight.