Book review: 『D坂の殺人事件…』 by Edogawa Rampo


I bought the complete Kogoro Akechi series (12 books in total) and my reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book per month. I will publish the review of each book at the end of the corresponding month instead of following my usual blog schedule for book reviews.

The collection is called 明智小五郎事件簿 (あけちこごろうじけんぼ) and is published by 集英社文庫.

The art on the cover is by artist Konomi Kita (喜多木ノ実)

We start with the first book of the series, which is a collection of short stories. It contains:

  • 「D坂の殺人事件」 (Dざかのさつじんじけん)
  • 「幽霊」 (ゆうれい)
  • 「黒手組」 (くろてぐみ)
  • 「心理試験」 (しんりしけん)
  • 「屋根裏の散歩者」 (やねうらのさんぽしゃ)

Quick rating: 🥰
Fans of classic detective novels are bound to love these short stories, as they feature intriguing cases and reflexions on crime and techniques of investigation.



Kogoro Akechi

This is my first time reading Kogoro Akechi, and I only knew that Edogawa Rampo was an admirer of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and that Kogoro Akechi was inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Apart from that, I didn’t know what to expect.

In the edition I bought, the stories are classified in order of occurrence rather than order of publication (though I don’t know if they differ much). Each story is dated, sometimes approximatively, based on the information gathered in the stories. For example, we know that the first one happens in “September 1920” while the last one of the book is dated “Spring 1923 (or 1922?)”.

In the first story, Kogoro Akechi is around 25 years-old and is not presented as a private detective. He is simply introduced as a 遊民 who has a great passion for and an immense knowledge of everything related to crime. Then he becomes a 素人探偵 in 『幽霊』 and even a 探偵の名人 in 『黒手組』 In 『心理試験』 we see him collaborating with the police. We don’t know however, how he managed to establish himself as a trusty detective.

Similarly to Sherlock Holmes, we have a first-person narrator who tells us the adventures of Akechi. Strangely though, he only appears in 『D坂の殺人事件』 (where he talks of Akechi as someone he met not long ago) and in 『黒手組』 (where he talks of Akechi as being a close friend). The other stories are told using the third person. In either case, the narrator often speaks directly to the reader, making us actively participating in the story.

There is a lot to love in these stories and if you are a fan of classic detective novels, you are bound to love the series.

First, I love Kogoro Akechi himself. He does not appear that much in the stories, sometimes only making a brief appearance towards the end for the final revelation, but he does have opinions on crime and investigation that place him as a unique figure in the world of fictional detectives.

We know that he believes the perfect crime possible, does not attach much importance to concrete proofs, thinks that witnesses are unreliable, warns against the danger of psychological tests, and only cares about the truth, not about punishment or retaliation. I find this last point particularly interesting, we’ll see how this develops in the next stories.

But Kogoro Akechi’s particular talent is the art of making people talk. He is able to extract information from people simply through conversation. His skill is described as 不思議な話術 and 巧みな話術 and people who experienced it say that Akechi made them talk as if he had used some magic.

I also loved how the stories incorporate reflections about crime and investigation. There are several references to German-American psychologist Hugo Münsterberg and a good place is given to psychology in several stories.

The stories are written for fans of detective novels and Edogawa Rampo mentions a lot of other famous works of fiction, including works by Junichiro Tanizaki, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Gaston Leroux. This technique not only makes his characters feel more real (as they mention works of fiction as works of fiction), but it also creates some kind of complicity with the reader: we all have read the same books. The reader is also expected to know the codes of the detective genre:


There are some nice hints at Sherlock Holmes. Not only are some adventures mentioned, but the same technics are sometimes used. For example, in 『心理試験』 the protagonist uses the same trick used by Holmes in A Scandal in Bohemia.

And of course, what would be a detective story without a good murder case? I found that all stories were very addictive. Once I started one, it was hard to put the book down. I loved every one of the short stories, but 『黒手組』 and 『心理試験』 were clearly my favourite, with clever and exciting outcomes.

『黒手組』 has a clever story, but what I loved the most is the coded message in it. This is the first time that I read a coded message in Japanese, so as a Japanese learner, this was very exciting. I could not, of course, crack the code by myself, but once the mechanism was explained, I was able to translate it, which felt very rewarding.

『心理試験』 is all about psychological test (based on free association of words) applied to criminology. Again, this was very interesting to read in Japanese and the story was really good.

Overall, the language level was surprisingly similar to any random contemporary mystery novel I am used to reading. I felt very relieved as I expected something much more difficult given that the stories were written and take place in the 20s, during the Taisho era.

The most difficult parts were descriptions of interiors. I had to look up words or, more often, use Google image to see what words like 鴨居 (かもい) and 敷居 (しきい) refers to. I also had to get used to seeing rooms measured in ken (間), and other details that made descriptions a little bit hard to understand at first read.

Finally, I will say that I love the edition I chose. I really appreciate the effort made to order the stories chronologically. They also added notes to explain details that are specific to the Taisho era and that would not necessarily make sense for contemporary readers.

I will start book II as soon as tomorrow!

If you are interested in reading the series, it is available on Aozora!

Book review: 『泣くな研修医』 by Yujiro Nakayama


Title: 『泣くな研修医』 (なくなけんしゅうい)
Author: Yujiro NAKAYAMA (中山祐次郎)
Published by 幻冬舎文庫
301 pages.

Yujiro Nakayama is a surgeon who has written several books of medical nonfiction. 『泣くな研修医』 is his first novel. It is followed by 『逃げるな新人外科医』.

Quick rating: 🥰
This is a novel that is engrossing from beginning to end, lets us learn a lot about the medical world, has emotional parts and an extremely relatable protagonist.


This is one of my favourite books read in 2020. I found it impossible to put down and was engrossed in it from beginning to end.

We follow Ryuji Amenori during his first year as a medical intern in Tokyo. Coming from the countryside, Ryuji has to get used to living in the capital and, most of all, find his place in the hospital and learn his job.

Following Ryuji in his daily tasks was fascinating, we learn a lot about how a hospital works and how difficult the job is. I particularly liked the realistic and sincere tone of the novel, as it does not show a heroic vision of the medical team that would do anything to save lives. On the contrary, Ryuji’s internship brings its lot of harsh realities.

The books also shows the difficulty of diagnosis through several cases of patients who come with vague symptoms such as stomach ache. Experience, rather than intellectual knowledge is key, and Ryuji learns the hard way that the years he spent studying medicine have not made him a doctor yet. Even something as simple as drawing a blood sample covers him with sweat.

As a result, it is very easy to identify with Ryuji even if you are not in the medical field. Being inexperienced in your job, making mistakes, not knowing how to interact with your superiors… this is all very relatable.

The only weaker point in the novel was maybe the part involving Ryuji’s personal life. As long as the novel stays focused on the hospital and medical procedures, it is excellent and engrossing, but the character of Ryuji, his family and his traumatic past could have been more developed in my opinion.

This being said, the novel stays a fantastic read. It was fascinating to dive into medical procedures and to follow Ryuji as he gets familiar with the medical jargon. I was also emotionally involved in the fate of Ryuji’s patients and the happy or tragic outcome of their stories.

To conclude, I really loved this book and did not want it to end. I heartily recommend it, even if you are not usually a reader of medical fiction. I will definitely include 『逃げるな新人外科医』 in my next order of Japanese books.

Book review: 『嫌われる勇気』 by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga


Title: 『嫌われる勇気』 (きらわれるゆうき)
Authors: Ichiro KISHIMI (岸見一郎) and Fumitake KOGA (古賀史健)
Published by ダイヤモンド社
294 pages

This book is a huge best-seller in Japan, and I bought it mainly out of curiosity. Ichiro Kishimi is a philosopher who has researched, translated, written or given lectures about Alfred Adler at numerous occasions. Fumitake Koga is an author who has been greatly inspired by Adlerian psychology and has had several conversations with Kishimi on Adler’s theories.


First of all, let me say that I was very surprised by this book, I did not expect it to be so good and have such solid content. I am not a big reader of self-help books, and while I do enjoy reading about productivity from time to time, I usually stay away from psychology. I thought that 『嫌われる勇気』 would be a collection of superficial thoughts about accepting oneself and how to find happiness, so I was very surprised by the depth of the book.

I didn’t know much about the psychology of Alfred Adler before and to be honest, this is not a topic that interests me. I remember studying a little bit of Freud at school, but it was not for me. After reading the book, I did try to read what I could find on Internet about Adler’s theories, but I found it annoying and just could not find any interest in what I was reading. So why was 『嫌われる勇気』 so engrossing?

The only answer I can find is that the authors did a remarkably good job at synthetizing and relaying Adler psychology in a way that is accessible and feels extremely concrete. What you read are not psychological concepts, but rather concrete examples of how this works, and how you can change the way you see things in order to free yourself from restraining beliefs.

The book adopts the form of a conversation between a sceptical young man and a philosopher. I was afraid that the conversation would simply be the philosopher talking and talking with occasional interjections by the sceptical interlocutor, but there is an excellent balance between the two fictional characters.

Overall, I am impressed by how the book manages to have such a deep content and to be so easy to read and so accessible. I do feel that I need to re-read it to get the most out of it, or that I should have taken notes along the way. I feel that this is not the book that will “change your life” after reading, but a book that requires some work on your part, if you really want to apply it to your life. Personally, as I said, this is not my usual type of read, and I am not very interested in psychology, so while I found this to be a good book, I don’t think that I am ready for a second read.

Overall, I loved reading this book, and I found that a lot of its content was interesting and worth thinking about. However, I am not that interested in applying it to myself, so this book did not “change my life”, but I did learn a lot about Adlerian psychology.

English translation: The book has been translated into English under the title The Courage to be Disliked, but I could not find the name of the translator(s) anywhere on the Internet. I downloaded the sample on my Kindle, but no translators there either. They mention the name of some agencies, but I don’t know if they are related to translation or not. Very frustrating…

Audiobook: There is an audio version of the book available on

Book review: 『岩田さん』ed. by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun


Title: 『岩田さん』(いわたさん)
Edited by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞)
Published by ほぼ日ブックス
219 pages

This book is a collection of interviews and talks between Shigesato Itoi and Satoru Iwata. There are also extracts from the series 「社長が訊く」 from the Nintendo website.


I bought this book partly because I was curious to learn more about Satoru Iwata, partly because I admire Shigesato Itoi very much, and partly because of the unanimous praise this book has received since its publication in 2019.

Most chapters are interviews with Satoru Iwata, and they read very easily. There are parts on Iwata’s experience at HAL Laboratory, first as a developer and then as president, when the company was in financial chaos. I found these parts most fascinating.

Also inspiring is Satoru Iwata’s vision of management and leadership, the importance he gives to communication with employees, and how he sees talent and value in others and is always willing to learn from them.


Other parts are of course more focused on Iwata’s contribution and role at Nintendo. His vision and hopes for the game industry were enlightening too. Things that seem obvious today were not some years ago, and introducing gaming consoles in everyone’s house actually required work and creativity. While it seemed natural for me to reach for the Switch controller when I want to relax, television has been the default choice for years. It was funny to learn that Iwata wanted to call controllers リモコン, to encourage people to reach for them as easily as they would reach for the TV remote control.


The book also contains chapters at the end where Shigeru Miyamoto and Shigesato Itoi talk about Satoru Iwata, how they met, how they worked together…

Even if you are not particularly interested in the game industry in general or Nintendo in particular, this book is still a great read. It is not only about leadership and gaming, it is about creativity and pursuing one’s vision, team work and communication. Even I who never reads books by or about CEOs found this one engrossing.

I will end this review on an inspiring quote:

「人が嫌がるかもしれないことや、人が疲れて続けられないようなことを、延々と続けられる人」、それが「天才」だとわたしは思うんです。考えるのをやめないこととか、とにかく延々と突き詰めていくこと。(…) 自分が苦労だと思わずに続けられることで、価値があることを見つけることができた人は、それだけでとてもしあわせだと思います。(p.136)

(These words by Satoru Iwata echo a quote by Shigesato Itoi that I have on my blog’s homepage almost since its creation and that have been my motto for my Japanese learning journey: “The more effort you put into something, the happier it will make you”.)

Book review: 『裁判官失格』 by Ryuichi Takahashi


Title: 『裁判官失格』 (さいばんかんしっかく)
Author: Ryuichi TAKAHASHI (高橋隆一)
Published by SB新書
187 pages

In this book, the author talks about his experience as a judge.


I bought this book because the obi announced that it would be about 死刑にすべきを無期懲役, among other things. I recently read a book on the death penalty that showed that the frontier between death penalty and life imprisonment can be dreadfully thin. Since then, I am interested in reading more on this topic. The title of this book with the word 失格, and the obi with its big 申し訳ありません and its mention of 告白 hint that the book might be about wrongful convictions.

This is the advertisement made by the publisher:

Unfortunately, the content is not even close to what the obi suggests. The death penalty topic is barely touched upon, and there is nothing to support the title. All that the author says is that judges struggle and doubt too, which seems obvious, but there are not enough concrete examples or cases that would show in which way a judge can make errors.

The chapters are also incredibly short (1 or 2 pages, sometimes a little more). Every time the author would talk about something interesting and promising or evoke a case, I would think that I had just read some kind of introduction, and that we would dive into this topic in the next pages. But then I turned the page and realised that this chapter was over and that we were moving on to another topic. I was disappointed many times.

Overall, it looks like the author wanted to talk about being a judge, rather than introduce the reader to the judiciary and the behind-the-scenes secrets. It also feels that, in spite of the catchy title, the author does not have much to reveal. Another thing that surprised me is the absence of structure. There are parts and chapters, but the book does not have any argumentative structure. It is more like a juxtaposition of thoughts and recollections. It also feels like the author is just talking about what he remembers, it does not feel like there is any work of research behind the book.

Overall, this book was not was I was looking for, I wanted to read a more researched and argumentative work on the judicial system in Japan. Moreover, this book definitely suffers from an overly catchy title and obi. The content, while being interesting, is quite pale compared to what was advertised, so it is easy to be disappointed.

December wrap up

My goal for December was to complete my 2020 reading challenge. In order to do this, I needed to read the last book of the Kaga series by Keigo Higashino and a literary award winner. I did both, and I read two more books as well: one is a novel, one is nonfiction.

『蛍川』 by Teru Miyamoto (宮本輝)

The edition I have contains two novellas from the Rivers series: 泥の河 and 蛍川. When I read 泥の河 earlier this year, I found it difficult to read it in Japanese, so I bought the translation by Roger K. Thomas and Ralph McCarthy (Rivers, Kurodahan Press, 2014). I am glad that I did because I don’t think that I could have fully appreciated this novella without the translation.

I would have understood the story without problems, but with literary fiction, just understanding what happens is not enough. If you cannot appreciate the author’s literary style or understand metaphorical descriptions, you miss a great part of the book.

To give you a concrete example, this description is much too difficult to me:


There is no way that I can appreciate this description by just reading it. If I look up some words, I can understand the meaning of it, but I cannot grasp how refined and elegant it is.

On the contrary, the English translation immediately struck me by its beauty. It is the kind of description that is so beautiful that you immediately need to re-read it:

“What they saw, suspended over the basin of a well-hidden waterfall, was an eerie, desolated dance of ghostly phosphorescence. It was as if an immeasurable silence and the stench of death had condensed into particles of light that aspired to heaven, rising up in brilliance, dimming as they fell, and shooting upward again, like sparks from a frozen fire.”

Roger K. Thomas and Ralph McCarthy’s translation is truly wonderful with breath-taking descriptions like the one above.

『祈りの幕が下りる時』 by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)

This is the last book of the Kaga series and with 443 pages, it is also the longest. There are a lot of characters in this novel so it’s best to write them down as they appear.

To me, this is one of the best books of the series. Higashino even said that:


It is true that this book explains a lot of things and wraps up the series, echoing in a subtle way the first one 卒業. Still, I hope that there will be more Kaga to come…

In any case, this book was a fantastic read, I personally found it easy to read, because I am used to the author’s style. It is not, however, the easiest Higashino I have read because the story is rather complex and the book quite long.

『恋する寄生虫』 by Sugaru Miaki (三秋縋)

I think that overall, this book was not for me, even though I love Miaki’s style and fictional world. I loved the first half of the book, but contrary to 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』, the mechanism behind the story did not work for me.

But what really surprised me in this novel was the Japanese level. This book is not as easy as you might think by looking at the cover. I have read other books by this publisher (メディアワークス文庫) and it is the most difficult I have read so far.

I already noticed that 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』 was not as easy to read as I had imagined, but this one is even more difficult. There are not a lot of dialogues, there are some long narrative passages that might be difficult for Japanese learners, and there are difficult descriptions about parasites with specialised vocabulary. If you have a good N2 level or above, you will be able to read this book without much struggle. But I would certainly not recommend it as a first book if you are looking for easy books to read in Japanese.

This being said, there is a manga adaptation of this novel, and a film adaptation is coming in 2021. This obviously can help with reading the novel if you really want to read it, and the story was great (just not fitting my personal taste).

『殺人犯はそこにいる』by Kiyoshi Shimizu (清水潔)

I have a lot of things to say about this book, but I’ll keep it for my book review. Let’s just say that I loved this book at first and then started loving it less and less, even though I still think that this is a very important book totally worth reading.

It was easier to read than I thought at first. I have never read true crime, and this being a nonfiction book, I was afraid that it would be difficult to read to me. The first half of the book, however, was very similar to books of crime fiction that I am used to reading. It was the same vocabulary and the beginning was very similar to a novel I have read recently: 『罪の声』. In both books, a journalist is asked to work on an old, unsolved case, with no particular means or connection to help him.

However, the second half was more difficult to read with a lot of DNA testing explanations that I found difficult to understand in Japanese. The narrative that used to be linear and straightforward also starts to be all over the place. The first half read like a novel with a chronological frame, but the second half was more difficult to follow and I found harder to understand what the author was pointing at.

As a result, I often left the book untouched for 4 or 5 days in a row, which was a very bad idea because it was very hard to get back into it. As I said, the narration in the second half or last third of the book tends to be more fragmented, and I when I picked up the book again I had a hard time remembering what we were talking about, or why the author was telling this, or where exactly we were in the chronological course of events.

So while the book started as an easy read, it ended up being the most strenuous read of the month…


I am so glad that I finished all my 2020 books before the end of the year (at least, the Japanese ones). I feel like I can make a fresh start in 2021, and it feels really good!

Happy New Year!