Sherlock Holmes in Japan

by Tsukasa Kobayashi

Sherlock Holmes was introduced into Japan in 1894 -- a mere seven years after the first publication of A Study in Scarlet (1887). Since then some ninety translators have worked on Japanese versions of the Canon and many books have been published in Japan relating to Sherlock Holmes. The Stories are known to almost all Japanese Children through simple language versions which have been avairable since the earliest times, and statistics from the libraries in junior high schools show that the stories have been the most requested books (though I regret to say that since the late 1980s Holmes has been challenged -- and on occasion surpassed -- by demand for the works of Agatha Christie). Sherlockian scholarship and research into the Canon has flourished with great vigour since the establishment of the 'Japan Sherlock Holmes Club' in 1977.
The stories have had a profound influence on our culture. Sherlock Holmes in widely used in Japan as a symbol of the detective in literature and is one of the most frequently used motifs in advertising. For those of us in the 'Japan Sherlock Holmes Club' and for many others he stands for more than the deerstalker and Inverness cape. He provides an outstanding example of justice and fair play. and teaches us the nature of detection and induction. His stories are even included as part of the "textbook of logic" which is used in the senior high shools in Japan.

(First appeared in "Back to Baker Street" July 1995)