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January 27, 2023

Japanese Night at the Humanitas Book Shop in Cismigiu

On Thursday evening, the Humanitas Book Shop in Cismigiu hosted an encounter based on the recent release of the volume of short stories “The Sake Merchant’s Daughter”, authored by Japanese writer Kido Okamoto.

The book was released in the “Denisa’s Shelf” collection at the Humanitas Fiction Publishing House.

The author of this book, Japanese writer Kido Okamoto, is considered the father of the murder mystery genre in the Japanese literature. His fame in his home country is comparable to that of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the famous character Sherlock Holmes in the Western world.

By the stories of the cycle “Hanshichi torimonocho” (“The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi”), published during 1917 – 1937, Kido Okamoto creates the emblematic personality of inspector Hanshichi, renowned for the precise solutions to the most complicated and enigmatic cases. The book “The Sake Merchant’s Daughter” includes fourteen stories included in the initial three volumes of “Hanshichi torimonocho”, while the last six stories are translated for the first time in a foreign language.

Inspector Hanshichi was born in 1823 and the action of the stories is placed at the end of the Edo period, carrying the reader through samurai residences, shops, tea houses, geisha houses and, obviously, on the streets of the Nippon capital.

The reader discovers a world filled with phantoms and spirits whose existence cannot be proved, of unimaginable superstitions, of examples worth following but also of impostors that are difficult to reveal.

Each story starts in a frame that’s characteristic for the Edo age: celebrations spreading the perfume of history, references to Kabuki performances or to literary works, hints to Shogun censorship or to principles that would disappear soon, determining the hero to declare at one point: “The wrongdoers of yesterday were perhaps more honest at the bottom of their hearts than the decent people of our days.”

The son of a Samurai, Kido Okamoto (1872-1939) has worked as a reporter for some of the newspapers of the Nippon capital. This activity provided him a wide perspective upon the changes that occurred after Japan opened its borders towards the Western World, following the Meiji Revolution (1868).

When publishing the stories included in the cycle “The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi”, Okamoto had already won literary fame as a theatre critic and as the author of historical stories and of over 200 Kabuki plays. The most famous of them are “Shuzenji” (1911) and “Bancho sarayashiki” (1916).

In his plays, he combined the nostalgic atmosphere of the traditional theatre with the new shingeki trend, due to his intention to outline the changes that assaulted Japan, and adapted Occidental artistic forms to Oriental patterns.

The event was attended by His Excellence Mr. Keiji Yamamoto, Japan’s Ambassador in Romania, Angela Hondru, famous translator and nipponologist, Elisabeta Lasconi, literary critic and Serban Georgescu, the coordinator of the “Angela Hondru” Japanese Studies Centre of the Romanian-American University.

The meeting was moderated by Denisa Comanescu, the general manager of Humanitas Fiction.



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