Before Rampo: Kuroiwa Ruikō’s Loose Translation

In the late nineteenth century, the journalist Kuroiwa Ruikō (黒岩涙香) pioneered sensational serial stories by loosely adapting foreign crime literature in a way similar to Edgar Allan Poe. Ruikō also imported and critically challenged European crime fiction with his keen insight as a magazine editor. As one of the most successful editors of his time, Ruikō conceived of foreign crime literature as a profitable genre for Japan’s still immature publishing market.

The newspaper published on Oct. 1st, 1892 (Meiji 25)

An increase in the number of the reading public and demands for sensational stories in urban settings compelled him to feature adapted crime fiction in his paper Yorozu Chōhō 萬朝報 (1892-1940). His translations were loose renderings of foreign originals into Japanese settings and successfully catered to the public curiosity about crime and punishment in modernizing Japan. His adaptations were seamlessly integrated with other writings in his paper. News reports and crime fiction were not clearly demarcated, whether his stories were adapted from somewhere or solely his own (Saito, 13). At this stage, the detective fiction genre was articulated through translators, whose notion of “translation” covered a wide variety of writing and reading practices that revolved around the function of introducing Western knowledge. The detective fiction genre started in this compound form of translation around the contact zone. (Saito, 34)