Natsuhiko Kyogoku

Natsuhiko Kyogoku
Born (1963-03-26) 26 March 1963
Hokkaido, Japan
Occupation Writer
Language Japanese
Period 1994–present
Genre Fiction, mystery, horror
Notable works The Summer of the Ubume, Requiem from the Darkness
Notable awards Mystery Writers of Japan Award (1996)
Naoki Prize (2004)
In this Japanese name, the family name is Kyogoku.

Natsuhiko Kyogoku (京極 夏彦 Kyōgoku Natsuhiko, born March 26, 1963) is a Japanese mystery writer, who is a member of Ōsawa Office.[1] He is a member of the Mystery Writers of Japan and the Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan.[2][3]

Three of his novels have been turned into feature films; Mōryō no Hako, which won the 1996 Mystery Writers of Japan Award, was also made into an anime TV series, as was Kosetsu Hyaku Monogatari, and his book Loups=Garous was adapted into an anime feature film. Vertical have published his debut novel as The Summer of the Ubume.[4]


Kyogoku was born in Otaru, Hokkaido. After dropping out of Kuwasawa Design School, he worked as a publicity agent and established a design company. In 1994, Kodansha published his first novel The Summer of the Ubume (姑獲鳥の夏 Ubume no Natsu). He has since written many novels, and received two Japanese literary prizes; Kyogoku won the 16th Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize for Nozoki Koheiji (覘き小平次) in 2003, and won the 130th Naoki Prize for Nochi no Kōsetsu Hyaku Monogatari (後巷説百物語) in 2004.[5]

Most of his works are concerned with yōkai, creatures from Japanese folklore; he describes himself as a yōkai researcher. This preference was strongly influenced by Shigeru Mizuki (水木しげる), who is an eminent yokai specialist.[6] Kyogoku participates in Mizuki's World Yōkai Association and is a member of the Kanto Mizuki Association and the Research Institute of Mysterious and Marvelous East Asian phenomena.


Kyogoku considers yōkai folklore to be a form of sublimation and applied this idea to his novels.[7] His works are often advertised as yōkai novels by the publisher, and their covers reflect this. Nevertheless, in his writing, yōkai themselves don't appear, except as fables, which serve to explicate the criminal characters' motives. For example, in The Summer of the Ubume, ubume is introduced as part of a ghostly expectant mother folklore, considered to be an expression of hate.[8] However, ubume doesn't actually appear until the end.


In Kyogoku's works, especially the Kyōgokudō (京極堂) Series, the main character Akihiko Chuzenji (中禅寺 秋彦 Chūzenji Akihiko) solves a case by clearing up a possession; this technique is called Tsukimono-Otoshi, the most striking aspect of his novels. This term is from Onmyōdō: the exorcism of yōkai, demons or ghosts. Chuzenji does Tsukimono-Otoshi as part of his rhetoric he uses in exposing the criminal character's hidden pathos, and likens the emotion to a particular yōkai folklore. This often solves the mystery, but this result is only an unexpected by-product for Chuzenji.

Book Design

Another characteristic of his work is book design: cover, thickness and layout. As explained above, he has founded a design company before, and after he became a novelist, has been working as a designer too. Therefore, remarkably for novelists, he is always concerned with the binding process of his works directly, and sometimes designs other novelists' books, e.g., Gankyū Kitan (眼球綺譚), Yukito Ayatsuji (綾辻行人).[9]


Kyogoku's books' covers are elaborately designed to match their themes. In Kyōgokudō Series, the covers always represent yōkai featured in each weird story. In Kodansha Novels version of this series, the covers are illustrations drawn by Shirou Tatsumi (辰巳四郎) and Ayako Ishiguro (石黒亜矢子), and in Kodansha Bunko version, the covers are photographs of paper dolls made by Ryō Arai (荒井良). In Kosetsu Hyaku Monogatari Series, the covers also represent yōkai, and as for the first edition of this series, the reverse sides of covers are fearful ukiyo-e which connect the story, e.g., Ono no Komachi Kyūsōzu (小野小町九相図). On the other hand, unlike these horror works, in Dosukoi Series, because these novels are comedies burlesquing other Japanese novels, the covers always represent funny fat sumo wrestlers.


Almost all Kyogoku's books, especially Kyōgokudō Series, are very thick in comparison with other Japanese novels. For example, Tesso no Ori (鉄鼠の檻) is 826 pages long, Jorōgumo no Kotowari (絡新婦の理) is 829 pages long, Nuribotoke no Utage, Utage no Shitaku (塗仏の宴 宴の支度) and Nuribotoke no Utage, Utage no Shimatsu (塗仏の宴 宴の始末), a novel in two volumes, is 1248 pages long in total. Because of the thickness, his books look like bricks or dice, and are often called "brick books" or "dice books".[10]


The layout of Kyogoku's writing is arranged according to his own rules. A sentence never crosses over a page break. Moreover, every time a new version is published, Kyogoku always lays out the work again according to this rule. He explained the intention, "I made it possible for readers to stop reading whenever they want to. If one sentence steps over, readers who are weary of reading must turn over the page. I sense that is contemptible, because not interest to the story but physical factor force readers to read."[11] Second, many kanji characters in his writing are invariably given kana characters alongside. Kyogoku can use DTP software perfectly, so he freely writes old-fashioned characters and ateji characters with the purpose of capturing old Japanese atmosphere in his novels. However, such characters are difficult even for Japanese people to read. Therefore, giving kana characters alongside kanji characters in his writing is essential for readers to be able to understand those characters' meaning.[12] Third, sentences are marked out by entering null lines before and after them on purpose. That technique enables readers to perceive the curious blank where the important sentences are written.[13] In these ways, Kyogoku always keeps readability in mind, and dedicates himself not only to sentences but also the layout.[11] These qualities do not, however, carry over to the English translations of his books.

Works in English translation

Kyōgokudō series
Loups-Garous series
The Wicked and the Damned: A Hundred Tales of Karma series
  1. "The Bean Washer" (original title: "Azukiarai"), trans. Ian M. MacDonald (Creek & River Co., Ltd, 2015)
  2. "The Fox Priest" (original title: "Hakuzōsu"), trans. Ian M. MacDonald (Creek & River Co., Ltd, 2015)
  3. "The Flying Heads" (original title: "Maikubi"), trans. Ian M. MacDonald (Creek & River Co., Ltd, 2015)
  4. "Shibaemon the Raccoon-Dog" (original title: "Shibaemon Tanuki"), trans. Ian M. MacDonald (Creek & River Co., Ltd, 2016)
  5. "Chojiro the Horse-Eater" (original title: "Shio no Choji"), trans. Ian M. MacDonald (Creek & River Co., Ltd, 2016)
  6. "The Willow Woman" (original title: "Yanagi Onna"), trans. Ian M. MacDonald (Creek & River Co., Ltd, 2016)
  7. "The Corpse at the Crossroads" (original title: "Katabira-ga-Tsuji"), trans. Ian M. MacDonald (Creek & River Co., Ltd, 2016)
Standalone crime novel
Short story



Kyōgokudō Series

Kyōgokudō (京極堂) Series[20]

Koten Kaisaku Series

Koten Kaisaku (古典改作) Series

Kōsetsu Hyaku Monogatari (A Hundred Tales of Karma) Series

Kōsetsu Hyaku Monogatari (A Hundred Tales of Karma) Series

Loup-Garou Series

Standalone novels

Short story collections

Picture book

TV and film adaptations

Animated film
Animated TV series


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