The Ginza Ghost is a collection of short stories by the sadly short-lived writer, Keikichi Osaka, an important early figure in the honkaku style, of whom a brief biography is given in the introduction.
The stories included are:
The Hangman in the Department Store – an employee of the store is strangled, oddly wounded and thrown from the department store roof in a seemingly impossible scenario.
The Phantasm of the Stone Wall – a woman is murdered on a scorchingly hot day and two kimono dressed figures are seen fleeing from the scene of the crime. The culprits seem obvious – twin brothers from the same household. But are they really the killers?
The Mourning Locomotive – in which, several pigs die horribly. But why is one train so accident prone and lethal to porcine-kind?
The Monster of the Lighthouse – a rock too heavy for human hands destroys part of a lighthouse. A hideous, Lovecraftian Octopus-Monster is seen. What earthly explanation could there be?
The Phantom Wife – a woman is cruelly discarded by her husband and subsequently kills herself. After her death, her husband is murdered: by, the evidence suggests, her really ticked-off ghost.
The Mesmerising Light – a car on a mountain road commits a hit and run, leaving a severely injured man behind. An attorney picks up the victim and phones ahead to seal off the road – but, with no way forwards or back, the car somehow vanishes completely.
The Cold Night’s Clearing – ski tracks leading from a scene of horrific murder suddenly stop as if the skier had vanished or flown clean away. And what happened to the child of the house?
The Three Madmen – in a small, impoverished mental home there remain only three inmates. Then, one day, there is a break-out and a terrible murder. Which madman is responsible?
The Guardian of the Lighthouse – On a stormy night, only one man is left to man the lighthouse all night through. When his fellow keepers are able to return, the lighthouse is still functioning but the man has disappeared. Did he fall into the sea or has something even more sinister happened?
The Demon in the Mine – a fire in a mine leads to one worker being sealed up in a room to prevent the fire spreading. But it seems his ghost is angry and seeks a bloody revenge…
The Hungry Letter-Box – a love-struck barber finally plucks up the courage to talk to the woman he loves. Or, at least, to write her a letter. But, when he realises that he posted it without a stamp and waits for the postman next day, he finds that the letter has vanished. Are the gods of love frowning on him? Did the letterbox really eat his letter? Or is there another explanation?
The Ginza Ghost – there is a murder in Ginza and a number of witnesses can swear to the killer. But her body is found shortly after – and is proved to have died before she killed her victim. Could it be her ghost who was responsible?
‘Ghosts’ are a recurring theme, as are the vagaries of Fate. There is much that is tragic in these stories, with several downbeat endings. Justice does not always prevail.
This is an imaginative, ingenious and quietly bleak collection of stories. I liked it without loving it, but the writer’s skill is evident. It would have been interesting to see what he could have done with a full-length novel. Perhaps that apocryphal manuscript mentioned in the introduction, will be discovered someday.
Any Other Business
Spoiler for The Guardian of the Lighthouse: The tragedy of this was undercut for me by wondering – was there no way for Masayoshi to leave some kind of note? Or an arrow or something?