Masaaki Kishi on Quillion Sleigh

What happens when researchers don't read

By William Wetherall

First drafted late 1970s
First posted 18 September 2006
Last updated 18 September 2006

See Tsuzuki interview for Tsuzuki's reaction to Kishi's comparison of Quillion Sleigh with Mr. Moto and other comments about "Mr. Sleigh".

Just as I had first encountered Matsumoto Seicho in 1970, I also first cross paths with Tsuzuki Michio while living in Japan at this time. Hence my excitement when opening up the Summer 1975 issue of Journal of Popular Culture and reading the title of the first article, "Images of Americans in Japanese Popular Culture" by Masaaki Kishi (Volume IX, Number 1, pages 1-9), and then the very first paragraph (page 1):

The Life and Reasoning of Quillion Sleigh (1972) is the first Japanese detective story to have an American as its hero. Mr. Sleigh is an American college instructor turned avant-garde poet. As an expatriate living in Tokyo, he solves a murder case involving a Negro. Mr. Moto, a Japanese detective J. P. Marquand created in 1936, had to wait thirty-six years for his counterpart to appear in Japan. It remains to be seen, however, whether Mr. Sleigh will succeed in establishing his status as firmly as Mr. Moto. In a homogeneous country like Japan, there is little room for an alien hero.

Popular entertainment both reflects and modifies social climate. When the cold war ended, Chinese took the place of Russians as villains, as is sesen in the creation of Doctor No by Ian Fleming as an adversary to James Bond and in the revival of the Fu Manchu series of the early '60s. Then, almost overnight, the Chinese image in the West changed or was made to change from Fu Manchu to Charlie Chan. If the present detente continues, inconvenienced will be writers specializing in the spy novel. They can no longer create Chinese or Russian antagonists as freely as before. Is this the case with the images of Americans in Japanese popular fiction?


1. A Chinese mastermind criminal Sax Rohmer created in The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (1913).

2. A Chinese detective Earl D. Biggers created in The House Without a Key (1925).

The hair on my arms stood at attention. Kishi's canvas was so broad, his brush so big, and his strokes so sweeping it was hard to tell if what on the surface appeared to be political and fictional astuteness would prove to be innocence.

Kishi's conclusion

I flipped through the article and saw it was very short, 9 pages of text followed by 4 pages of tables. I also noticed the text was dense with italicized titles and dates -- not a good sign.

I decided to read the conclusion next (pages 8-9).

Americans As the New Hero

The early '70s saw the birth of a new type of hero -- Americans living in Japan. Quillion Sleigh made his debut as an amateur detective in 1972. He was followed by Mr. Jordan appearing in A Tokyo Hatcher Rhapsody (1973). Sleigh and Jordan have much in common. They are both expatriates, critical of the U.S. policy and teachers of English. It remains doubtful whether Mr. Sleigh or Mr. Jordan will succeed in establishing his status as a hero in fiction, because their world is a limited one -- a world still alien to the general public. . . .


There is no fixed image of an American in Japanese popular literature equivalent to that of Moto. The world of popular literature is essentially a narrow one. It will be very difficult for a hero who is an American to compete with his Japanese rivals for popularity. Can Mr. Sleigh expect to be as popular as Kogoro Akechi as a private eye? As the heroine of Western Style (1968) points out, "a foreigner has something about him that Japanese people cannot understand." There is little chance for Americans to become best seller heroes. With more Americans coming to Japan, the likes of Mr. Sleigh will have more chances to appear in popular fiction. It is unlikely, however, that they will implant their image as a popular hero in the minds of Japanese people in the near future.

The treatment of foreigners and foreign countries in fiction by Japanese writers has not received the attention it deserves. A comprehensive study of the problem is yet to be made. The only book so far to be written on this subject is Chun Ill Pak's Korean Images in Modern Japanese Literature published by Mirai-sha in 1969.

With this in the back of my mind, I checked out the tables. Kishi lists Tsuzuki's Quillion Sleigh title in Table A, which bears the heading "A List of Novels and Short Stories with a Title in Which the Word 'America' or an American Place or Personal Name Appears" (pages 10-11). The word or words which thus qualify a title for listing are italicized, and the Tsuzuki's title lookes like this (page 11).

The Life and Reasoning of Quillion Sleigh

In other words, Kishi considers "Quillion Sleigh" to be an American personal name. He also identifies as an "N" (novel) and classifies Sleigh as a "Dectective".

Kishi's profile of Tsuzuki 1972

The above three passages include all direct references to Tsuzuki 1972. The following table shows how Kishi's remarks compare with Tsuzuki's book.

Quillion Sleigh according to Kishi 1975 (article) and Tsuzuki 1972 (anthology)
Trait Kishi 1975 Tsuzuki 1972

The Life and Reasoning of Quillion Sleigh (1972) is the first Japanese detective story to have an American as its hero.

Title -- The title is Kirion Surei no seikatsu no suiri in Japanese and The Life and Speculations of Quillion Sleigh, Poet in English. The English title is clearly printed on the title page. Mystery fiction critic and scholar Nakajima Kawataro (1917-1999) explains in an epilogue to the anthology its title is based on Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman [Shinshi Torisutoramu Shandi no shogai to iken]. He also reports that Tsuzuki himself feels that "supekyureeshonzu" [speculations] in English most appropriately reflects his use of "suiri" in Japanese.

1972 -- The Life and Speculations of Quillion Sleigh, Poet was first published in 1972, but it is an anthology of six short stories, not a single story, and not a novel. The original stories were published over a period of several years from 1967, and were scattered among several magazines which no longer exist.

Nakajima relates in the epilogue Tsuzuki brought the stories together into an "omunibusu noveru" -- by which he means a group of "background-related novellas". Tuzuki rearranged, rewrote, and retitled the original stories according to his theory of "basic elements" in mystery fiction, with the object of giving the impression that the Sleigh's life in Japan (including his familiarity with Japan and his competency in spoken Japanese), and his speculations (his compentency as an amateur detective), improve with time and experience that comes with time.

first American hero -- Tsuzuki himself wrote earlier detective stories featuring American heros.


Mr. Sleigh is an American college instructor turned avant-garde poet. As an expatriate living in Tokyo, he solves a murder case involving a Negro.

instructor -- Sleigh is not described as a college instructor, former or otherwise. He is not described as a "teacher of English" but as someone who occasionally "teaches" English. Mostly he is a lazy bum.

poet -- Sleigh is a "Poet" in the English title because he styles himself an "avant-garde poet". Other people do not seem to think his meaningless strings of words qualify as poems.

expatriate -- Sleigh lives in Tokyo but is not called or characterized as an "expatriate" in the sense that this word is ordinarily used.

Negro -- Only the first story involves a man both Sleigh and the narrator call a "kokujin" -- simply "black man" or "black" rather than "Negro". While Sleigh does solve a murder case of some kind in most of the stories, some of the cases seem to solve Sleigh.


"Quillion Sleigh" is an "American" personal name.

In the very first story of the anthology, "Quillion Sleigh" is described to be other than an "American" name.


Sleigh is "critical of the U.S. policy".

Sleigh is not clearly "critical" of any U.S. policy.


Sleigh's world is "a limited one . . . still alien to the general public".

Nothing about any of Tsuzuki's Sleigh stories can be construed to be more "limited" or more "alien" than stories with Japanese protagonists -- unless it can be construed that readers of Japanese fiction are predisposed to regard the world of any fictional non-Japanese character as somehow "limited" and "alien".

Typical paragraph

At this point I read the entire article. This is a typical paragraph (page 3).

A Foreign Ship (1926) presents Anri Gold, the only (fictitious) American to appear in Popular Literature Encyclopedia (1967).10 Though he is classified as an American, he is a Japanese of American extraction. He is a scoundrel living downtown in Nagasaki. A genuine American appears as a hero in Tea and Cigars (1928) in the person of Henry Flint, a newspaperman for the New York Free Press. He is described as an optimistic American with a sense of humor. This is probably the first Japanese fiction in which all the characters are Americans. It took forty-three years for its successor to appear. (The Prometheus, U.S. Aircraft Carrier, 1971).

10 Manabe, Motoyuki, Popular Literature Encyclopedia, Seiabo, 1967, p. 705.

The sheer density of information -- English dubs of Japanese titles, dates of publication, thumbnail character sketches -- makes it practically impossible for someone not already familiar with the material to judge the veracity of Kishi's very general and often leaping commentary.

Already suspicious of the quality of Kishi's thumbnail character sketches, I read both Manabe's account of Tojinbune, then read the story itself, to deterimine if there are any grounds for Kishi's insistance that Anri Gold is a Japanese. See Tojinbune for a detailed account of why it is very clear that he is an American.

To be continued.