The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn
Sherlock Holmes-style mystery set in 18th-century Japan. Fourteen-year-old Seikei, son of a tea merchant, longs to be a samurai, although he knows that this is an inherited honor he can never hope to attain. While on a business trip, Seikei and his stern father take shelter at the Tokaido Inn where a cruel and oafish samurai, Lord Hakuseki, is also staying. A precious jewel is stolen from the lord, and a young girl whom Seikei has just met is accused of the theft. He risks his life by speaking out to defend her and Judge Ooka, called in to solve the crime, is taken with the boys bravery and enlists his help to solve the mystery. This sets Seikei onto a dangerous path where he goes backstage at Kabuki theaters, meets an enigmatic actor, and more than once must act in the honorable way of a samurai. He remains resourceful and courageous, although he often fears he may be on the wrong path. Judge Ooka maintains a steady presence, urging Seikei to observe, be logical, and reason out the motives for the crime. The plot builds towards an exciting, dramatic climax. All of the action is placed solidly in the context of the Tokugawa period of a Japan ruled by an emperor and a shogun, and pervaded by the need to defend ones honor above all else. An unusual and satisfying mystery that will be enjoyed by a wide audience. —Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
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The Ghost in the Tokado Inn (Review)
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler
Reviewed by: Rachel Duncan – Gifted Education – Middle School (6th-8th)
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn is a mystery story that involves the disappearance of a valuable ruby. The story begins as our hero, 14 year old Seikei and his father are travelling from Osaka to Edo in order to expand his father’s tea business. Seikei feels uneasy and embarrassed by his father’s insistence that he travel inside a kago, instead of being allowed to walk on foot. He secretly dreams of a more exciting life, that of a samurai.
Along their travels, they encounter a group of samurai warriors. These same warriors end up staying at the Tokaido Inn, the same place Seikei and his father are staying. That evening, a ruby is stolen en route to the Inn, it was meant for Hakuseki, the leader of the Samurai.
Action and investigation ensue as Seikei tries to explain that he saw what he thought was a ghost, or jikininki, with the stolen jewel. Ultimately, we learn that a kabuki actor/samurai who was involved in an altercation with Hakuseki on the road to the Tokaido Inn is responsible for the theft.
The story offers a lot of historical accuracies and introduces a lot of Japanese vocabulary. One of the main themes throughout the story is “honor”. We get a glimpse into many different cultural aspects of Japanese history, such as Haiku poetry and tea ceremonies.
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn was a fun read, and suitable for Middle School or older students. It was often fast paced and offered humor, suspense and historical context rolled into an exciting tale of mystery and intrigue.
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn - Book Review
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by: Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler
Book Review – Mark Trainor, Chartiers Valley School District (5th Grade Teacher)
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler is a fast-reading tale of mystery and suspense that includes many Japanese traditions and some historical figures of the 1700s.
As the story unfolds, Seikei (protagonist) and his father (a tea merchant) are traveling the Tokaido Road on their way to Edo (present day Tokyo) to sell their wares. Along the way, they witness a not-so-nice daimyo, Lord Hakuseki (antagonist) treating a kabuki troupe actor with great disdain. Later that day, Seikei and his father stay at the Tokaido Inn. Hakuseki and his samurai entourage happen to be staying at the inn as well. That night Lord Hakuseki has a priceless jewel stolen from his room.
Judge Ooka (Tadasuke Ooka), a samurai serving the shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa (1717-1744), is called to the inn to investigate the theft. All guests are quarantined and questioned. During the questioning, Seikei claims to have seen a jikininki (eater of human flesh) standing in the doorway to his room, holding the red jewel. Most dismiss the story as a child’s imagination, but Ooka questions the boy further and believes there is some truth to the tale. He takes Seikei under his watch and together they embark on a journey to catch the thief and perhaps learn the motive for the theft.
This is an action-packed book that serves as a wonderful introduction to the world of the samurai. It is loaded with Japanese history (circa 1700s) and vocabulary. Some recurring themes include Haiku poetry (Matsuo Basho), tea ceremony traditions (cha-no-yu), Buddhism and Christianity (Kirishitan), Japanese folktales (The Forty Seven Ronin), and samurai traditions of the 1700s (Tokugawa Yoshimune’s reign 1717-1744).
It’s quite obvious the Hooblers are experts in Japanese history, including period authentic traditions, weaponry, and culture. This book seems to be written as an introduction to Japanese culture, history, and vocabulary. I’m hooked. This book was fast paced (no chapter more than seven pages) and would be an excellent read in any 5th-12th grade literary or social studies classroom.