Japan boasts an impressively large and growing body of native-grown mystery fiction that dates back to the 1920s. A widespread perception exists that this genre developed as an offshoot of imports from the West, but this is not quite the case. When it comes to Japan's crime-related literature, China can claim introduction rights.

The chronicle "Honcho Oin Hiji" (Parallel Cases From Under the Cherry Tree), published in 1689 by popular writer Ihara Saikaku (1642-93) — and published in English by The Univeristy of Haiwaii Press in 1980 under the title "Tales of Japanese Justice" — contains accounts of several dozen historical court cases heard by the shoshidai, the shogun's regional deputy in Kyoto. Most cases involved the exploits of a famous judge named Itakura Shigemune (1586-1657) — although Ihara never refers to Itakura by name, but simply uses the general term gozen, or "His Lordship."

Ihara emulated a work from almost five centuries earlier in China, titled "Tang Yin Bi Shi," or "Parallel Cases From Under the Pear Tree," which entered Japan via Korea in 1619. Ascribed to a Chinese official named Gui Wanrong and published around 1207, the work was a treatise on criminal justice procedures, containing brief accounts of 144 notable civil cases recorded between the pre-Han (206 B.C.) and Northern Song (960-1127) dynasties. It was intended as a reference for magistrates and other government officials, and to facilitate comparison, similar cases appear in sets of two. After the classical Chinese text was translated into the Japanese vernacular, the book circulated among general readers and Ihara was inspired to follow suit with cases in Kyoto.