In 2016, beloved Japanese crime writer and LGBT activist Masako Togawa sadly passed away. We’re delighted to be able to bring you her prizewinning debut novel The Master Key, originally published in 1962, as the latest in the Pushkin Vertigo crime series.
Masako went on to publish over 30 books and was described by the Times Literary Supplement as “The P.D. James of Japan.” She was as gregarious as she was talented, finding success in many different careers over the course of her rich and varied life. Here are some of her highlights:
Singer/songwriter: She made her singing debut in the well-known nightclub ‘Gin-Pari’ in 1954. Music and performing remained a big part of her life and she released several records including “Lost Love” in 1975 and “Bon Voyage” with her son Nero in 2015.
Club owner: In 1967, she decided to turn her sister’s coffee shop into a live music hall, calling it Aoi Heya, or “Blue Room.” The intimate 150-person venue in Tokyo’s vibrant Shibuya district hosted artists and composers, simultaneously serving as a Chanson club and a lesbian night club.
LGBT icon: After years of encouraging LGBT artists at Aoi Heya, she came out as bisexual on television in 1999. In 2002, she was one of the first Japanese television personalities to take an active role in the Tokyo Lesbian and Gay Parade.
Actress: From 1969 to 1974, she played the lead character in a television show called Playgirl about a mystery writer who creates an all-female detective agency specialising in white collar crimes. She also starred in a film The Hunter’s Diary (1964), an adaptation of several stories she had co-written.
Music teacher: In 2012, she started teaching Chanson classes, calling the programme the “Blue Room Grand Cabaret.” They proved highly popular, taking place on the first and third Wednesdays of each month and broadcast via web channel “Scatch TV”.
Mother: Togawa had several children, the last of whom was born when she was 48 years old. In a statement made on the day she died, her son Nero said they had sung together on stage at the “Blue Room Monday” club (a new Chanson club inspired by Aoi Heya) up until the day before she was hospitalised.
Love the sound of Masako Togawa? Get your copy of The Master Key now.