Susan Spann

Mystery Author

The latest entry in the thrilling 16th century Japanese mystery series, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo!

“A compelling mystery powered by political intrigue and cultural conflicts.”–Lisa Brackmann, New York Times bestselling author of Go-Between and Rock Paper Tiger.

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The Ninja’s Daughter

Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace—but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

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  • A Visit to Kyoto’s Yasaka Jinja

    While visiting Kyoto last October, I visited Yasaka Jinja, a Shinto shrine established in the seventh century.

    Yasaka Jinja Front Gate

    Originally known as “Gion Shrine,” Yasaka Jinja is located near the eastern end of Shijo Dori (Shijō Road), one of Kyoto’s major streets–and a road that often features in my Hiro Hattori mystery novels, though my characters haven’t yet paid a visit to this particular shrine.

    Although most visitors enter the shrine through the elaborate entry gate on Shijo Road (see photo above) my visit began at the unassuming back entrance, which opens onto a park. 

    Entrance, Yasaka Jinja

    (I entered this way because it was the most convenient and direct approach from the Buddhist temples I was visiting earlier in the afternoon.)

     During part of the Meiji Restoration (specifically, from 1871-1946) Yasaka Jinja was one of the most important government-supported shrines in Japan. Since then, its official importance has been downgraded, but the shrine remains a popular destination for worshippers and tourists.

    The Gion Matsuri festival originated at Yasaka Jinja, and the famous festival still occurs in Kyoto (and, specifically, in Gion) every July. Originally, the festival involved parading Yasaka Jinja’s guardian deities through the streets of Gion in hopes of warding off fire, pestilance, and other disasters. Modern celebrations are still characterized by floats and parades, and for religious observers are still designed to protect Kyoto and its citizens from disease and natural disasters.

    Yasaka Jinja contains a number of well-maintained sub-shrines:

    Yasaka Jinja Subshrine

    as well as a stage where priests perform a variety of Shinto rituals:

    Main Stage, Yasaka Jinja

    Like most Shinto shrines (and Buddhist temples), Yasaka Jinja has many guardian statues, carved from stone and standing perpetually ready to protect the shrine and its visitors against evil.

    Guardian, Yasaka Jinja (1)

    Although a popular tourist attraction and historical site, Yasaka Jinja also remains a place of worship and an important holy site in the Shinto faith. If you visit Kyoto, and have the time, it’s definitely worth the time to visit. 

    Have you visited Yasaka Jinja? I’d love to hear what you thought–or if you’d like to go–in the comments!