Kimono Tattoo Coming Soon
Awards for Kimono Tattoo

By Rebecca Copeland

The Kimono Tattoo

“Silk unravels. A tattoo is forever. Layer by layer the truth is revealed.”

“I jostled her shoulder and noticed when I did that her skin was cold to the touch….her entire torso was covered in tattoos from her collar bone to the midline of her thighs. All were of kimono motifs—fans, incense burners, peonies, and scrolls.”  This ghastly scene was the last thing Ruth Bennett expected to encounter when she agreed to translate a novel by a long-forgotten Japanese writer. Returning to her childhood home in Kyoto had promised safety, solitude, and diversion from the wounds she encountered in the U.S. But Ruth soon finds the story line in the novel leaking into her everyday life.  Fictional characters turn out to be real, and the past catches up with the present in an increasingly threatening way.

The Kimono Tattoo takes readers on a journey into Kyoto’s intricate world of kimono design.  As Ruth struggles to unravel the cryptic message hidden in the kimono tattoo, she is forced to confront a vicious killer along with her own painful family secrets.

Praise for The Kimono Tattoo

“A delicate and intricate novel, pieced together like a mosaic, that just blew me away. The author shows a strikingly deep knowledge of Japanese literature and kimono culture.” —Natsuo Kirino, Edgar-award nominated author of OUT, Grotesque, and other novels

“A delicate and intricate novel, pieced together like a mosaic, that just blew me away. The author shows a strikingly deep knowledge of Japanese literature and kimono culture.” —Natsuo Kirino, Edgar-award nominated author of OUT, Grotesque, and other novels

“It is not simply an exciting page-turner you cannot put down, but also an intricate thriller uniquely informed with the “kimono and tattoo philosophy,” and immensely enriched by the protagonist’s double perspective as both an insider and outsider—an American scholar living and working in Japan.  The novel brings you so vividly into the kaleidoscope of the modern-day Japan, you want to make a trip there the next day, holding a copy of The Kimono Tattoo.” —Xiaolong Qiu, author of the award-winning Inspector Chen Series

“Debut novelist, Rebecca Copeland offers a smart, entertaining read in The Kimono Tattoo. Readers who relish mystery, suspense, literary fiction, and romance will find it all in this multi-genre gem!” —Johnnie Bernhard, author of Sisters of the Undertow

The Kimono Tattoo is an intelligent escape—into the past, into the mind, into a fascinating culture. Finely crafted and perfectly paced, this literary thriller remains engrossing long after the last sentence, opening a world that lingers in the imagination.” —Jeannette Cooperman, St. Louis Media Hall of Fame journalist, essayist, and author of A Circumstance of Blood

“In a tale as intricately patterned as a Jacquard-weave obi, Rebecca Copeland’s American heroine finds herself entangled in the delicate threads of Kyoto’s kimono industry as well as the darker skeins of yakuza, tattoo parlors, and rebellious youth. The reader is quickly drawn in to the dangerous twists and turns while Copeland’s detailed knowledge of Kyoto comes through on every page—a treat for all who love this city, and a great read.” —Liza Dalby, anthropologist, artist, and author of the best seller, Geisha; Kimono: Fashioning Culture; and the novels The Tale of Murasaki and Hidden Buddhas: A Novel of Karma and Chaos

“[S]he does something that is rarely seen in fiction by non-Japanese about Japan: She gets the place right. The characters seem like people rather than exotic caricatures, and the Kyoto she creates will be recognizable to those who know it, enticing to those who don’t.” —David Cozy, Kyoto Journal

About the Author

Rebecca Copeland

Rebecca Copeland is a writer of fiction and literary criticism and a translator of Japanese literature. Her stories travel between Japan and the American South and touch on questions of identity, belonging, and self-discovery. The Kimono Tattoo, her debut work, takes readers on a journey into Kyoto’s intricate world of kimono design, and into a mystery that interweaves family dynamics, loss, and reconciliation.

Rebecca Copeland

Credit: Sean Garcia of Washington University in St. Louis

Rebecca's Work

Creative Writing

My work travels between Japan and the Blue Ridge Mountains, tracing the lines of memory, identity, and self-discovery.


Academic Writing

My scholarly works are informed by questions of gender and genre and focus almost exclusively on modern Japanese women writers.



We all translate. It is part of everyday communication. For me, part of that communication is translating from Japanese to English.


“Rebecca Copeland has done more to advance the study of Japanese women writers in English than any other scholar working today. Her translations, scholarship, and lectures have defined the field.”

— Jan Bardsley, Professor Emerita
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

My Writing Blog

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Edited Out, Part Five: Going to the Dogs

Edited Out, Part Five: Going to the Dogs

What do kimonos and dogs have in common? Not much. Unless you’re reading The Kimono Tattoo. Midway through the novel, protagonist Ruth discovers that the Tosa dog has an intricate and unfortunate connection to the mystery she is trying to solve, namely, what happened...

Takeaway: Gripping Literary Thriller

Takeaway: Gripping Literary Thriller

Indie authors have to hustle to get their books reviewed. Just before my publisher released The Kimono Tattoo, she and I scrambled to find journals willing to carry a review. I was disappointed time and again when journals turned us down. It’s discouraging really. My...

Curried Memories

Curried Memories

Yesterday was a day for curry rice. By “curry rice,” of course, I mean “karee raisu,” the delicious Japanese concoction made from curry bullion paste. The paste blends with the ingredients of your choice to create a thick aromatic stew at once sweet and savory. I’ve...


“Famous for her academic studies of the female deity Izanami, the mountain yamamba, Meiji women writers, and more, Copeland’s award-winning translations of Japanese literature are also evidence of agility with the craft of fiction writing. No other scholar of Japan is better suited to turning her hand to a mystery novel set in Kyoto.”

— Laura Miller, Ph.D.
Eiichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies and Professor of History, University of Missouri-St. Louis