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.
About the Author
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.
Credit: Sean Garcia of Washington University in St. Louis
My work travels between Japan and the Blue Ridge Mountains, tracing the lines of memory, identity, and self-discovery.
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
For part one of this story, see previous post, My first—and only—Omiai. And you thought omiai were just for fictional characters in Japanese novels! It was April 1977. I had a dance recital in the large auditorium of a fancy hotel across from Hakata Station. I had...
In Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s novel, Sasameyuki (serialized 1943-1948; translated The Makioka Sisters by Edward Seidensticker, 1957), the action centers around finding the third sister a suitable marriage partner. Matchmakers busily scour the field in search of...
Mother bought me a kimono of my own for my birthday. When she understood my love of Japanese dance and my deep and growing interest in Japanese culture, she wanted me to have a kimono. She had one. Or at least she had, had one. When she lived in Japan in the 1950s a...
“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.”