Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Boy Science Detective: Ultraviolet Rays

[You may want to check the warning on this blog's translations.] 

  This story completes the translation of the book Boy Science Detective by KOSAKAI Fuboku. Previously we had:

As Kosakai promised in the preface, he did go on to write more Boy Science Detective stories; but having translated a whole book (even if it's not a very long one), I think I'd like to give my attention to the works of some other writers for a while. 

The story was first published in 子供の科学 (kodomo no kagaku, Children's Science) from July to September 1926. You can read the story in the original Japanese on Aozora Bunko here. I've put in footnotes that look like this[1]; I'm afraid that they aren't actively linked. You'll have to scroll down (or use find) to the footnotes at the end. As always, I've put the translation after the break, so click to read on.

The Mercury Lamp

I expect that my readers remember the ‘scarlet diamond’ case that Toshio Tsukahara handled. When I presented that case, I told you about Toshio’s rich uncle. Recently Toshio got this uncle in Akasaka to add an extension to the laboratory, and to buy and install there a mercury vapour lamp. If you ask why Toshio had him buy a mercury lamp, it was because a few days earlier he had read in a foreign journal dealing with criminology that lately in other countries mercury lamps are being widely used in criminal investigations. With that Toshio, who was so keen on research, asked his uncle in Akasaka to help him. His uncle without hesitation cheerfully agreed. He extended the laboratory and bought and installed the apparatus.
     Previously Toshio had wanted X-ray equipment; but that was going too far and he had resigned himself to going without. A mercury lamp is a simple thing. So finally that was what he had begged his uncle for.

     At this point I think I should explain to you what a mercury lamp is. Put simply, it is a device that gives out a kind of light known as ultraviolet radiation. Saying that, I have to go a step further back and explain what ultraviolet rays are.
     I imagine that you all know that daylight is made up of rays of the familiar seven colours, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. If you separate daylight with a spectroscope, you get a spectrum, as it is called, split up beautifully into these colours. But in the rays of daylight, apart from these seven colours, there are another two kinds of ray, invisible to the eye, generally called infrared rays and ultraviolet rays. Infrared means beyond the red part of the spectrum, ultraviolet means beyond violet.
     I hardly need to say that light rays are a kind of wave, called light waves. Going from the red end of the spectrum through to the violet the wavelength gradually becomes shorter and conversely the refractive power[1] becomes greater. Then red light has the property of heating, violet has the property of chemical action. For this reason infrared is richest in heating effects, ultraviolet in chemical effects.
     Since the contribution that daylight makes to a person’s health comes from the chemical effects of this ultraviolet light, a man called Finsen (1860-1904) invented the so called Finsen lamp,[2] planning to produce ultraviolet light and cure various illnesses with it. Later, as the construction of this Finsen lamp was a bit too complicated, a man called Kromayer devised a simpler apparatus for the production of ultraviolet rays. That was the mercury lamp.
     Let me briefly describe the basic principle of the mercury lamp. You fill a vacuum tube made of quartz with mercury vapour, and pass a direct current through it to produce light. When you do that the mercury vapour gives off ultraviolet rays and since quartz is good at letting ultraviolet through, the device is surprisingly simple.
     The electricity needed for a quartz lamp is normally 70 to 200 volts. As the moment, when you set the device up, you need a water cooling system to prevent the quartz lamp from becoming too hot; but as a whole it is an extremely simple thing.

     Now the mercury lamp is typically used to treat diseases; but recently it has also come to be used in the scientific investigation of crime. For the scientific investigation of crime, it is not the chemical effects of ultraviolet rays, but far more their physical effects that are of use. If you ask what kind of physical effects ultraviolet rays have, when they meet a number of materials, they create a kind of phosphorescent light. There are things which give off phosphorescent light while the ultraviolet rays are shining on them and things which go on emitting phosphorescent light for a little after they have stopped. This second case, that is that ultraviolet rays reach an object and then after they stop the material glows for a further short period, is much the more common. If you ask what kind of thing glows when subjected to ultraviolet rays, many natural products do. Also, many artificial imitations of natural products do not glow. For instance, human teeth glow under ultraviolet light, but false teeth, made from a different material, do not glow. Also, elephants’ tusks and bones glow, but imitation ivory does not glow. Natural diamonds glow, but imitation jewels made with glass do not glow. So if you look at it under ultraviolet rays, you can immediately tell if a diamond is real or fake. Another case: many aniline dyes give off an incredibly beautiful light under ultraviolet rays. So the rays are used for the determination of dyes. Another case: they can be used for the same reason to determine whether a piece of writing is genuine. Apart from that, flour made from grain sure enough starts to glow under ultraviolet light.

    After his uncle had bought him the mercury lamp, Toshio spent each day shut up in the laboratory. He bought in different things and put them under ultraviolet light. Raising and lowering the strength of the current, he researched deeply, making records of each detail in his notebook. He researched human and animal hair, blood and urine, every kind of paint, the sealing wax used for letters, the fibres of clothes, one thing after another as they came to hand. What is more, if he succeeded in finding a difference, he was over the moon and forgot even to eat or sleep, shutting himself up in the laboratory so that a little over ten days later he had already become an expert on ultraviolet rays.
    ‘Niisan, I wish we had a major case. Next time I want to try using this ultraviolet for detection,’ Toshio said to me one day in April.
    ‘You’re right. When you mention major cases, the thief who recently attacked the ** jeweller’s shop in Ginza hasn’t yet been caught, has he? How about it? Is that a case that can be solved with ultraviolet?’ I asked with a smile, half joking.
    The ** jeweller’s shop in Ginza was a major store, preeminent even in Tokyo. One night a necklace with a market value of 800,000 yen had been stolen from it.
    The police were pursuing it with all their resources; but today more than two weeks after the theft they had no idea whatsoever where the necklace might be, let alone who the thieves were. They had got no clues from the crime scene. The safe had been broken open with an acetylene torch; but all they were sure of was that the thief had broken in from outside.
    Toshio smiled brightly at my suggestion. Moments later his face suddenly became serious. ‘All this time I’ve been so intent on investigating ultraviolet rays, I’ve been neglecting the investigation of criminal cases. You’re right, that case does sound interesting. Perhaps I should ask Uncle P to give me an idea of any recent developments. Could you make the call, niisan?’
    Just as I was getting up, we heard the sound of knocking at the laboratory door. When I opened it, I was astonished to find that the visitor was ‘Uncle P’, Detective Oda of the central police station.
    ‘Hey, we were just talking about you,’ I said.
    ‘Were you?’ Oda smiled cheerfully and walked in, then sat down opposite Toshio.
    ‘Uncle P, the Ginza jewel theft case, how’s it going on?’ Toshio asked.
Oda’s face clouded, ‘We still haven’t got a clue. Somehow, from our investigations so far, it looks like it’s not one of the thieves known to be at work in that patch. It could turn out that it’s someone in the heart of Tokyo setting up a magnificent mansion. So now we’re following that idea; but we’re not really making any progress. – And then, well, the fact is, last night a strange incident occurred. I came here to borrow Toshio’s wits in that matter.
   So saying, Oda looked steadily at Toshio. Toshio’s eyes grew suddenly bright.
    ‘And what was the incident?’ he asked.
    ‘The fact is, last night at the tram stop in Sudachō,[3] a man got hit by the tram and died. He was twenty-five or twenty-six, dressed in western clothes. We found a purse and a handkerchief in his pockets, that was all. No notebook or anything else. We’ve got no idea who he is. His name isn’t on his clothing or on his handkerchief. For the time being we brought the body to the station. We still don’t know who he is. But in that purse there was twenty yen, fifty three sen of money, and there was also a piece of black paper inside. On that paper there were letters written in white; but we just can’t understand what they mean. Since the police even wringing their heads can’t work out what it means, I thought I’d have you read it.’
    With these words Oda brought out from his pocket a piece of black paper, about three inches each way.

The 800,000 yen necklace

Along with the piece of black paper, Oda also brought out a photograph. ‘This is the face of the man run down in Sudachō last night,’ he said.
    Toshio gazed at the photograph for a while, then picked up the black paper. It was Japanese paper dyed black. On it with a brush the following letters were written in white paint.


    Toshio gazed at these with fierce concentration; but even he could not understand it, it seemed. His brow became furrowed.
    ‘How about it, Toshio? Even if you read it backwards, or diagonally, or every other letter, nothing makes any sense, does it?’
    Toshio did not answer. All his attention was on investigating the letters. After a while he got up and saying, ‘Wait just a bit, please,’ he went into the room with the ultraviolet apparatus. Moments later I heard the characteristic sound of the ultraviolet lamp. After about seven minutes had passed, Toshio came back in. His face was beaming with happiness.
    ‘I managed to read it, Uncle P.’
    ‘Huh? You’ve solved it? What does it mean?’
    ‘Here’s the text,’ Toshio said and showed him what he had written in his notebook in pencil. 
Hongō ward,[4] Yushima Shinhanachō, lot 26, 1
below the second floor north window.’
    Oda blinked with astonishment, ‘Good heavens, how did you do it? How can you read those letters like this?’ he asked, gasping for breath.
   Toshio smiled brightly, ‘Come in here please,’ he said, and led Oda into the room with the ultraviolet apparatus. I followed them in. I hardly need to tell you that this room was set up as a dark room. When Toshio switched off the light it became pitch dark. Next Toshio twisted a switch. As he did so the mercury lamp beamed out a beautiful purple light. Toshio put the black piece of paper under this light. Strangely it had no effect on the white letters, but the letters ‘Hongō’ and so on that I set down above became visible as a luminescent glow.
    ‘What you see here,’ Toshio said, ‘On this black paper, is written in aniline dye. That’s why you can’t see it by normal light; but if you put aniline under ultraviolet light, it becomes luminescent like this.’
    ‘Whaat? You mean, these white letters are written to mislead people?’ Oda said with a sigh.
    ‘That’s right. So even if you read it back to front or diagonally, it won’t make any sense.’

    We went back out of the dark room and returned to the reception room.
    ‘What on earth’s this “Hongō whatever” address?’ I asked Oda.
    ‘Good question. It could be the dead man’s home,’ he replied, tilting his head in thought.
    At that Toshio said, ‘At any rate, isn’t the next thing to go take a look there?’
    We got ready straight away, hired a car, and set off racing towards Yushima Shinhanachō. Lot 26, number 1 was a two storey house in quiet surroundings; but to our surprise a notice ‘To Rent’ was pasted to the grille at the front. When we asked the neighbours, we learnt that because at night a sound like someone walking could sometimes be heard, it was called a haunted house and for a long time had found no-one to rent it. But since the owner was one house away, Oda got permission and we entered the empty house. The front door was not locked. The inside was in a pretty desolate state.
    With purposeful strides Toshio headed up the stairs. He did not believe in anything like ghosts, so he was not at all afraid. The second floor was made up of two rooms, a six jō room[5] and a three jō one. In this three jō room there was a window looking north. Doubtless that was the ‘north window’. But the only thing under that north window was the tatami mat. There was nothing unusual to see. Toshio got down on his knees and looked all around; but he could still not find anything.
    After a while he said, ‘Niisan, lift the tatami.’
    I did as he asked. When I did so, I cried out in surprise and almost dropped the tatami. You see, in a hollow made in the planks below the tatami, like a glittering snake, a diamond necklace was lying coiled.
    Instinctively we looked at each other.
    Toshio picked up the necklace and handed it to Oda. ‘What do you reckon?’ he asked, ‘Any idea what this is?’
    Oda did not handle it long before answering, ‘Somehow it looks like this is the 800,000 yen necklace stolen from the ** jewellery store in Ginza.’
    ‘Is it? In that case, the next thing to do is to go to Ginza, I guess,’ Toshio said and ran off down the stairs. We followed him down and out of the house.
    We got into the car that we had left waiting for us and headed off towards Ginza. In the gardens of the houses on either side of the roads we passed through, here and there late cherry blossom was in beautiful flower. The fresh afternoon sun shone over it peacefully.
In no time we reached the ** jewellery store in Ginza. As soon as the fat red faced owner saw Oda, he ushered us into an inner room. Oda took the necklace out of his pocket and held it out in front of the owner.
    ‘Hey!’ the owner shouted in astonishment. He took it in his hands and examined it; but in the short time he was looking at it, his expression grew hopeless. ‘This is an imitation of the necklace stolen from our house,’ he said weakly.
    ‘Huh? An imitation? Then it’s a counterfeit?’ Oda asked, round eyed.
    ‘That is the case. The fact is our house had the imitation made too. How on earth did you get hold of it?’
    In response Oda narrated simply the series of events leading to its discovery. Finally he asked who had been in possession of the imitation. According to what the jewel store owner told us, the recently stolen necklace belonged to the Marchioness ** in Azabu.[6] For private reasons the jewellery store had bought it and at her request an imitation had been made, which she had kept in place of the real thing.
    To tell the truth, the owner added, for the sake of the marchioness the jewellery store had kept this secret even from the police; but if the reproduction had come into the hands of the police like that, since keeping the secret might actually hinder the investigation, he thought it better to hold nothing back.

    The three of us left the jeweller’s house with the necklace and had the car drive us to Marchioness ** in Azabu. The house itself looked tiny, but it was surrounded by a pretty large garden.
   We told the butler we were from the central police station, and the marchioness kindly met with us personally. She was wearing a kimono, very simple and unadorned, and spoke pleasantly. After exchanging greetings, Oda brought out the necklace. ‘Does this perhaps belong to your house?’ he asked.
    ‘Why!’ the lady cried out softly. ‘How did this – This was stolen the day before yesterday. Where on earth was it?’
    ‘To tell the truth we found it in an odd place. As a result of our investigation we found it belonged to your house, and so we’ve come to ask about it. How on earth was it stolen?’
   The lady’s face suddenly grew red. ‘I don’t know whether you’re aware, but that necklace is an imitation. But the student houseboy employed here perhaps thought it was the real thing. The day before yesterday he stole it and ran away. The real thing, I hardly need to say, is the one that had already been stolen recently from ** jewellery store.’
    ‘About how old was this houseboy?’
    ‘He said he was twenty-five I think.’
    As soon as Oda heard this, he took the photograph of the dead man out of his pocket and showed it to the lady. ‘Would your houseboy perhaps be this man?’
    When she saw the photograph, she gasped. ‘Why that’s him, that’s him. That’s our houseboy Murata. However did he come to die?’ she asked, breathing rapidly.

Daylight Murder

Detective Oda explained to the marchioness the circumstances of the houseboy Murata’s death, run over by a tram at the Sudachō stop, and the events leading up to the discovery of the reproduction necklace. Finally he asked, ‘So when was Murata taken on here?’
    ‘He came here just lately, on the tenth.’
    When detective Oda heard this, he turned to look at Toshio and said, ‘That makes it five days after the thieves got in to ** jewellery store in Ginza.’
    Up to that point Toshio had been listening silently to what Oda and the marchioness said. Now turning to the marchioness, he asked, ‘This houseboy Murata, who recommended him to you?’
    ‘Dr. Kimura of Fujimichō in Kōjimachi[7] introduced him.’
    ‘Dr. Kimura would be the famous doctor of medicine, the head of the Kimura Hospital?’
    ‘Yes. Dr. Kimura has always looked after us when someone in the house is sick.’
    At this point Toshio for some reason smiled cheerfully. The smile was the one he let out when he found some kind of clue.
    Just then from the front street the bell announcing a newspaper special supplement could be heard. Toshio pricked up his ears a little, but went on talking. ‘Have you told Dr. Kimura about your houseboy running away?’
    ‘No, not yet.’
    At that Toshio turned to Detective Oda and said, ‘In that case, let’s go to the hospital now.’
    Just then, the butler burst in, a one page special supplement in his hand. ‘Madam, this is terrible. Dr. Kimura has been killed, it says.’
    ‘What?’ the marchioness said, leaping to her feet. After hurriedly reading the special supplement that the butler held out to her, she passed it on without words to Oda.


Kōjimachi, Fujimichō, Block *, Kimura Hospital: Hospital Director Teiichi Kimura M.D. was stabbed through the heart by unknown hands and died instantly today at around two in the afternoon in the reception room of his hospital. A nurse discovered the body. With no idea of the murderer, responding to the urgent call first Detective Hakui, then a police doctor, photographers and others raced to the scene from the central police station and took up the investigation. Meanwhile in the city a cordon has been established and a strict search for the culprit is underway.

    When Detective Oda finished reading this special supplement, Toshio said, ‘Uncle P, the case is getting more and more complicated, isn’t it?’
    ‘Huh? That means you think Dr. Kimura’s death and the necklace are linked?’
    ‘They are.’
    ‘As to that, well let’s talk about it when we’ve got more time. Anyway, please get me permission to investigate the scene of Dr. Kimura’s murder.’
    We took our leave of the marchioness. Getting permission for Oda to keep the imitation necklace until the case was solved, we left the house and set off in the car for the central police station. Detective Oda with some effort got permission from the superintendent general, and as day drew to a close we raced towards Kimura Hospital.
   In the reception room at the hospital, the room where Dr. Kimura had been killed, Detective Hakui and one other detective were questioning the physicians and nurses. The police doctor had already finished his examination, it seemed. Dr. Kimura’s body had been put on a table in the reception room and covered with a white sheet.
    When Detective Hakui saw Toshio’s face, he smiled ironically. After that ‘Riddle of the Beard’ case he had conceded a point to Toshio; but his expression showed clearly that this time he had no intention of losing. Toshio however greeted him quite innocently. His eyes were drawn to the antique frame hanging in the front of the reception room. ‘Is this a picture of Dr. Kimura?’ he asked.
   When a nurse nodded, Toshio gazed intently at the almost life size half body photograph. Then turning over the white cloth he paid his respects before investigating the doctor’s body. Starting at the face he examined the whole body closely, in particular the wound near the heart. The rest of us silently watched him at work. Finally – with what in mind I could not tell – he looked back and forth from the face of the corpse to the photograph. Turning to Detective Hakui, he asked, ‘Is it definite that this is Dr. Kimura’s body?’
    The rest of us were startled by this unexpected question. Detective Hakui too looked astonished at the oddness of it. ‘Toshio, this is no place for jokes. We have so catch the killer as fast as possible, so we don’t have time for questions like that.’
    ‘Is that so? But I don’t think you’ll find the killer without determining whether it’s Dr. Kimura’s body or not.’
    ‘Spare us the wild talk. The nurses have been with this Dr. Kimura until this morning, and anyway can’t you tell by looking at the photograph?’
    Toshio turned to the nurse standing by and asked, ‘Excuse me, but could you please steep some cotton wool in alcohol for me?’
    When the nurse brought the alcohol steeped cotton, Toshio took it and wiped over a mole on the right cheek. At that, amazingly, after Toshio had wiped several times the mole vanished and there was something black on the cotton. Everyone was astonished. At that point Toshio said with confidence, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, it was not the real Dr. Kimura who was killed. Most likely it was his twin brother.’

    You can imagine what a tumult that caused. Detective Hakui was dazed for a while; but since if the mole on the corpse was make up, Toshio’s idea must be right, he set to questioning the doctors and nurses for details. They all said the same thing. Since about two months ago the doctor’s manner had been a little different from before. But since the doctor was single and both his parents were dead, nobody knew that he had a twin brother.
    ‘In that case the real doctor was probably killed two months back and replaced by this double,’ Toshio said. Then turning to Detective Oda he said, ‘The case has got even more complicated; but somehow I think we’re going to get to the solution any time now.’ He turned to the nurse and said, ‘I imagine there’s an ultraviolet treatment room in the hospital. Could you take me to it?’
    Following the nurse we came to the ultraviolet treatment room. In it was a mercury lamp like Toshio’s. There was a bed in the middle of the room. Medicine shelves and bookshelves were set up all along the walls. Toshio examined all of this piece by piece. Finally he took a notebook down from the bookshelf. It was made of black Japanese paper bound together. When opened it, there was nothing written in it. But when he switched the ultraviolet lamp on, luminescent letters appeared on the page.
    ‘It’s a diary,’ he said to no-one in particular, and turning the pages he read eagerly. After about thirty minutes he had read it through. Turning to the nurse he asked, ‘Did you see the head of the Tanaka clinic in Hongō today?’
    ‘Yes, he was here a little after noon. He left almost immediately.’
    Hearing that Toshio turned to Detective Hakui, ‘Please arrest hospital director Tanaka immediately.’

    Readers, when hospital director Tanaka was arrested, it turned out that he was indeed the killer of Dr. Kimura’s double. Through his confession all the details became clear. Dr. Kimura’s double, as Toshio had thought, had been the doctor’s twin brother. Although he was his brother, his character was quite different. He was a scoundrel and in early years had gone to China, indulging in every kind of wickedness. There he had made friends with hospital director Tanaka and the two of them had run wild through the Shanghai area. Then three months ago they had returned to Tokyo and planned a major crime.
    Neither of them were doctors. Their idea was to become doctors and pillage the capital. For this first Tanaka set up the Tanaka clinic in Hongō and became friends with Dr. Kimura. He told his observations of Dr. Kimura’s manner to the twin brother. Then one night he invited Dr. Kimura to his house and killed him, using chemicals to dispose of the body. In place of Dr. Kimura the man who left Tanaka’s house was his double, the twin brother.
    In recompense the double Kimura promised to raid a jewel shop and give the jewels he stole to Tanaka. Having found out about the necklace in ** jewellery store in Ginza, he skilfully stole it a few days ago; but he came to want the necklace himself and did not hand it over when Tanaka demanded it. Tanaka made various threats; but as this was going on, Kimura happened to find out that the Marchioness ** in Azabu had a reproduction of the necklace. Luckily for him the house used Dr. Kimura as their doctor, so he was able to get his trusted associate Murata into the house and finally steal the necklace. Then he had Murata hide the imitation in the empty house in Yushima Shinhanachō and take that piece of black paper to Tanaka.
    It would have been better if he had had Murata hand over the imitation directly. When he and Tanaka had been in Shanghai, they had communicated in code. One of them would steal something and hide it in an empty house, the other would come and collect it. As this had been how they worked, he had done it this time too by habit. In addition his fellow criminal had a kind of superstition, and thought that doing it this way was safest.
    When, however, Murata died in an unexpected accident, Kimura was unable to deliver his message to Tanaka. As a result Tanaka came to Kimura to negotiate and that ended in his killing him. The necklace stolen from ** jewellery store was in the safe in Kimura Hospital.

    Several days after the case had been settled, Detective Oda came to call on us. When he asked how Toshio had deduced the connexion with the necklace case when he heard of Dr. Kimura’s death, Toshio’s answer was this: ‘If someone communicates with writing you can only read by ultraviolet light, then they’ve got an ultraviolet lamp. The first person I thought of that would have an ultraviolet lamp was a doctor. So I thought Dr. Kimura was suspicious; but then it seemed odd for him to be a thief, and when I saw the corpse, since the mole was not a real one, I thought, “Right, it’s a double.” Then since everything was written down in that diary, that gave me the whole solution there and then.’


1. Where the story talks of ‘refractive power’, that is the translation that dictionaries offer for the expression in the Japanese; but the English expression, which refers to a property of lenses, not of the waves that pass through them, does not seem to be what the Japanese means.
2. Niels Ryberg Finsen (December 15, 1860 – September 24, 1904): Wikipedia article here.

3. Sudacho: in central Tokyo.

4. Hongo was previously a ward in the northern part of central Tokyo.

5. Japanese rooms are measured in the number of tatami mats it takes to cover the floors. A six jō room needs six mats. According to Wikipedia, the exact size of tatami varies, but is about 0.9 by 1.8 metres.

6. Azabu, a district in central Tokyo, with many wealthy residents.

7. Koujimachi, a district in central Tokyo. Fujimi is a hill in it, from which Mt. Fuji could once be seen.

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