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Jonelle Patrick is the author of four novels set in Japan, and has been writing about Japanese culture and travel since she first moved to Tokyo in 2003.

In addition to the Only In Tokyo mystery series, she produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs here at Only In Japan and on her travel site, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

She also teaches at writing workshops, appears as a panelist at Thrillerfest, and was the keynote speaker at the Arrow Rock Writing Workshop.

A graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Language Institute, she’s also a member of the Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. She divides her time between Tokyo and San Francisco.

And here are the books, in case you’re in the mood for a mystery set in Japan…

29 thoughts on “ABOUT Leave a comment

  1. I totally, TOTALLY love your blog! I am half Japanese (my Mom was from Fukuoka – on Kyushu – and her WHOLE family still lives there). I have only visited Japan about 6 or 7 times. I’m not fluent in Japanese – I can get around, but I sound like a 5 year old. I was there last year for my Mom’s sankaiki.

    Your blog is SO accurate about things that we see there, from the funny “engrish” shirts and packaging to the super cute sponges. I go crazy in Daiso there. I bought a few penguin shaped sponges, some bear shaped sponges and I found some Hello Kitty shaped sponges too. Also, the hyaku yen store has such cute rice and soup bowls as well as ocha cups.

    I haven’t read every entry yet, but you should post something on the public toilets that play waterfall or bird sounds so ladies can discreetly use the toilet. That always cracks me up!

    Have a great day and love your blog!!

    Edith Hatsue M.

    • I *am* going to have a great day now, since I just woke up and read your super kind comment! Thank you! And that’s a great idea about the Oto Hime bathroom sound machine. Did you know they have a phone app for it, in case you find yourself in a barbaric loo without a sound machine?

  2. Hi Jonelle,
    Phoebe and Jim were visiting us here at the Volcano and told me about your blog. I read it everyday and just love it. The person that is my catering partner Conard and I just love the blog about the lunch boxes.
    We are thinking of a way we can incorperate it into one of our catering jobs.
    I must get one of your books. Will write again.
    Aloha, Natalie

    • Auntie Nat! It makes me so happy to think of you reading my blog halfway back to America! And what a fun idea to use bento box stuff for catering. Honestly, they make stuff look amazing with hardly any materials.

      And thanks for even thinking of reading my book – the first one will be published this summer, on August 14th! It’s called “Nightshade.” I got a huge thrill when I saw it was already listed on Amazon, even though there’s no cover art yet. (^_^)

      I’m smiling, thinking of you at the volcano. It was wonderful to wake up and see your name here! Give my love to Jim & Phoebe, if you see them again before I do!

  3. I’m not sure where to write this but I thought I’d put it here. Just want to say how much I love your blog! It’s always interesting and makes me miss Japan!

    • Thank you SO MUCH for posting that super nice comment! A lot of the time it feels like shouting into the void, and it’s so wonderful to hear that somebody actually heard (and even enjoyed!) my ramblings. I love your blog too! I’ve been wondering if you cosplay, and if so, what kind you do?

      • I actually went to my first anime convention this summer and just soaked up some ideas for cosplay. I did an original costume but I’m thinking about cosplaying a character from one of the soul caliber games. I guess you could say I’ve cosplayed as sailor Venus but I was 10 at the time. Lol

      • Did you get totally inspired at the convention? I’ve never been to one, but I’ve seen pictures of the incredible costumes people make for them. I love the cosplay magazines here in Japan, too, with all the step by step tricks for getting certain looks. Come to think of it, I should maybe do a blog post on that sometime, huh?^^

  4. Your blog is interesting. I like reading about Japan. I would love to go there in the future but I have no idea how to speak the language (apart from the odd sentence/word picked up from watching anime) so I don’t think I would go for a long time. I’ll look forward to your posts =]

    • Hey, it makes me so happy to hear you say you’re looking forward to reading about the stuff I love! Thank you for telling me!

      If you like anime, you should seriously come even before you learn Japanese! ^^ I didn’t speak a word the first time I came here, and it was still easy to get around and see all kinds of amazing things. Seeing this place for the first time inspired to go back and start studying Japanese seriously! If you want to see a few of the things I discovered even before I got serious, check out wasabi ice cream and the receipt for Lord Kira’s head on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had!

      • It was? I’ll start saving up then! A couple of my friends want to go too but wanted at least one of us to understand a little before we decide to take a trip to Japan.
        I just spent about an hour on your site. I would like to try the cherry blosson ice cream =] Everything on your site is so useful. The receipt for Lord Kiras head was interesting. I bookmarked your site incase my friends and I do get to go to Japan ^.^

      • Yay! I really hope you come! Honestly, I’m surprised when people come here and it doesn’t change their lives, or at least how they see the world. Just walking down the street in a regular neighborhood, there are amazing things to see.

  5. Dear Jonelle,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog “only in Japan” something I stumbled over last Sunday — rainy, dreary, wintry in Munich (Germany). Which is also why I actually bother sending an eMail, which most probably will not interest you at all — simply nothing much to do. Maybe though you find the odd hint for further research. For starters my name is Adi, I lived in Tokyo 1989-93 and also had a knack of collecting odd bits and pieces. I did go back for a 2 week temple viewing holiday in 2010. I am getting old by now — got bi-focals last year, but still enjoy a laugh.

    Some of your pics are just marvellous. Blogs like yours have been done before of course, one of the nicest was “Quirky Japan” — sadly it seems to have gone completely offline. They did have “live lobster catching” vending machine. (Shamesly ripped at:

    A few notes regarding some pics:
    * I almost bought the wooden keyboard over here myself — very macho.
    * German cigarette vending machines also check your ID or drivers license for a minimum age of 18.
    * One things the Japs can’t: lawn — it’s either “koke” (moss) or mud.
    * In Kobe is a special foreigner’s cemetery (see brochure scan “gaijin boji — 6 km up a hill side in beautifuly serene surroundings. To get there: one bus per hour on summer weekends only. Open to the public weekdays 10am – 4 pm. A gardener shows you to the desired grave (relatives only). Sign the guest book on the way out. No the Japanese are not xenophobic — they DO NOT keep foreigners apart, and, ehm of course there is no prostitution in the country, as it has been declared illegal in 1954. (I DO have a bridge to sell you …)
    * Against cockroaches helps hygine — take all your tatami out (never mind that your neighbors will look a you weird foreign devil) wash and spray insecticide underneath. Also put all crunchy things in your kitchen in screw-top glass containers. Set up a “roach motel” from the drug store and within a moth you’ll have 2/3 less. Another thing that helps is garlioc gloves in your cupboard, and for some reason also cigarette filter tips. (When I stayed in Miami in 1985 I did the graveyard shift in the YHA. Every know and then a Mexican joined me in the lobby with a machete and hunted them. They actually do keep crawling on (chopped in half) whilst their guts spread over the floor … )
    * regarding “sunaburo.” German government health insurance actually pays for mud baths (called “Fango”) if you have a bad back.

    Teaching: As I gather you are also into the teaching “profession” — I did put out a brochure in 1991 ( It might give you an idea of what teaching English was like “in the good old days” just as the bubble burst. In case you have trouble with your employer may I suggest you contact KTUF: (Kanto teachers Union Federation)

    Buddhism: In case you ever want to get into Zen, may I suggest Antai-ji — the abott is a German with a Japanese grandfather, and all the subtlety of a Prussian drill sergeant, have a look at his meditation instruction pics (multilingual website: also some videos on youtube). Have you ever heard of Ittō-en, a pseudo buddhist sect in Kyoto, whose idea of “serving the world” is to walk around a neighbourhood offering to clean people’s toilets? (

    Snacks: try eating “aji tataki”? Find a sushi-ya (not a kaiten) with a (live) fish tank. It used to cost 700-1200 Y. (Basically the aji is filleted before your eyes with the spine and head kept intact. The meat is minced finely [tataki], a skewer run through fin and head so the remains form a crescent. On the plate, radish and minced meat on top and served. If done properly and quickly, the nerves in the spine make the fish twitch for about 15 mins. You’ll finish eating before it’s dead! — talk about REALLY fresh fish.)

    Sex and Crime: As you seem to be interested in Japan, a hint for a good book to read: “Nihon Ryōiki — Early Buddhist legends of Japan” [about 100 short ones] sounds terribly boring and does take a while to get into, but it does offer an awfully lot of sex and crime [patricide, incest …] the most amazing thing to see is how little the stupidity of government officials like tax-collectors and cops has changed — all this written before the year 800!
    The English translation is not as good as Bohner’s German one (Yes, I do maintain a website with the German translation ) but in case you get hold of it: Nakamura Kyoko Motomochi [trans., ed.]; Miraculous stories from the Japanese Buddhist tradition – the Nihon ryōiki of the monk Kyōkai; Cambridge 1973 (Harvard University Press); Richmond (UK) 1997 (Curzon); 322 S.; ISBN 0-7007-0449-3. Even better would be to read the original Kanbun — reading Kanbun is a sure way to impress your Japanese acquaintances (even better: ask somebody on the subway about some obscure Kanji). As far as I know, there is also a manga out by now.

    Subway Posters: There is a collection of subway posters of the 1970s somewhere ion the web. I also remeber a short youtube video called something like “Stuff gaijin never say” which is hilarious.

    Nightlife: the ultimate bar to go to: RockMother in Shimokitazwa (still going strong after 30 years: English spoken, sometimes) [Japan Times review: Friday, Aug. 26, 2005 “BEST BAR NONE: Rockin’ mama rules in Shimokitazawa “]

    Apologies if my drivelling has bored you, hope you’ll enjoy anyway.

    Gambatte, nee

    Adi Meyerhofer (Pseud)

  6. Hey there this is somewhat of off topic but I was wanting
    to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you
    have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Kerrie! I don’t know about other blog sites, but WordPress is super WYSIWYG. It even has a “preview” feature so you can see what your post will look like before you publish it. I’ve found it super easy to use.

  7. Wow! Great blog. I stumbled across it looking for a picture of Colonel Sanders in a costume for my own blog, which is much like yours, although I think yours is much more fun. I look forward to reading more of it.

      • Arg, DUH, clicking on the Ada would have been just too easy…but I do love your blog! Gotta run to meet a friend now, but I’m definintely headed back over there after I get home tonight. Looking forward to learning about our parallel experiences in Tokyo!

  8. I love your blog and also your books (I’m in the middle of idolmaker now and read them all in a row, without a break but a lot of green tea (*˘︶˘*).。.:*♡ )
    Thanks a lot for sharing so much weird and wonderful and wonderful weird stuff out of japan. I hope some day I can go and see all those places all by myself! But for now I will follow you and absorb everything you post like sponge. ❤

    Warm greetings from Germany

    PS I would love to know, if there's someone on your mind who resembles Kenji?

    • Ahaha, Kenji…like, who would play him in the J-drama? ^^;; It keeps changing, as new cute actors get popular! Who resembles him in your mind? I’m really curious!

      And thank you for the super kind words about the books – I hardly ever get to hear when people like them, so you really made me smile today!(^O^☆♪ (And if you come to Tokyo, be sure to check out all the fun stuff where I take my friends when they come to town – I put directions & maps on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had!

      Thank you so much for coming here and leaving such a nice message!・° ♪・☆

  9. Hi Jonelle! ^_^ I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog – I head to Japan next week, and can’t believe all the little gems of knowledge and places to see I have garnered from your site. So…thank you!

    Are you in Tokyo right now?


    • I’m actually in San Francisco right now, but I’ll be back in Tokyo next week too! *\(^o^)/* Is it your first time in Japan? I love it every time I come back, but there’s nothing quite like seeing it for the first time! I hope you have many amazing adventures!・° ♪・☆

      And you might have stumbled across The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had ( while reading about various weird stuff here (it’s the place where I put directions and maps to all the places I talk about on Only In Japan) but I also just added a new part called #tokyotrip that has all the special festivals and events going on 365 days a year! If it’ll help you have even more fun, you can find it here:

      Where are you planning to be, while you’re in Japan? Maybe we’ll cross paths! ^_^

      • Wow, how’s that for timing? 😛

        Yep, my first time in Japan, so I’m super excited! Thanks, I hope I have many amazing adventures, too! ^_^

        I fully plan on devouring your website info this weekend. It’ll definitely help me make solid plans for my solo time in Tokyo – I’m going on a tour of Osaka, Koya-san, Hiroshima, and Kyoto, ending in Tokyo.

        Which means I’ll be hitting Tokyo on the 15th of April – 20th of April. I would definitely love to cross your path while in Japan! You don’t happen to feel like doing anything tourist-y that week? 😛

  10. I’m on a train to Tokyo from Takayama and just finished Idolmaker; I wanted to make sure I had read it by December 5th so I’d be ready for the release of Painted Doll! Your mysteries are great – wonderful reading as I prepared for my trip. And your Tokyo Guide has been very useful in helping me figure out some of the not-in-traditional guidebook must-sees in Tokyo.

    Thanks for both the novels and your blog!

    • I had to pinch myself and read your super kind comment twice, because you just made my day so seriously great! Honestly, a friend once told me that getting a book published was a lot like “throwing a leaf into the Grand Canyon” which is SO TRUE (deafening silence, I’m talking to YOU) except when I hear from lovely readers such as yourself. The very best part of writing anything (books, blog, directions to where to buy Knick-Knacks of the Damned) is that sometimes I get to meet people who like the same things I do, and you are now officially in that camp. I’m qvelling all over the place that you like the books, and super happy that I helped you get addicted to I mean help you have a good time in Japan.

      So…what did you do in Tokyo? (=゚ω゚)

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