It is unclear whether the Stratemeyer Syndicate ever authorized any of the early Japanese editions - various publishers would translate a couple of the titles and then never continue with further editions.  The most commonly found of the formats described below are the Yomiuri books from the 1970s and the Four Bunko books from the 1990s.

AKIMOTO  秋元書房  1956


Three titles from Nancy Drew were published as part of the Junior Mystery Stories series, which also included titles by Maud Hart Lovelace, Anne Emery and Betty Cavanna.

The covers feature Nancy as a very fashionable young lady of the1950s and her outfit is complete with white kid gloves and crinoline petticoat.  Nancy is equally well dressed on the other volumes.

The title is written in English as well as Japanese on the cover.  There are no internal illustrations.

Softcover with color photograph superimposed on illustrated cover, cover is laminated with reinforced plastic and has flaps: 7 1/2" H x 5" W

Nancy's Mysterious Letter. Artwork copyright 1956 by Akimoto Publishing, Japan.

Japanese Title

English Translation

American Title


Stairway of secret

The Hidden Staircase


Strange letter

Nancy's Mysterious Letter


Secret of musical score

The Secret in the Old Attic

POPLAR  ポプラ社 1968

ジュ ニア世界ミステリー

Once again a few Nancy Drew stories were incorporated into a larger series entitled Junior World Mystery Stories and which featured 20 books, including Judy Bolton, Penny Parker, Vicki Barr and various Agatha Christie mysteries.  The "masked sleuth" logo that appeared on the spines is adorable (and the black box surrounding the head-in-a-circle format is quite reminiscent of the yellow spine PCs that would have been in print around this time).

There is very nice original artwork on the cover, a color frontispiece and black and white line drawings throughout the text. 

The title is written in English as well as Japanese on the cover. 


Hardback with color dust jacket 7 3/8"H x 5 1/4" W; picture cover with same illustration on dust jacket.  Title, Junior Sekai spine symbol, volume #

幽霊の階段 (The Hidden Staircase). Artwork copyright 1968 by Poplar Publishing, Japan.

Japanese Title

English Translation

American Title

# within series


secret of red dance shoes

Scarlet Slipper



stairway of ghost

Hidden Staircase  



The obtaining where the map goes

Missing Map

puzzle of Lilac Inn
Lilac Inn
strange letter
Mysterious Letter


1962? - 1989? 

This is a series of 30 titles called the "Girl Worldwide Inference Masterpiece Selected Works" which is a mixed bag of girl sleuth stories. Besides the 7 Nancy Drews, other girl sleuths in the series that we recognize are the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, Kay Tracey Vicki Barr and Beverly Gray.

The original books from this publisher came in hardback which was then inserted into a box (in the image to the right, the one with the eyes at the top and individualized artwork is the box, the one with the 4 generic panels and "Mystery For Girls" is the book).

Later editions were republished in the 1980s and used the same artwork that was on the box but instead printed it on a DJ. Also added was a teal diamond pattern below the artwork.  I have also seen paperback versions.

Hardback with color illustrated cover, glossy color DJ: 7 1/2" H x 5 1/4" W
少女探偵ナンシー (The Clue of the Tapping Heels). Artwork copyright 1972 by Star Corporation of Gold, Japan.


Japanese Title


American Title



Girl detective Nancy?

Tapping Heels



waiting child, pillar old clock

Old Clock



Nancy participating

Twisted Candles



secret of residence of green

Moss Covered Mansion



shadow ranches

Shadow Ranch



night of storms

Whispering Statue?



white hand, black face

Ivory Charm

Original (??) cover from 1967

Revised cover from 1980s

internal from the Star Corporation books (it's the crazy cat lady from Tapping Heels, of course!)

YOMIURI SHIMBUN 読売新聞社  late 1970s - mid 1980s

ナンシー・ドルー ・シリーズ "Nanshi Doruu" series

This 10-title series was produced by American Junior Mystery Books and appears to have been in publication for about 10 years. These are the most commonly found of the Japanese Nancys in the resale market. They were translated by John C. McCaleb and Kaji Onose.

Some volumes included a wraparound advertisement featuring Pamela Sue Martin which is a tie-in with the television series produced by ABC in the late 1970s.

* see article from the fanzine Mystery and Adventure Review (issue #7) written by Don Holbrook, of which the full text has been transcribed below.

glossy hardback book with matching DJ (same images) 7 5/8" x 5"; book opens on left side (the Japanese part of the DJ to the right is the front cover); silver spine with Nancy logo

ビロードの仮面 (The Clue of the Velvet Mask), copyright 1976 by The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan.

Dust jacket wrapper advertising with Pamela Sue Martin photo (TV tie-in)
This is an example of the kind of internals fround in the Yomiuri books.

Titles #1-10 in Japanese Characters (from right to left)


Japanese Title

Phonetic Japanese Title

U.S. Title




Techo No Himitu

Clue in the Diary

The secret of the notebook



Maboroshi No Hakuba

Shadow Ranch

The white horse phantom



Nusu mareta gaku hu

Old Attic

The stolen score



Shiroi Himitu Kettusha

Red Gate Farm

The secret white organization



Larkspar Sou No Nazo

Larkspur Lane

The secret of Larkspur



Kojyo No Yuurei sen

Wooden Lady

The ghost ship on the lake



Kieta Primadonna

Crumbling Wall

The missing prima donna



Organ Wo hiku Bourei

Blackwood Hall

The ghost playing the organ



Biroudo No Kamen

Velvet Mask

The velvet mask



Kegawa Kouto No himitu

Ski Jump

The secret of the fur coat

Text on the dust jacket translates to: "Nancy Drew is an 18-year-old girl who has excellent courage and power of deduction. She challenges to many mysteries with her best friends, Bess and George."

FOUR BUNKO フォア文庫 1998 - early 2000's

These books were begun to be reprinted in 1998, and may or may not be affiliated with some of the titles released earlier as many of the titles are repeated. Only 6 titles were released.

The cover and internals feature the favored "manga" style of drawing popular in Japan - doesn't Nancy remind you a little of Sailor Moon here? Nancy is always depicted in this pink Sherlock Homes type outfit.

The book opens from left to right (in other words, the spine is on the right side). It is a tan color, with black and white lines drawings. There is a glossy, full-color dust jacket with a logo of Nancy on the spine.

Mass Market size light brown paperback with glossy cover DJ: 6 3/4" H x 4 1/2" W

The Secret of the Old Clock. Artwork by Maciko Tanimura, copyright 1998 by Ko Doi, Yuri Fujiwara, Japan.

This gallery of characters comes from the copy of Moss-Covered Mansion and shows "Nanshi" a very talented, exceptional 16-year-old girl with a knack for investigation. Also featured are Carson "Mr. Doru-u" - Nancy's very famous father, "Bessu" and "Giogie" who is described as a friend of Nanshi's, a young girl who has adopted a boy's name.

This internal comes from Old Clock (duh!).

Japanese Title in characters

U.S. Title



Old Clock



Shadow Ranch



Twisted Candles



Whispering Statue



Tapping Heels



Moss-Covered Mansion


STAR CORPORATION  OF GOLD 金の星社 Tokyo - 2007-present


Star Corporation of Gold re-entered the market again with these translations of these titles from the Girl Detective series.  

Once again, as befits books published for Japanese girls, the cover illustrations for the Star books are in the "manga" cartoon style.  The figures are very action oriented and hip.  Although the manga techniques are employed here, the flavor of these books is quite different in style from the US graphic novels, where Nancy seems more mature.

The flimsy paperback cover features the same illustration as on the heavy duty dust jacket, only it is reproduced in a two-toned version.  There are many greyscale illustrations inside as well as a cast of characters gallery at the beginning.

Digest size paperback with dust jacket 7 1/2" H X 5" W

ファベルジェの卵 (Without a Trace). Artwork by Seki Keiko/Selfish Gene,
  2007 by Kinnohoshi Sha Co Ltd, Tokyo, Japan.

Japanese Title American Title Year
Without a Trace 2007
A Race Against Time 2007
ドルー ファッションデザイナーの疑惑
Dressed to Steal 2008
ドルー ハリウッド映画殺人事件
Murder on the Set 2008


TSOGEN  東京創元社 Tokyo 2007-present


Yet another publisher in the Japanese market emerged in 2007, possibly in conjunction with the release of the Emma Roberts movie.  These books are smaller and inexpensively made.   They produced stories from the classic series using the US numbering system.  The release dates were quite sporadic and several times I thought they were done and then another title would appear.  However, since it has now been about 4 years since the last release, I think that there will not be doing any more titles.
Translated by 渡辺庸子 (Yoko Watanabe).  The color dust jackets feature sweet watercolors where Nancy looks a lot like Alice in Wonderland.

I managed to purchase a few of these titles during a trip I made to Japan in 2008.  In the Japanese bookstore they were stocked in the adult mystery section, not with the childrens books.

Mass Market size paperback 5 7/8"H x 4 1/4" W.  Lightweight glossy cover with paper overlay

The Secret of Shadow Ranch. Artwork by unknown,
copyright 2009 by Tsogen, Tokyo, Japan.

Japanese Title American Title Year
The Secret of the Old Clock 2007
The Hidden Staircase 2007
The Bungalow Mystery 2008
The Mystery at Lilac Inn 2008
The Secret of Shadow Ranch 2009
The Secret of Red Gate Farm
The Clue in the Diary
Nancy's Mysterious Letter



1974 - ? (at least as late as 1982)

This is another series created for young readers which features a single story from the Nancy Drew series, in this case it is Red Gate Farm (easily distinguishable by the KKK disguises).  In this artwork Nancy appears quite childish,  around the age of 11-12, and she is always dressed in shortened skirts with white socks and red Mary Janes.  My guess is that this series was aimed at a younger audience.

There are full page color illustrations throughout the story as well as several black and white line drawings.



Yet another publication from Star, this may have been a single edition from yet another series loosely translated as "Door to Literature." Only Blackwood Hall was produced this time.

The cover illustration is very beautiful and intricate and is attributed to  佐藤弘之 Hiroyuki Sato.  There are interesting "pointallist" illustrations throughout.

RONSO-SHA  論創海外ミステリ - 2014

ナンシー・ドルーの事件簿 (Case Files of Nancy Drew)

Based on the tagline of "case files" it would appear that the publisher planned on producing more than one title, but so far only Jewel Box has been released.  It's a mystery why they started with this particular title.  The cover of the book is very plain, the DJ has the black and white design with gold accents and there are no internal illustrations.

Large hardback with color illustrated cover of fairy tale images, glossy color DJ: 8 1/2" H x 6" W

Large hardback 8"H x 6 1/8"W; picture cover with same illustration as dust jacket
Hardback with dust jacket 7 5/8"H x 5 3/8"W


Nurture 1959

(Ivory Charm)

Poplar 1980

(Ringmaster's Secret)

* The following article was issued the Mystery & Adventure Review (Issue #7, Winter 1981)


by Don Holbrook

Back from a globe-trotting tour of points in the Far East, the traveler unpacked a bundle of Japanese copies of series-books, and gesturing at the cluster of book fans lurking around his desk, he remarked: "You guys can fight over these."

From the volumes that were not instantly torn to shreds in the ensuing melee, it has been possible to get an idea of the form in which these mystery-adventure stories have appeared on the other side of the world. Production methods of the books are far superior to those used for similar adventure novels in this country, but in many ways it is a matter of overkill and unnecessary replication.

Like their American counterparts, the books are picture-cover editions in hard boards, containing about 220 pages. These cover illustrations are lavish, in full color on both front and back of the books. Being read in the opposite direction to books in English, the front cover is at the "back", i.e., with the spine to the right, and on this side the Japanese title is printed in red and black on a silver background, followed by a red band with black letters, which says: (in Japanese script) "American Junior Series." On the reverse side of the book is the American title, with the color illustration cropped in a circle and printed inside a red band.

But that isn't all: folded over the books are slick-paper dust-jackets carrying the same scene and printing as the picture covers, on both front and back; and over THIS is a secondary dust jacket, of yellow paper, carrying advertisements for both Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, and information about the NHK television series appearances of these characters.

Dust-jacket flaps and pages inside the books summarize the story and give credits (along with pictures) for the translators. A further pictorial title page on slick paper is placed just inside the end-papers, which are in both series printed with maps of the United States. Following a second title page and a list of chapter headings, there is a "cast of characters" for the series, giving American names in Japanese "katakana" script which is used for all such transliterations.... The books are in a different order from U.S. ones, and are apparently translated revised editions.


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Last updated 3 May 2016