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Ghost Train

By: Natalie Anna Jacobsen

It's summer of 1877 in Kyoto and samurai daughter Maru Hosokawa is thrust into Emperor Meiji's rapidly-changing world. Her father has surrendered his sword and assimilated into a role as a civilian merchant. When his work takes him far from home, Maru is left to help rebuild family wealth by working in a teahouse—and protect herself with a small knife, "just in case," her father says.

During summer festivals, ghosts begin appearing before Maru. She faces an abusive employer—a renowned geisha and her maiko—unreliable friends, and insecurity at home, leaving her few trustworthy options to confide in. Then girls begin disappearing. In her search for answers, a kitsune offers Maru a choice in exchange for help: confront a demon rampaging Kyoto at night, or risk falling victim. Maru refuses, knowing kitsune are tricksters. But more ghosts appear, plagues sweep the streets, and rumors of a samurai rebellion obscure reality, driving Maru to make a choice to save herself, her father, and Kyoto.


Inspired by historical events and based on folklore, this YA story began taking shape in 2010. It looks at the emergence of Westernization in Japan, and how misinformation can birth rumors—and ghost stories.


With guidance by historians and subject matter experts in geisha, kimono, and samurai life from Japan and the US, I carefully crafted this historical fantasy to accurately reflect 19th century life under the society-altering leadership of Emperor Meiji.


Global rights were acquired by SelectBooks Inc. in New York under Kenzi Sugihara in June, 2023. It is slated for publication October 15, 2024.

"A haunting and immersive read."
- Eva Wong Nava, author of The House Of Little Sisters

"A mesmerizing journey that will linger in your thoughts long after the final page is turned."
- Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice and The Last Yakuza

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