Get to know Shig Sato – Holidays in Japan

Japan has many holidays – but is there a holiday like Thanksgiving? No, not exactly.

But there is a holiday called “Labor Thanksgiving Day” (Kinro-kansha-no-hi) and it is celebrated November 23! It has a similar meaning – a fall harvest festival – and in 1948 it became “a holiday to honor labor, celebrate manufacturing, and give thanks to one another.” Check out this blog from Japanese Language Blog.

The two really big holidays are New Year’s Day (Ganjitsu) and Golden Week. New Year’s is like Christmas, New Year’s and the Forth of July all rolled into one long holiday – many shops and stores are closed for several days beyond January 1. Hundreds of thousands trek to temples to ring in the new year at midnight. One of the great traditions is the ‘forgetting party’ (bonenkai parties) – held for the purpose of leaving behind the old year’s worries and troubles. Here is some more information from Japan Guide. Another big celebration is Coming of Age day, held on the second Monday of January. It is held to congratulate and encourage those who have reached age 20, the age of majority

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Monks ring the bell 108 times – 107 times on Dec. 31, 1 time on Jan.,1

 

But one of the biggest holidays is not a holiday but many put together. Golden week is longer than one week, depending on the calendar and when certain days fall. Usually it is April 29-May 8. It combines May 3, Constitution Day, the new constitution put in place in 1947; May 4, Greenery Day, celebrating nature and the environment; May 5, Children’s Day, when family’s celebrate health and happiness of their children. Some holiday’s are traditional festivals and not national holidays, such as  Girl’s Day – (Hina Matsuri), also known as Doll’s Day, is March 3. Families pray for the health and happiness of their daughters. They also put on display their collection of Hina dolls.

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Hina dolls on display.

Bon is not one day, but many. Typically references with the honorific o-, o-ban is a Buddhist event for commemorating one’s ancestors. Although dates vary, it is usually in August, and it is believed that ancestors return to this world to visit their relatives. Graves are visited, food offerings at made at home altars and at temples, bonfires and dances are held, and at the end, lanterns are placed in rivers and lakes and other bodies of water to guide the spirits back to their world.

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Illuminated lanterns guide spirits at the conclusion of o-bon.

41BihmTO1ILCat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it! Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

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Get to know Shig Sato – Private investigators in Japan

detectiveIn the Shig Sato Mystery series, Shig goes from being a respected police officer to, after his mandatory retirement, a private investigator. He had no real plans to become a P.I., and only mentioned it to his superior, the superintendent-general, as a quick way to end a conversation. Then Shig received a note from Kazuo Takahashi, one of the wealthiest of all the Japanese industrialists. Takahashi had been aware of Sato for a number of years, and when he was told by the Tokyo Police superintendent general that Sato once mentioned perhaps becoming a private investigator in his retirement — well. Takahashi couldn’t wait to hire Sato.

It’s a staple of modern Japanese storytelling that a prospective bride or groom is investigated before a marriage can take place. It’s a staple because it’s true. And of course, in the modern world, private investigators/private detectives are hired for a variety of reasons, from tracking down wayward spouses, background investigations and locating people, to investigations unique to business and government.In present-day Tokyo, there are over 10,000 agencies in present-day Japan,  and there are schools that offer classes on how to prepare for that occupation. In fact, the U.S. embassy has a list of private detectives on it’s website.

Although Shig Sato is a reluctant P.I., he is slowly growing into his new role as a civilian investigator. In the time of the Sato mysteries, Shig believes his new career as a P.I. a huge step down from his police career. Will he find it as rewarding as when he was the highly respected Inspector Sato? To find out, you’ll have to read the mysteries. My new release, Cat’s Meow, provides a clue!

41BihmTO1ILCat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it!  Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

Get to know Shig Sato – Where Shig Lives

Shig lives in Hyakunincho, Shinjuku, a Tokyo neighborhood very much a part of its urban landscape. Central Tokyo is considered to be inside the Yamanote Commuter Line ‘circle.’ Hyakunincho is one of the many Yamanote neighborhoods that encircle the city.  A ride on the Yamanote line can take you to Tokyo’s festive Ueno Park for cherry-blossom viewing, the newest electronics at Akihabara, the historic Tokyo Station, and the much-photographed Shibuya crossing.  (The train route below with the black and white squares is the Yamanote Line. As you can see, it is a must-ride for any visitor.)SaveThisMap

Why did I place Shig in this neighborhood. It’s where I lived for a time when I was in Tokyo in the late 1980s, in a foreign house not unlike the Yamanote Villa.

First of all: Tokyo is not a city, according to its government system. It is a prefecture all its own, made up of 23 wards, one of which is Shinjuku. Inside Shinjuku is are the districts of Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Kagurazka, Ichigawa, Yotsuya, and Okubo. Often, train stations take the name of their district. There is an Okubo station, part of the JR East (Japan Railway) line. That station and its predecessors date back to the 1890s. Shin-Okubo (‘New’-Okubo) is a stop on the Yamanote line. It is a station unto itself — it is one of two on the Yamanote line that has no direct service to any other train line.

What follows is a series of screen shots from Google Maps that show some areas of Hyakunincho. It’s Shig’s neighborhood. Its streets are his streets.

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The building with the blue roof is Shin-Okubo Station on Okubo-dori (Okubo Street). The train tracks to its immediate right is the Yamanote commuter line. The street that leads to Shig’s home is across Okubo-dori, next to the building with the green roof.

 

A view of Shin-Okubo Station
A view of Shin-Okubo Station.
A view of the Yamanote trains and the underpass
A view facing east: Okubo-dori, the Yamanote commuters trains, and the underpass.
The lane that leads to Shig's home
The lane that leads to Shig’s house. Kei’s yakitori-ya would be at the end of the first block on the left.
View walking north, Globe Theatre on right
A view of the lane as it continues north. The Globe Theater is hidden behind the trees on the right.
Closup of Shig's neighborhood
A close-up of Shig’s neighborhood. His house would be situated at the very bottom left, the grey roof across from the red roof. At top right is a neighbor recreational baseball diamond, which was there when I lived in Hyakunincho.

One of my aims in writing the Shig series is to provide directions as accurately as possible. My hope is a person in Tokyo could find ‘Shig’s House’ by the descriptions in my novels. If not, the blame is entirely mine. Have any questions about Tokyo and it’s many wards? Leave a question in the comments and I’ll answer them.

41BihmTO1ILCat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it! Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

Get to know Shig Sato – Serial Killers in Japan

41BihmTO1ILCat’s Meow, my latest Shig Sato Mystery, could have been ripped from the headlines — but it wasn’t.

I write about crime and events that are common anywhere in the world, but place them in 1990s Tokyo, with my characters Shig Sato, Ken Abe, Mo Kato, Hisoka Endo, the Kobayashi twins, and all the other folks who populate the stories.

But the serial killer phenomenon isn’t new. It’s very real, and it has a history in that country just as in another other.

What’s grabbing the headlines now: a woman seeking a suicide partner led police to a residence in Zama where severed heads were found in coolers. You can read the story from The New York Times by clicking the link here. Some politicians blame the crime on the alleged killer playing video games. You can read the SoraNews24 story here.

And the case of the ‘Black Widow’ – woman sentenced to death for killing her husbands and other men by having them drink cyanide. You can read a story here  courtesy The Japan Times.

Ripped from the headlines, a story all it’s own, with the inimitable Shig Sato on the case. Cat’s Meow.

See you tomorrow!

Cat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it! Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

 

Get to know Shig Sato – Tokyo Metropolitan Police

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (Keishichoo) serves as the police force for the Tokyo metropolis. It is headed by a superintendent general, who is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission and approved by the Prime Minister. The

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One of hundreds of police kobans.

headquarters building, shaped like a wedge with cylindrical towers on top, is located in the Kasumigaseki district, near the Justice ministry and the Imperial Palace. There are 102 police stations in the metropolitan area, and 826 koban, a small neighborhood police station and a critical part of department’s community police efforts. There are 256 residential kobanAnywhere from one to ten officers can be assigned to a koban. The officers keep watch, respond to emergencies, and interact with the public.

Shig Sato joined the department in 1951, leaving his his studies at Waseda University to earn a living to support his family after the death of his maternal grandfather, who was his main paternal figure after his father was drafted when he was just eight years old. He met his future wife, Miki, while a student at Waseda. Shig’s training and initial assignments were no different than any other young police officer. His supervisors noticed his quiet determination and ability to put seemingly dissimilar actions and clues together to solve a crime. But like most young, single police officers, he lived in police housing and worked in several kobans before his true value was recognized and rewarded.

If you have read the prequel novel Tokyo Summer, you’ll learn about the circumstances that led to a move late in Shig’s career. He was assigned to the Security Police, a protection unit mandated to protect domestic and foreign VIPs on Japanese soil. The officers where suits, distinctive pins and ties, and the service is modeled after the U.S Secret Service. High ranking minsters of state, such as the Prime Minister, President of the House of Councilors, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and foreign ambassadors and visiting dignitaries all are protected by the Security Police. Shig was, for a time, assigned to the Imperial Household Agency, protecting the Emperor, Empress, and the royal family.

But Shig’s ability to solve crime enabled him to leave the security services as his retirement neared. It was during this return to criminal investigations that sets the stage for The Gangster’s Son. The events of the summer of 1991 continue through Book 2, The Thief’s Mistake, and Book 3, Traitors & Lies. Book 4, Cat’s Meow, takes place in the autumn of that year. But things have not gotten much better for Shig.

Or have they?

Cat’s Meow is available now for pre-order on Amazon. Just click for your copy – and find out!

See you tomorrow!

41BihmTO1ILCat’s MeowCat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it! Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

 

Japan & Espionage: Shig Sato wasn’t the first to fall into a trap

KGB. GRU. CIA. The Cold War. It’s the stuff of thrilling writing. But do you know the story behind the story?

In Traitors & Lies, Tokyo’s reluctant P.I., Shig Sato, finds himself entangled in high-stakes international espionage in early 1990s Tokyo. It doesn’t take long for Shig to realize he’s been lied to, and might just be a pawn in the biggest power grab in the Cold War.

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(AP photos)

But they say truth is stranger than fiction. It’s certainly the case with one of my favorite authors, Ian Fleming, and the story behind You Only Live Twice. This article that ran in The Japan Times, one of my old newspaper haunts, explains why. Read the fascinating story here.

To find out what it takes for Shig Sato to come to his senses about Katsuo Takahashi, and his new life as a private investigator, pick up a copy of Traitor’s & Lies.

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Kurt Wallander and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s Son, The Thief’s Mistake, or Traitors & Lies – and to read how it all began. To find out more about the World of Shig Sato, sign up for a periodic newsletter. All you have to do is click here.

 

The Hunt is On

An unexpected phone call and the suspicions of Mrs. Abe’s ramen delivery boy put Sato and Abe on the trail of a killer

from The Gangster’s Son – A Shig Sato Mystery

Sato sat at his desk, fanning himself with a thin white and red paper fan that looked like a heart on a small handle, and waited for the dull buzz in his head to die down. Ses Fujimori, Kazuo Takahashi, Mai Sakamoto, the superintendent general, Michiko Hayashi: voices roiling in his head, and all he saw was Kimi Yamada’s beaten face, and Miki’s weak smile beneath her oxygen mask. He stared at his desk, fanned himself, and kept thinking of everything, and nothing.

Then Abe’s phone rang.

“Damn,” he thought. “Will this never end?”

After a deep breath and long exhale, he walked to Abe’s desk, wondering what else could interfere with the investigation.

“This is Sato.”

“Oh, Inspector!”

okinawa-646182_1920Mrs. Abe seemed startled to hear a voice other than her son’s. But she recovered quickly, and her words fell like a waterfall. Before he was aware of it, Sato was settling in to listen to whatever Abe’s mother had to say, trying to ease into a state where he could endure the harmless diversion.

But he heard anxiety in the old woman’s voice as she hoarsely whispered that since she was talking to Inspector Sato himself, she had to share something she heard from one of the delivery boys. She explained how Taki made deliveries for old Kamiya’s brasserie, Mr. Edano’s sobu shop, Mrs. Fukuyama’s tempura shop, and of course, Abe’s ramen shop. The delivery “boys” were, as Sato well knew, old men. Taki, for example, was gray as a dirty raincloud, with yellowed teeth and milky eyes, and was stubborn beyond reason. But they delivered the food and collected the dishes, and the system worked. One of the side benefits of using the delivery boys was learning the latest gossip.

Sato sighed, not wanting to interrupt Mrs. Abe.

“And Taki is a one-man neighborhood watch. One place he doesn’t like is an ugly old place two streets over. It’s filled with the worst sort of people. Like today,” she said.

“Taki says a ‘young punk up to no good’ is there off and on, with one of those noisy motorbikes, you know the kind, and sometimes he’s there with women, and sometimes with girls not even high school age, and the most loathsome creatures stopping by day and night, not staying long. I wonder why Ken never told you about it. Well, sometimes this person orders food and sometimes beer or something even stronger, and sometimes there’s an odor. Taki thinks it smells like one of those opium dens. Not that I would know. But Taki says there has to be something illegal going on.”

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Death in the Night

In The Gangster’s Son, Kimi Yamada is found dead in a Tokyo back alley. The investigation begins – but what about her next of kin? What happens when proud, loving parents find out their child has been murdered? In this chapter, the Yamadas hear the tragic news:

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MYSTERIOUS KNOCKING ENDED Yosh and Miyako Yamada’s summer slumber. Even as they tightened their robes as if to protect themselves from what the two policemen were saying, a slow ballet of shock and grief stirred in their hearts as they tried to comprehend words like “dead” and “Kimi” and “Roppongi” and “a short time ago” and “can you identify the body right away?” Time shifted to a meaningless state, and they took no notice of their actions or their surroundings. The gates of hell had opened beneath them.

Before they realized what they were doing, Kimi Yamada’s parents found themselves driving from their home in the western suburbs through dimly lit, unfamiliar streets, looking for the place where the police said they could find their daughter. Searching kept their minds occupied as an incomprehensible torment squeezed their souls without mercy.

Eventually they found the building they were directed to go to, the building caped in the dark of night, surrounded by harsh streetlights. They parked their modest sedan as close to the shiny glass doors as possible, and it took some time before the couple was aware that a tall man chewing a toothpick was standing by the large glass doors.

As they approached the doors the man opened one and held it open for them as he said, “My name is Kato. I’m a police officer. Please follow me.”

Without saying anything, the Yamadas meekly followed Kato to where the unthinkable would become real.

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Shig Sato Prequel – Coming April 21

Was it suicide – or murder?

A sick and desperate housewife. Her career bureaucrat husband has a big promotion in his grasp. All she wants is her migraines to stop.

ssnovella1One night, they stop for good.

And the Tokyo police turn Inspector Shig Sato to get to the truth.

But who’s truth? The Bank of Japan wanting to keep a scandal quiet, or following the clues wherever they may lead?

Toky Summer, a Shig Sato novella, is available for pre-order now before its April 21 launch.

Here’s Chapter One

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“It feels like knives behind my eyes.”

Setsuko Usami said it so often her husband seemed deaf to it. She knew that their years together taught her that Taro would not understand it, not even try. Taro Usami’s indifference had become almost as painful as the migraines themselves.

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Many Thanks!

The Gangster’s Son was published over three years ago as book one in the Shig Sato Mystery series. Set in Tokyo in the 1990s, it features a police inspector, Shig Sato, who is at a crossroads: mandatory retirement and a wife who is terminally ill. Upon his return to Azabu Police Station in the Roppongi Hills district, his old ‘home turf’ – he gets a case that could prove to be his last. The murder of a jazz club waitress forces him to confront a secret he’s held tightly onto for years: he is indebted to a yakuza boss, a man who was once his best childhood friend.

The Gangster’s Son has been downloaded over 4,000 times and has sold in dozen countries. It’s success encouraged me to continue writing the Shig Sato saga – book 2 and book 3 is available at most ebook vendors. But it’s The Gangster’s Son that’s closest to my heart.

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I just want to say thanks for all the support, and that another Shig Sato Mystery will be coming your way later this year.  I’ll keep you posted on all the Shig news coming soon.