World of Shig Sato

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.”

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

Like Knives Behind My Eyes

Suicide – or murder? Will scandal taint the Bank of Japan? Here’s Chapter one of Tokyo Summer – A Shig Sato Novella.

 

Chapter 1

 

“It feels like knives behind my eyes.”ssnovella1

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.

At one time early in their marriage she was surprised and glad Taro asked about her headaches, if anything was wrong, but that stopped. Her migraines always returned and he was tired of feeling useless, and would say, “What could he do?”

He never had headaches. He didn’t know what to do.

Eventually Setsuko gave up. What could he do? He was a rising star at the Bank of Japan and they had a tiny four-room flat in Chuo and she was the mother of two teenagers. His life was outside the home. Her life had not changed since her 20s. She cooked and cleaned and shopped and succumbed to the incessant, unbearable beat of the never-ending demands of life in Tokyo.

Setsuko remembered when Taro would ask about her day, act like he cared. That was when they were young and the world held so much promise for smart young couples staking their claim to making a good life for themselves in the city. She sometimes thought that being young was the cause of that. Now they were in their 40s and she was weary and laid in bed for hours every day even when she didn’t have her migraines.

She held onto hopes, though. Like it being the year 1988, and thinking that perhaps this would be the year her luck would change. She had heard 88 was a lucky number.

But it was the end of May and she laid on her futon and suffered through her migraines and wondered if her luck would ever change, or if this really was her life. She wondered if she would ever get fed up and actually say something like “that’s the last straw.” She wondered what would it be, that straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

She wondered about it, idly at times, then forgot about it as a new day presented new problems. But the thought always returned. What would happen? What would it take?

 

The last straw came at the end of June. Plans for the children’s summer holiday had to be decided. Taro’s indifference infuriated her. He said he was busy at work. He said a promotion was in the works. He said he couldn’t get away because the timing was all wrong.

She kept asking. A trip with her sister and their children just didn’t happen on a whim. She needed to know. She needed to plan. Her daughter’s sullen peevishness was driving her mad – getting the girl to agree to anything was a battle in itself, now that she was 15 and in full rebellion mode. Her son was pulling away from her, as boys do when they become teenagers. He was 13 and had sprouted up and seemingly overnight his voice had dropped an octave. His charming little boy self was disappearing. Getting them both to agree to go with her sister and their children to Okinawa had been like moving heaven and earth. And in another year she knew it would be impossible to get anyone to agree on anything.

Setsuko Usami clung to the hope her plans had not gone to pieces. Then one evening Taro came home late and she was ready to have it out once and for all. But before she could get started he said, “I have to go to Singapore for the Pacific Rim finance ministers meeting.” He said it as if he was taking the car to a mechanic.

“What! When?” She prayed it wouldn’t interfere with their holiday. “When do you have to go?”

“You know when,” he said as he removed his clothes and left them where they lay and reached for the pajama bottoms she had laid out for him. He escaped to the bathroom.

“Taro! My plans! Why can’t–”

“It can’t be helped!”

Setsuko stared at the bathroom door until he stepped out. She collapsed onto her futon and watched Taro lay down with his back to her. A thunderbolt of nausea erupted from deep inside her gut and she ran to the bathroom.

Taro called out, “What is it now?”

“You know what it is!”

Taro turned off the light. A pink half-darkness beyond their window spilled into the room where they slept, the dim split in two by a rare moonbeam. Sleep came easily.

 

+

 

Aroused from his slumber, Taro Usami realized he sensed Setsuko’s absence. He sat up and saw her unmussed futon. He listened for any household sounds. He heard nothing. Then he realized a need to relieve himself.

Stepping to the bathroom, half asleep, he wondered why the door wouldn’t open fully.

And why the light was on.

Once he managed to get his head in for a peek, he saw why. Setsuko lay on the floor, her body twisted, eyes open, mouth sagging, tongue limp, strands of hair matted on her forehead and cheek. An empty prescription medicine vial lay inches from her fingertips.

Later, his children would say he shouted “Setsuko” over and over.

Taro Usami would say he didn’t remember.

To pre-order a copy of  Tokyo Summer, click here. To sign up for for great deals and advance notice of more great Shig Sato stuff, just click here. Be assured your information is safe – I hate spam and never share information.

 

The World of Shig Sato: Food in Japan

A reader discovering the world of Shig Sato will soon learn that food becomes in interesting side character – Miki’s breakfast of miso soup and rice, Abe’s early life growing up in a ramen shop, Ses Fujimori’s love of okonomyaki, Shig’s lunchtime katsudon, even Mos Hishida’s nickname, a result of his steady diet of Japanese-style hamburgers. Any reader not familiar with Japanese cuisine might wonder at it all. In truth, the food of Japan is as simple as it is varied.

The simple: fish and rice. But is that really all there is? It doesn’t begin to encompass the world of sushi, much less the whole of Japanese cuisine. The popular Japan Talk website lists 100 types of sushi. Notice that fish, vegetables, eggs, meat – it’s all included – enough variety for almost any tates. Sushi, sashimi, makiit can take minutes to prepare, a lifetime to master.sushi

The importance of rice in Japanese culture cannot be overstated. The language uses the word gohan for “meal” as well as “cooked rice.” Gohan is a part of each word signifying breakfast, lunch and supper. In feudal times, wealth was measured how much rice one possessed and peasants were keenly appreciative of a payment in rice for their labor – coins were no good to them when they had to eat. Japan’s propensity for natural disasters, and it’s involvement in war, often led to a scarcity of food. Rice stockpiles were worth fighting for.

As an nation comprised of many islands large and small, a reader would be right in thinking that all types of seafood is a part of the Japanese cuisine, from the common tuna to the exotic –  pufferfish, anyone?

What many Western readers of the Shig Sato series may not realize is that farming – livestock, grain, vegetable, fruit, any combination and variety – can be found in most of the nation’s 47 prefectures. Almost any grocery store or market will have fresh local produce, seasonal fruit, cuts of meat and poultry, and packaged foods like curry mixes and spices. (When my in-laws came to visit from Canada, flour and vanilla were found and donuts were produced in an afternoon!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne may not think of baked goods when thinking of Japanese cuisine, yet the tasty sweets and snacks appeal to young and old. And it doesn’t take much to find pan – bread – and some have even embraced the staple, when it’s made with rice flour.

The varied: Being an international city, Tokyo is home to an array of dining experiences any world traveler would appreciate. Michelin stars are not unknown in the city. Gourmets and foodies alike can find were the finest food is served, and also the stores that sell the products for those daring and talented enough to create at home.

Regional specialties abound. I’ll conclude with this list of a prefecture’s favorite dish. See if you don’t recognize some, and have probably eaten some others (and some not!).

Hokkaido – Grilled mutten

Aomori – Sea urchin and abalone

Miyagi – Oysters

Yamagata – Potato stew

Fukushima – Pickled herring

Ishikawa – Turnip sushi

Gifu – Potatoes with sweet chestnuts

Nagano – Buckwheat dumplings

Aichi – Deep fried chicken wings

Tochigi – Giyouza (potsticker) dumplings

Chiba – Steamed peanuts

Kanagawa – Curry

Mie – Lobster

Shiga – Duck hot pot

Osaka – Okonomiyaki

kobebeefHyogo – Kobe’s famous beer-fed beef

Tottori – Snow crab

Tokushima – Buckwheat porridge

Nagasaki – Sasebo burger (thanks to the navy base there)

Kukamoto – Sliced horsemeat

Miyazaki – Kyushu-style fried chicken

Okinawa – Fried pork belly

So what happend the day Miki Sato fell ill, changing Shig Sato’s life forever? Get the Shig Sato prequel Tokyo Summer – available now through Amazon. Just click.

 

The World of Shig Sato: The Streets and Locales of Shig Sato’s Japan

In the world of our hero, Shig Sato is a denizen of the streets and neighborhoods of Tokyo. From his home in Hyakunincho to Azabu Police Station to the American navy base in Yokosuka, Shig lives by his dictum “follow the clues.”

Some say New York is comprised of neighborhoods. This describes Tokyo. A prefecture in its own right, the city has been the center of culture and politics for four hundred years. Once known as Edo, the city had over a million people by the middle of the 18th century. The Meiji restoration brought the imperial family from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1868, Tokyo became the capital, and Western ideas and customs slowly came to the island nation.

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The greater Tokyo region is made up of Tokyo and the prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa. The Kanto region include the prefectures shaded in light green. Sato’s family is from a neighborhood in Kawasaki, Kanagawa. It and other parts of the broad flat area around Tokyo Bay is known as the Kanto Plain. A devestating earthquake struck the area in 1923. In Shig’s lifetime, he witnessed the bombing of Kawasaki during World War II, and the rebuilding that came afterward.

skyscrapers

Shinjuku, famous for its skyscrapers as well as its entertainment district,  is one of the 23 wards of Tokyo. Many visitors to Tokyo know some of the wards by name without realizing it. For example, Shinagawa, Shibuya and Shinjuku are major train stations on the Yamanote commuter loop line encircling inner Tokyo as well as wards, or districts, in the city. And talk about densely populated – Shinjuku has 11,000 residents per square kilometer!

Shig and Miki’s home is in the Hyakunincho neighborhood, north of Okubo-dori, in Shinjuku. Sato’s beloved Azabu Police Station is on Roppongi-dori in the heart of the fashionable Roppongi district of Minato ward, the government, business, entertainment and fashion hub of the city south of the Imperial Palace.

map_of_tokyo

In the book one of the Shig Sato mysteries, The Gangster’s Son, yakuza boss Ses Fujimori likes to escape his worries by visiting the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The city has many parks and gardens, some a part of shrines, some previously estates of the wealthy and powerful.

garden_shinjuku

On the map of Tokyo it is due west of the Imperial Palace and south of Shinjuku Station. Shig and Miki’s home is less than a mile north of the park. The map also makes note of Akasaka, where Sato and Ken Abe set up their private investigator office after they leave the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

yokosuka2

But as reader’s of The Gangster’s Son know, Sato will leave the city to track down suspects. For example, Sato and Detective Hisoka Endo travel to the American navy base in Yokosuka, in Kanagawa Prefecture. The military presence there and in Yokohama, about halfway in between Tokyo and Yokosuka, date back to the American occupation that began after the war and lasted until the early 1950s.

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Sato’s respite from the city is his return to his family’s home in Takatsu, a ward in the city of Kawasaki along the Tama River. In the Takatsu of 1991, his neighborhood remains populated by families who fondly remember his mother, grandmother, and the family bakery that remained in operation through the 1960s. Several of the homes in that neighborhood, including Sato’s, remain. For Sato it is home, as much as his modest house in Hyakunincho. It is there he spends the summer of 1991, at a loss with what to do with himself as the events of his life unfold in ways he dreaded but must face. It’s there that, in the beginning of book two, The Thief’s Mistake, Ken Abe fetches Sato from his private sorrows.

Join Sato and Abe as  they follow the clues to places unlike another other – the streets, mansions, slums, suburbs, estates, highways and neighborhoods of Tokyo.

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Some locales in The Gangster’s Son and the distances

Hyakunincho to Azabu police station on Roppongi-dori – 7.6k, about 4.7 miles, a 25-minute drive, about 30 minutes by public transportation

Azabu Police Station to Yokosuka American navy base – 68k, about 42 miles, about 1 hour 45 minute drive

Hyakunincho to Takatsu, Sato’s family home, – 20k, about 12.5 miles, about 40-45 minute drive

(maps courtesy Tokyo Municipal Government, Lonely Planet, BBC, photodiary.org, Google)