travel

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 SonThe 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 periodic newsletter. All you have to do is click here.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Where does your writing come from?

One of the many quotes attributed to Eudora Welty that I like is this:

“It is our inward journey that leads us through time – forward or back, seldom in a straight line, most often spiraling. Each of us is moving, changing, with respect to others. As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover; and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge. Our living experience at those meeting points is one of the charged dramatic fields of fiction.”

As my life as a writer evolved from something in my youthful imagination to what it is today, I recognized the journeys of my life were ones of discovery. Not just physical travel, hurling from one destination to another. Nor spiritual self-examination, and that journey to one’s own enlightenment. It was experiencing what the world unfolded before me, and my reaction to it.  Separate journeys converged; a tapestry of life emerged. That is the source of my writing.

Where does your writing come from?