ナオミ・ヒラハラ

(Naomi Hirahara)

Naomi Hirahara is the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series, which features a Kibei Nisei gardener and atomic-bomb survivor who solves crimes, Officer Ellie Rush series, and now the new Leilani Santiago mysteries. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo, she has written a number of nonfiction books on the Japanese American experience and several 12-part serials for Discover Nikkei.

Updated October 2019

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Two—All in the Family

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It turns out that the dead body discovered near the parking lot of Japanese Village Plaza in Los Angeles was not my fourteen-year-old daughter’s. It was of a much older Asian woman in her seventies. Name not released. At least that’s what it says in The Rafu Shimpo, the local newspaper that usually would be my last source of information, other than the obituaries. That was until I temporarily moved my business and home here to J-town, Little Tokyo—emphasis on temporary.

The Rafu Shimpo is actually hand delivered to some businesses here on First ...

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter One—False Confession

“I did it,” I tell them. I sit in a back room of the Little Tokyo Koban, a visitor’s center and community police outpost on First Street in downtown L.A. Standing in front of me are the Koban manager; my best friend, Cesar Soto; and Officer Doug Brenner, my main contact in the LAPD.

Half of the room is covered with balls covered in tissue paper in preparation for the upcoming Tanabata Festival, something related to star-crossed lovers. Strangest place for a confession, but apropos for me in my current situation.

“You didn’t, Shirota,” Brenner says. What ...

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TAT MASTER - Part 3 of 3

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I took me an hour to finally locate where Shawn Finche had been hospitalized. It was in the ICU at a Catholic hospital in the middle of Los Angeles. I had seen ads about it in the Japanese newspaper; they apparently had a Japanese wing, in which they served Asian patients sticky white rice instead of bread.

Before I left the tattoo shop, I stuck some irezumi needles and ink in my bag. I had special ordered them through Roberto. He didn’t understand why I needed them. You never know if someone wants traditional Japanese hand ...

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TAT MASTER - Part 2 of 3

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I woke up the next morning with my throat parched. Was I coming down with something? My throat was the weakest part of my body. Whenever I got sick, I felt it in my throat first. I tried gargling with salt water but it only made me thirstier.

I spent extra time cleaning my teeth and drying my hair. I wore a dress that I had bought on the Venice Boardwalk on a whim. I knew that I was being stupid, but I couldn’t help it. Two years without a man was actually a long time ...

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TAT MASTER - Part 1 of 3

“What’s your real name?” GEISHA GIRL asked, picking up my business card after I was finished with him.

I named all my customers by the tattoos they ordered. I had at least five GEISHA GIRLs this week, ten SAMURAI WARRIORs, five BUTTERFLYs, five BARBED WIREs, one AMERICAN FLAG, and assorted lettering, both standard and custom. This GEISHA GIRL was fat, blonde, and hairy. I had to shave his back at least two times to get to a smooth canvas.

My motto was to talk to the customer as least as possible, so I pointed to the wall near my ...

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