Ten Days of Cleanup

Hiroko Houki, the proprietor of the cleaning business, Souji RS, reluctantly agrees to take on a mysterious client who wants her to clear out his storage unit. However, it’s the middle of the pandemic, and Hiroko’s usual recipients of used items—thrift stores—are closed. It turns out some of the items have historic value and Hiroko attempts to return them to various previous owners or their descendants, sometimes with disastrous results. 

Ten Days of Cleanup is a 12-chapter serial story published exclusively on Discover Nikkei. A new chapter will be release on the 4th of each month.

Read Chapter One

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Chapter Three—The Curse of Mottainai II

Clement of the Japanese American museum called me back an hour later. His hunch was right: the photos and the name plate in the mystery storage unit were connected to this Tokko Kinjo at a retirement home in Boyle Heights. He had even touched base with Tokko’s eldest son, who lived in Alhambra.

“I’m sorry,” Clement said to me over the phone. “The children don’t want you to be interacting with the father, even virtually.”

I let out a sigh. I had ten, no, now nine days, to empty a storage unit in Pasadena. And so far, I hadn’t gotten …

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Chapter Two—The Curse of Mottainai I

While many post-World War II Japanese families were all about discarding old tansu and kimono, my mother closely held to the value of mottainai, that it was a disgrace to throw something away before its time. In other words, as long as an object had not completely disintegrated, she was against throwing it away.

We were from a small town, Minamiawaji, on Awaji island in Hyōgo prefecture. Our family house was an old wood-framed structure that should have been torn down years ago because of termites and its exposure to the elements. But my parents continued to live there, …

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Amache artifacts cleaning business fiction mottainai naomi hirahara pandemic Souji RS