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In the last 15 minutes of the online auction, the price rose, and the small drawer I was after went for 78,000 yen. I had decided to bid up to 5,000 yen, but the bidding got heated.

The item I received was sturdier than I expected. The top drawer was divided into two, and the middle and bottom drawers had no dividers. After opening the top drawer and putting in my pens and scissors, I opened the bottom drawer. The bottom drawer was slightly tilted, and it looked like something was stuck in it, which bothered me.

As expected, the drawer wouldn't come out. I pulled it towards me, and it did open, but something felt strange. I tried opening the middle drawer. The height of the drawers was different between the middle and bottom drawers. The bottom drawer was much lower. I looked into the bottom drawer.


The bottom tier seems to be raised, so flip it over.

knock Knock

Yeah. I thought so.

There seems to be a space between the bottom and the lower section, and there is a sound when you tap on the hollow. When I shake it, I can faintly hear the rustling sound of paper hitting it. I stuck my hand in, but there was no gap in the bottom plate. I used the scissors as leverage to apply pressure to the bottom plate.

Inside were five letters. They were in English. I decided to read them, relying on my memory of class and a dictionary. My curiosity overcame my feelings of guilt about reading someone else's letters.


"That's not true. It's more about color matching than comparison, isn't it?"

"Mmm. Pink and grey look great together!"

"That's true, but it's a matter of color matching. It's a coordination. Mine is this. A glass. It's brown with white on top, so it looks like snow on the ground, right?"

"That's not fair, Kazuko! It's not fair to bring something from Japan!"

Susan, in her pink dress and with a gray bag and brooch spread out, and Kazuko, holding a teacup covered in white glaze, don't seem to be able to spend a single second without talking.

"Okay, that's true. It's a little unfair to bring something from Japan. But Susan still doesn't understand how to tell the difference. She's going to have to learn a bit from scratch."

"Hmm. Got it."

"By the way, Susan, isn't that dress yours, Sister Louise's?"

"Yeah. I just borrowed it."

"Oh no! Jack said there's a dance today! I bet Louise is going to wear that. She'll get in trouble!"

"You'll get in trouble!"

Tetsuzo Watanabe, who had been listening to their conversation and the sounds of them running out, glanced over at the bookshelf with a grin.

  • bonsai
  • kimono
  • Dry Landscape

He took out various books about Japanese culture and placed them on the desk. It was Kazuko's father, Tetsuzo, who talked to Kazuko and Susan about "mitate."

"What do the clouds look like?"

"cotton candy!"

"Soft cream!"

Kazuko and Susan answer.

"So what about those thin, streaky clouds over there?"

"It looks like a road."

"Hmm. I wonder. It just looks like a cloud."

"Yes, that's fine. But sometimes it looks like something else, doesn't it? In Japan, that's called 'mitate'. For example, in Japan, it's said that a rabbit lives on the moon and makes mochi."

"What's mochi?"

"Oh, sorry Susan. Mochi is made from rice. It's kind of hard to explain. I'll make it for New Year's, so come over and try it."


"But Japanese people aren't the only ones who think something lives on the moon. I think this story originated in China. There is apparently a country where there is a man carrying firewood. They saw the patterns on the surface of the moon and thought, "That must be it." I think it's fun to think, "I can see this, I can see that."

"That's fun!" and "That's a great idea!" they exchanged comments, and it seemed the two of them had decided to create a "Mimicry Club."

"That's great. Let's include Dad."

"No, you know a lot of adults, so no. Right, Susan?"

"Um, well... how about we ask your dad to be a judge?"

"Um....umm, yeah! That's great. Dad can be a judge."

"Yes, yes. I understand."


<<First message>>

Kazuko, how are you? I'm fine. I don't know if this will arrive. Joan said it will. So I'm writing this.

Everything has changed so much that I don't know where to start. I don't know how to write about how boring life is without Kazuko. Even when I'm with everyone, I always feel bored. So I'm always thinking in my head. I'll continue the club alone in case Kazuko comes back and we do the pretend club again.

The pattern on the stone I picked up the other day looks like flowing water. The pattern is white, and if you just look at it, it looks like a river. I think Kazuko and her dad will be very happy with this. I'll draw a picture of the stone for you.


<<Second message>>

Kazuko, your sister Louise's wedding is coming up. Her fiancé, Richard, is going to the battlefield. That's why they're having the wedding before then. I'm against it. Even Louise doesn't want it. How cruel to make her cry while wearing her once-in-a-lifetime wedding dress. But Louise can't go against her father. And neither can I.

Let me tell you a fun story. When I first heard about mitate, Kazuko's father was talking about clouds. Since then, I often look at clouds. The ones I've seen up until now.

  • Running Horse
  • Grandpa's Beard
  • Popcorn
  • Kusumoto's hat at the restaurant
  • Eggs as they are cracked onto a frying pan.

There was also a long, thin one that looked like an arm. What clouds did Kazuko see? What do the clouds you see there look like?


<<Third message>>

Kazuko, I've been hearing a lot of bad things. How is your brother? I hope he's gone somewhere far away. You call him Jack, and even Kazuko has a name Alice, so how could this happen?

But I'm also confused. I'm scared and hateful. But I still love Kazuko and Jack. Kazuko always said, "Japan's mountains are round, the sea is calm, and you can catch delicious fish," but Kazuko has never been to Japan. Can you call it your homeland? I don't know. I'm scared of you guys. But I love you, and I wonder if you're not Americans. I can't say anything to anyone, so I have to write to you.

I received a call saying that Richard is missing. My sister is crying. It's stupid of her to cry about a marriage she didn't happily enter into.

But I think maybe it's my fault. On our wedding day, I sewed the buttons Jack gave me onto the back of the skirt of my wedding dress because I knew that she had kept the one he gave to her. I did a terrible thing. I really wanted to tell Louise that she should have married Jack. But I'm scared that maybe that's why Richard disappeared.

But now that Richard is gone, I'm scared to think that the day will come when Louise and Jack will really get married. But it's the Japanese who are to blame for Richard's disappearance.

I can't think of any ideas today.


<<Fourth letter>>

Kazuko, I'm only going to talk about metaphors today. I haven't told you about Kazuko's dad leaving a book in the bay window of my room. I noticed it the day after Kazuko and her family left. I was told to clean up, so I went out to the garden. Then I found a bag hanging under the bay window of my room. I opened it and found three books inside, all in Japanese, so I thought they were from Kazuko, but on the back cover of the book, which had a picture of some rocks placed in sand with geometric patterns, it said "Someday again" in handwriting that wasn't Kazuko's. It wasn't signed, but I knew it was her dad.

I don't really understand the sand garden, but the kimono is really nice! It's very pretty, with all sorts of colors and color combinations. I'm sure this is also some kind of "mitate" (metaphor). I'd like to learn it from my father someday.

I used that as a hint. For example, if you combine white and blue, it will represent the ocean and waves. If you combine red and yellow, it will represent a Chinese restaurant. I feel like you can come up with a lot of different ideas by looking at it like this!

At the Chinese restaurant, I remembered that I found a piece of paper that had come in a cookie I had received at a restaurant we had all gone to previously.

When you want to meet someone far away, the moon will be your mirror

I thought that was a very good thing.


<<Fifth letter>>

Kazuko will never forgive me. I wanted to write her a letter, but my father wouldn't let me. I should have just sent it without telling my father. I could have just told Kazuko that I didn't need a reply, because my father would have torn it up. But I was under my father's control. Just like my father was under his control because of his fear of the Japanese.

Now I don't know why I couldn't do that. It's such a simple thing. Will I ever be able to give this to Kazuko? Will I ever be able to apologize to you?

Yesterday, I went to Little Tokyo. It's been a long time, but many people still haven't come back. Is Kazuko not coming back? I hope she comes back someday. That's all I can pray for.



I thought they hadn't met. That's why this letter has come to me now. I want Kazuko and Susan to meet. Even if they're both no longer with me.

*This story won the Japanese category in the Little Tokyo Historical Society 's 2nd Short Story Contest.

© 2015 Miyuki Sato

California communities fiction Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest (series) Little Tokyo Los Angeles United States World War II
About this series

The Little Tokyo Historical Society conducted its second annual short story (fiction) writing contest which concluded on April 22, 2015 at a reception in Little Tokyo in which the winners and finalists were announced. Last year's contest was entirely in English whereas this year's contest also had a youth category and a Japanese-language category, with cash prizes awarded for each category. The only requirement (other than the story could not exceed 2,500 words or 5,000 Japanese characters) was that the story had to involve Little Tokyo in some creative manner.

Winners (First Place)

Some of the Finalists to be featured are:



      Japanese (Japanese only)

*Read stories from other Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contests:

1st Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
3rd Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
4th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
5th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
6th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
7th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
8th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
9th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
10th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>
11th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest >>

Learn More
About the Author

Born in Saitama Prefecture. Graduated from Kokugakuin University in 2002. Works in accounting and general affairs, and writes in his free time. Currently, in addition to novels, he also writes scripts for rakugo, and hopes that one day his works will see the light of day.

(Updated January 2016)

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