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

culture en

TAT MASTER - Part 2 of 3

Read Part 1 >> 

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 …

Read more

culture en

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 tattoo …

Read more

culture en

Japanese American National Museum Magazine

Master Artisans of San Jose: The Nishiura Brothers

If you’ve ever visited San Jose’s Japantown, odds are you’ve stepped in a building constructed by the Nishiura brothers. Born in Nara prefecture and raised in the shadow of ancient temples, the two brothers, Shinzaburo and Gentaro, learned their carpentry skills from their father Tsurukichi, himself a skilled craftsman. The story of the Nishiura brothers and their superb aesthetic reflects how art is often integrated into our everyday lives, for example, within the buildings where we live, worship, play, and work.

Gentaro, the younger brother, came to the United States from Mie prefecture, arriving in Hawai‘i in 1905. A year …

Read more

identity en

The Last Days of Daikon Ashi

When my uncle in Tokyo spotted me in Narita Airport in Japan, he almost breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, you are like the old model,” he said, picking up my carry-on baggage.

I was 21 years old, and too busy absorbing the rush of businessmen and tourists to register what he said. Later his words were interpreted by my aunt. Although they had seen me when I was 14, they feared that somehow the American air would kick in during my adolescence, transforming me into a bosomy, long-legged Wonder Woman seductress. But I was like Japan’s “old model” female: …

Read more

culture en

Foreword from Nothing Left in My Hands

Although my parents and I visited Watsonville every summer during my childhood, I only became familiar with the name—Pajaro Valley—of this region on the central California coast much later, in my thirties. Before then, Watsonville was just the inaka, the country, where we would travel north several hours from Los Angeles in my father’s white van that carried gardener’s tools most of the year. My father was born in Watsonville but had moved to Japan after his grandfather was killed by a horse on the farm. After World War II, my father returned to Watsonville, in his late teens, …

Read more