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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Ten Days of Cleanup

Chapter Seven—No-knead Bread

“Do you think this Ryan Stone is a real person?” my daughter Sycamore asked me as we took a break from her Zoom class to make some no-knead bread. This was our fourth attempt at baking bread during the pandemic. So far our previous baking adventures were failures. I miscalculated the yeast for Indian naan and ended up with enough for a second plain loaf of bread. (I gave my naan a C+ and the bread a D.) Our milk bread rolls came out hard as rocks. My friend Kim guaranteed that I couldn’t go wrong with no-knead bread, so I was taking her word for it. The only thing was that w…

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Ten Days of Cleanup

Chapter Six—Mikasa Man

My ten-year-old daughter, Sycamore, had officially become my wing woman. Or should I say wing girl. She was definitely my top—and well, only—assistant in terms of my cleaning business, Souji RS. Every day after her Zoom classes she was ready to go to my client’s storage unit in Pasadena to see what “treasures” we could unwrap and dispose of. I had only six more days to complete my task and the container was still about halfway full. The next set of packages were comprised of three boxes wrapped in baby blue. Sycamore tore into them. I don’t know what she …

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Ten Days of Cleanup

Chapter Five—Smell of Water

I only had seven days to get rid of everything in my client’s storage locker. So far, I had disposed of—no, preserved—some historic family photographs from World War II as well as given away vintage car parts to life-long friends who like to restore old vehicles. Next were dark green trash bags filled with I don’t know what. Sycamore was out of Zoom school early and accompanied me to the locker. She had already grown so much that spring of the pandemic. I was glad that her teacher and classmates couldn’t see that her pants were much too short for her thin legs. …

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Ten Days of Cleanup

Chapter Four—Great Balls of Fire

Now that all the miscellaneous orange packages were out of my client’s storage container, I saw something large wrapped in blue. I removed some red packages that were resting on top of it and place them in one corner of the container. The blue package was long and felt metallic. My daughter, Sycamore, stayed in the car, playing a game on her iPad as I tore at the paper. Inside was indeed something metal. In fact, three things. Pieces of what looked like a car grille. I could have easily tossed this into a rubbish bin. But based on my last experience with items in the storage cont…

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Ten Days of Cleanup

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 rid of anyt…

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