Authors: Sujata Massey
Kamakura is a lovely Japanese city with many Zen temples, some of which bear similarities to the temple described in this book. My Horin-ji is fictional, as are many other Kamakura sites. While Kamakura is famous for its festivals, the Tanabata Festival is not celebrated within its city limits but in Hiratsuka, a nearby town that is definitely worth a stop in early July. For historical and geographical details, I must credit
Trails of Two Cities: A Walker’s Guide to Yokohama, Kamakura and Vicinity
, which was written by John Carroll and published by Kodansha International in 1994.
Many friends who have helped since the beginning of my adventures in fiction contributed to
I am especially indebted to John Adair, owner of Kurofune Antiques in Roppongi; Shinji Kawasaki, of Kyoto Screen; and Tetsuro Kono, of the Tokyo National Museum. Kamakura residents Shizuko Asakura, Junko Katano, and Eiko Mori provided wonderful access to their town and Tokei-ji Temple. Two alumni of the Tokyo University Aikido Club, Koichi Hyogo and National Police Superintendent Naoto Yamagjshi, continue to steer me through Japanese police procedure. I also thank Rusty Kanakogi, the former U.S. judo champion and Olympic coach; Christopher Belton, the novelist and translator; the monks of Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a Zen monastery in New York State; and J. D. Considine, pop music critic for the
As always, any mistakes should be attributed to me and not to the above people.
I welcome comments from readers who are interested in mysteries and Japanese culture. To send me a note or learn more about the Rei Shimura series, visit my Internet home page at:
Japanese-American freelance antiques buyer.
Owner of an antiques concession within the Hita Fine Arts tourist shop.
Flashy car salesman working at a dealership in Hita.
The Glendinning brothers: Hugh
spends long days working as an international lawyer for Sendai Limited.
his black-sheep brother, is a world traveler.
Aged antiques dealer who serves as Rei’s mentor.
The Mihori Family:
Owners of Horin-ji, a famous Zen temple in the historic city of Kamakura.
oversees the property, while his wife,
collects antiques and works to preserve land in Kamakura. Their only daughter,
is a former judo champion at loose ends. Cousin
was formally adopted into the family in order to become the next abbot.
Iranian immigrant who came to Tokyo for a better life.
An aged, bedridden antiques collector who lives in Tokyo’s high-class Denen-Chofu neighborhood. His sister,
devotes herself to caring for him.
Roppongi police detective.
Owner of Maeda Antiques, a small shop struggling to stay open in Kamakura.
A mysterious monk who works in the garden at Horin-ji.
Hugh’s long-suffering personal lawyer.
Rei’s customer with a healthy appetite for antiques and gossip.
Plus a collection of monks, salarymen, illegal immigrants, and ladies of leisure, all searching Japan for spiritual or material riches.
From the beginning, I suspected that Nana Mihori’s
would cost too much.
The Japanese antiques market is brutal. There are hardly any good pieces left anywhere, so even if you have the cash, the chances of finding a dream piece are slender. Going into the assignment, I expected trouble. Still, I never expected that a chest of drawers could cost me almost everything I owned.
The first thing I lost was a vacation. Hugh Glendinning, the man I moved in with on Valentine’s Day, had stopped pleading and waving tickets around and simply flown off to Thailand by himself. I was left with nothing but work: chiefly, the pursuit of an antique wooden chest I was becoming convinced existed only in my client’s imagination. During the last two weeks, I’d driven from my home base in Tokyo north to Nigata and then west to Kyoto. On the way, I’d suffered a flash flood and enough mosquito bites to keep a small anopheles colony drunk for a while. The rainy season had ended and I was into July heat, all without finding the
I was obsessing over my various failures while caught in a massive traffic jam on the Tomei Expressway. Adding to my irritation was the fact that everyone in the surrounding cars seemed to be triumphantly setting off on their holidays. Fathers manned the steering wheels while mothers passed snacks to children battling with inflated plastic water wings. I was contemplating grabbing a pair of wings and floating off to Phuket when the cellular telephone rang.
“Rei Shimura Antiques,” I answered while fumbling with the receiver. I had recently read that carphone users were as dangerous as drunken drivers, and given my lack of coordination, I believed it.
“Rei-san, where are you exactly?” Nana Mihori’s patient voice crackled across the line. We’d talked every one of the last thirteen days, including the day before, when I’d called her from outside Nara to say I was going home. I’d seen many chests that almost met her requirements, but she wanted a special
she’d seen in a book. All my clients wanted something they’d seen in a book.
“I’m pretty close to the Izu Peninsula. I think.” I squinted at a road sign far ahead of me, thinking how unfortunate it was that I was still nowhere near knowing the standard base of 1,500 to 2,000
, or pictographic characters, needed to be a literate adult. I’d grown up in San Francisco with an American mother and a father from Japan. Speaking was easy for me, and usually all I needed for my job as a freelance antiques buyer.
“It is convenient that you are still outside Tokyo. I’ve learned about a very nice store in Hita that carries high-quality antiques from all over the country. My friend Mrs. Kita found a handsome clothing chest there last week.”
“Isn’t Hita near Hakone?” The hot-springs region she was talking about was far from my route.
“Rei-san, you have been working so hard for me, I want to make sure you get your buyer’s commission. But after all your travels, I worry it’s an imposition to ask you to stop. . . .”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all. Where’s the shop?” I balanced the phone against my shoulder and began digging around for a pen. The truth was, I needed her badly. My business was five months old, and the foreign expatriate clients I’d hoped to attract had turned out to be pretty stingy. My Aunt Norie had recently introduced me to Nana Mihori, the wife of the owner of a famous Zen temple in Kamakura, a picturesque city an hour south of Tokyo. Nana’s funds were unlimited, as was her potential for good word of mouth. I couldn’t let her down.
Saying good-bye to my customer, I noticed that a boy and girl riding in the Mitsubishi Carisma on my right were imitating me by talking into their soft-drink cans. I mouthed
, the standard telephone greeting, at them. The kids giggled and said something back. What was it?
, I realized belatedly as something big and brutal jolted my car.
I dropped the phone and clung to the steering wheel that had loosened under my fingers. I stomped on the brake and glanced in the rearview mirror. It was filled with the sight of a small commercial truck whose driver was waving me toward the expressway’s narrow shoulder.
How I could crash a car in all-but-stopped traffic was beyond me; I was the queen of bad luck. Repairs to the luxurious Toyota Windom would probably be astronomical. And the worst part was that it wasn’t even my car; it belonged to Hugh.
Feeling numb, I watched the truck driver emerge wearing a cheerful yellow jumpsuit and matching cap. Under other circumstances, I would have smiled.
I crept out of the Windom, aware of how disreputable I appeared: a vaguely Japanese-looking woman in her late twenties with short hair, shorter shorts, and a shrunken UC Berkeley T-shirt. I hurried toward him in my flip-flop sandals, my Japanese driver’s license and Hugh’s automobile registration clutched in hand.
The trucker was carrying something too; a small unopened can of Yodel Water. He offered it to me in a bizarre gesture of hospitality. I accepted, glancing at the cheery slogan written in English: A
, I thought, my T-shirt already beginning to stick to my back.
Together we surveyed the results of our collision. The truck’s damage appeared minimal: a bit of the Windom’s shiny black paint had rubbed onto his fender. But my left taillight was smashed. The driver picked delicately at the remaining glass chips, wrapped them up in a tissue, and handed them to me.