The same introduction also states:
But there is more to the story: these same individuals were also the economic backbone of a whole ethnic community. St. I ended up reading all seven because the series is a true tour de force and Mas Arai is an incredible protagonist. Just a few feet beyond the hotel, Hirahara walked us down a small alley to a small Buddhist Temple that is easy to miss if you don’t know where to go. This timeline is better known as “Omoide Sho-Tokyo,” which translates into “Memories of Little Tokyo.” Created as a public art project by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Sonya Ishii in 1996, the entire block is a national historic landmark. His heart would be closed to both religion and doctors. This specific, unexpected coincidence further cemented the synchronicity of the day. It was skinny and pointed; at the top was a concrete man, helmet on his head, hands at his sides, and a rifle hanging from his shoulder.” There is a plaque with a verse from Dwight Eisenhower. The younger ones who dropped out said that the work was just too darn hard on their bodies, but Mas knew better. The book’s introduction, authored by the Publication Committee, asks:
Why did so many Japanese Americans — reportedly up to 8,000 in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s — enter the field of gardening? The mood was solemn, and the verisimilitude of her description was uncanny. The letters were filled with dirt, and Mas felt a pang of shame. It is similar to one of the old residential hotels, like a Single Room Occupancy from the era of John Fante and Charles Bukowski. In her Mas Arai mystery series, I love how skillfully she weaves Japanese-American culture and community into her plots; by the end of the novel, the reader finds out “who-done-it” along with an insider’s view of everything from baseball to strawberry farmers, spam musubi, a snakeskin shamisen, and more. In the following few paragraphs, Mas Arai is looking for his wife’s tombstone, and he searches for almost 10 minutes to find her grave. The passage continues that everyone in the Japanese-American community always went here no matter the occasion. The markers weren’t lined up straight and perfect, like at some of the high-tone cemeteries in the hills. Evergreen is also just a few streets west of the boundary of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, which is along Indiana Avenue. kato-kiriyama first met Hirahara in the early 1990s while she was in college. In the same above quoted excerpt from Summer of the Big Bachi, Mas pontificates further about contemporary new hip eateries:
Mas hated to eat out, especially now. Moreover, these stories are especially relevant in this moment where immigrant children are being detained in cages at the United States southern border. Finally, in the lower right-hand panel we have a push mower, symbolizing the work of Japanese immigrant gardeners. traci credits Hirahara for being an early mentor:
I wonder if Naomi realizes the kind of impact she has had on community as well as countless writers. She was the editor of the Rafu Shimpo when I was first starting to write, and she gave so many of us a platform to process our ideas and create intergenerational conversation through the publication. She’s like a big sister for whom I carry a lot of gratitude. Co-authored with Heather C. Mas is not a carbon copy of her father, but there are several similarities. Instead, the ground had shifted, causing some to rise like crooked teeth. Originally founded in 1955, the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation has been a critical organization for the Japanese-American community. “While surgeons had their operating tables, Mas had his own version, crowded with glass jars of nails, screws, and even fishhooks.” After so many years as a gardener, father, and husband, Mas has his perspective and belief system firmly in place. Fact. ¤
Mike Sonksen, is a third-generation L.A. The fifth book, Strawberry Yellow, is a bio-thriller, and the final book of the series, Hiroshima Boy, is an island mystery. Whether it be mentioning restaurants that she’s eaten at hundreds of times like the Far East Café or her final Mas Arai book taking place in Hiroshima, where her father was on that fateful day in 1945, Hirahara’s fiction is rooted in believability and that stems from her deep knowledge of her subject matter. Only dyed-in-the-wool, old-school Angelenos like Hirahara know these specific designations. So, while America was actually home for the Kibei, many of them weren’t quite comfortable with English; on the other hand, they weren’t that comfortable speaking Japanese, either.” The stoic essence of Mas Arai provides a perfect lens to view Japanese-American Los Angeles and the social changes occurring in the city during the early 21st century. In front of the Daimaru, the timeline reads “Union Hotel, 1914.” In Summer of the Big Bachi, Hirahara called this space the Empress Hotel and one of the characters, an elderly Japanese woman, stayed in a room there. “Mas could just imagine,” Hirahara writes,
the reaction of his fellow gardeners who tended the Japanese garden in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo for close to nothing.
Southern California Gardeners’ Federation
Mas’s stoic and laconic nature is more about action than words. The federation is a small building located a block and a half south of JACCC on San Pedro on the southwest edge of Little Tokyo. When we got back in her car and drove toward the exit, the front gate was closed. It was simple and predictable.”
This section is also an ideal example of the many moments through the series where Mas Arai’s internal dialogue is revealed. “The personal history is the same,” she says, “although my father was much more in tune with his emotions. And how were they able to make a desert green for the next generation? Writer Rio Imamura reports in an essay published at DiscoverNikkei.org that Kagawa studied at Stanford in the 1920s and started concentration camp magazines in the Japanese language during World War II. She is so steeped in the culture, that her process feeds itself and sustains her creativity. The book mixes both archived oral history and new testimonies to create an illuminating narrative about their lives after the internment camps that is both tragic and triumphant. “Someone married, go to Far East,” she writes. For example, in Sayonara Slam, Hirahara writes: “Montebello used to be a flower town; it even had a generic flower featured on banners drooping from light poles on its main streets.”
The wide-ranging insight dropped by Hirahara demonstrates what an expert she is on Southern California’s geography, history, and culture. The entrance to the Empress Hotel was on the side, up a narrow flight of stairs.”
Earlier in the same book, Hirahara describes Mas Arai and his family’s connection to the now-gone eatery:
When Mari was growing up, they went to only one restaurant: Entoro in Little Tokyo. Once inside their building, Hirahara showed me a book she edited for their 45th anniversary in 2000 titled Green Makers: Japanese American Gardeners in Southern California. She has a way of filling in the details without being repetitive or excessive. And though this quote addresses his lack of faith, there is an inherent Zen spirituality in Mas’s straightforward honesty and dependability. Her first novel and the first book of the Mas Arai series, Summer of the Big Bachi, was published in 2004. First is a thoroughfare connecting several important Los Angeles microcosms in just a few miles from Historic Filipinotown, Bunker Hill, the Disney Concert Hall, City Hall, Little Tokyo, the Arts District, the Los Angeles River, and Boyle Heights. Life after Manzanar also covers the journey of many former Manzanar internees, including Jeanne Wakatsuki, who went on to write the 1973 book Farewell to Manzanar, and dozens of others who were there, like Shigetoshi Tateishi, Shinjo Nagatomi, Sangoro Mayeda, Jack Takayanagi, Paul Bannai, and his grandson Sean Miura. Hirahara references St. She’s even started another mystery series in 2014 with a female protagonist, Ellie Rush. While most of the books are about somewhere around Los Angeles, like Pasadena, the South Bay, San Gabriel Valley, West Los Angeles, or the Crenshaw District, there are sections of a few of the books in Hiroshima, New York City, San Diego, and Watsonville. Walking east a half block on First, Hirahara walked us past the Miyako Hotel where the character Yuki Kimura stayed in Sayonara Slam. Hirahara describes this location in Summer of Big Bachi: “A tall monument stood in the back next to a patch of grass. Uyematsu says:
Naomi Hirahara is one of our most gifted and passionate Japanese American writers — whether she’s telling the stories of Issei and Nisei on Terminal Island or documenting the histories of the Japanese-American gardeners, farmers, and nurserymen of Southern California. Within the narrative of Sayonara Slam, Mas and Yuki Kimura enter the temple after leaving Kimura’s adjacent hotel room and along the way, Mas tells Kimura that the Hiroshima Peace Flame is inside. At the same time, you can read any one out of the series on its own and it still stands up. After climbing up to the second floor, you find an office and small rooms stretching down the halls and up the next three floors. Yuki put his hands together and bowed toward the light. She explained further that the site was “repaired and reopened in 2006 as Chop Suey Cafe and Lounge. Though Rush is an entirely different character from Mas Arai, she also navigates Los Angeles with the same veracity. Hirahara told me that it is an eternal flame and Koyasan was chosen as the keeper of the Hiroshima Peace Flame for their long and deep connection to the Japanese community in Los Angeles. Like many writers, she is a perfectionist. Hirahara drove us east on First Street. Another example, from Sayonara Slam exclaims:
Mas was in a sense a Valley man, but his valley was the San Gabriel one, the valley held in by purple-tipped mountains. He is a street philosopher who knows his own strengths and weaknesses. And from that point on, Mas swore that he would never make a fool of himself again. These exhibits must be visually engaging, so they feature rare photos and artifacts rather than being too text heavy. As much as everyone conflates Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, they are not the same thing. In the next paragraph, Hirahara reveals that the garage is where he
prayed for the first and last time, when Chizuko had had another relapse of stomach cancer, There, in between his broken-down lawn mower and his oily pliers, he had prayed: “God, Kamisama, I know that I’m a good-for nutin’. The fascinating book includes text printed in both English and Japanese side by side. Masao Arai, better known as Mas for short, is a lovable curmudgeon, a Japanese-American gardener who was born in the United States on the eve of the Depression, grew up in Japan, survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, and then moved back to America in 1947. By the time we left Evergreen, the sun was setting through the clouds. After a few years as a reporter, she became the editor of this Los Angeles institution from 1990 to 1996. According to the list, near the front of her latest book, the number is somewhere around 15, 10 fiction and five nonfiction. Enjoy life. traci’s father was also in the internment camps as a child and he went on to become a longtime local educator and a member of the district’s school board. In the same passage where she describes the hotel, she notes that Mas “parked the Honda at the meter in front of the boarded-up chop suey restaurant. Hirahara is so prolific that she does not even know how many books she’s written. He was emotionally very intelligent; I learned a lot from him.”
Little Tokyo’s Laureate
This essay will focus primarily on Hirahara’s Mas Arai mystery series, but excerpts from all her titles, both fiction and nonfiction, go a long way toward breaking down history, geography, and culture for Japanese Americans, Angelenos, Californians, and beyond. They were all touched by Latinos in California and the rest of the Southwest.” Reyes is an award-winning photographer and has taken thousands of published photos over the last three decades, including many in critical Los Angeles moments like the 1992 Rodney King Uprisings and other equally iconic times. After seeing this sculpture, I discovered that Kagawa was even published widely in venues like Harriet Monroe’s Chicago-based magazine Poetry in the 1930s. Uyematsu also notes that Hiroshima Boy “will be especially poignant because Naomi’s own father was a Hiroshima survivor.” This makes sense because her protagonist Mas Arai is partially based on her father. Reyes has worked at the paper for over 25 years, and he has also been in two of the books. Mike the Poet, bard and historian of contemporary Los Angeles, to go on a walk with Naomi and write a profile that would do her justice. “It took me 15 years to write the first one,” she says. After reading all seven of the Mas Arai books, I still cannot pinpoint one being better than the rest. The boy then stepped back and waited, as if he expected Mas to do the same. While walking south along Central, Hirahara pointed out another example of public art in the neighborhood. Her historical projects have given her hundreds of pages of material for her fiction. After seeing the Kagawa sculpture, we also talked about the pioneering Japanese poet Yone Noguchi, father of the famous artist, sculptor, and designer Isamu Noguchi. They are all equally compelling with plot twists, unexpected surprises and reversals, and lucid dialogue. Her mom, Iku Kato-Kiriyama, became the senior class president at North Torrance High in 1957 and later went on to become an educator in LAUSD for almost 40 years. She uses historical data to create compelling narratives and educate her readers. The paper is located at Third and Alameda. Mas Arai’s diction is a patois of colloquial English and select specific Japanese words. He didn’t like multiple pieces of silverware, two forks, two spoons. The Koyasan Buddhist Temple is a small temple tucked between First and Second Street and only accessible from the alley on the side south of First Street. There are two other similar small hotels on the same block above other eateries. Her newest Mas Arai mystery title and the final one of the series, Hiroshima Boy, was just published by Prospect Park Books in March 2018, and in April her latest nonfiction title, Life After Manzanar, was published by Heyday. This could have been his own son-in-law, Lloyd, maybe twenty-five years ago.”
After walking through the hotel and discussing the Far East Café, we then walked east down First Street to head toward the Rafu Shimpo, the Little Tokyo–based newspaper where Hirahara served as an editor. “They feed each other.”
In many ways, Hirahara’s process is like that of Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and several other novels. In 1989, then–Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley brought over the Hiroshima Peace Flame from Japan to Koyasan. Kimura is a Japanese reporter from the Nippon Series and he works closely with Arai in two of the books. Featured as a wedding location in Blood Hina, the fourth book in the series, Hirahara read the following passage while we were there:
The wedding rehearsal was a disaster from the very start. Two titles have already been published in this series, Grave on Grand Avenue and Murder on Bamboo Lane. One more fascinating detail revealed on the sculpture is that Kagawa’s poem was translated into English by someone named Masayuki Arai. A passage in Green Makers quotes an oral history interview with the deceased Father John Yamazaki explaining the intricate stained-glass window at St. This temple is one of the best-known Buddhist houses of worship in Southern California. “Beyond the soldiers,” she writes,
were more graves of mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, all Japanese. When the Parker Center LAPD headquarters was built in the 1960s, close to 1,000 Little Tokyo Residents were evicted from a few buildings that were demolished for the then-new police building. A graduate of South Pasadena High School and then Stanford, she’s been freelancing since 1997. The history and geography of Los Angeles are an endless reservoir for Hirahara in both her fiction and nonfiction. Mary’s that paid tribute to local Japanese Americans. Mas is an occasional gambler and humble philosopher. He felt no need to bow to it now. The fish marks the achievement of fishermen, specifically those of Tottori Prefecture in Japan. Didn’t look Japanese, but then who said he had to be?
After we crossed the Los Angeles River and the First Street Bridge, we continued east on First, passing Mariachi Plaza and headed toward the Evergreen Cemetery. There were cement angels looking over the graves of babies, born and dead within the same year. It was a huge task, but I believe he succeeded. The Gardeners’ Federation was big on “volunteer” — but Mas didn’t believe in it, because you usually ended up losing more than you put in.
Life after Manzanar
Before finishing this retrospective on Hirahara, a quick word needs to be said about her other new book, Life after Manzanar. One of those voices is poet and activist traci kato-kiriyama. This small hotel is another location that could be easily missed if you are not looking closely. Multiple generations of voices are included in the text. Beyond that were black families, even a good number dating back more than a hundred years. Mary’s has been an iconic church for the Japanese-American community that lived in the Uptown area for over three generations. Most recently, in late April, the pair appeared together at the Torrance Library for a reading celebrating the book. He does not brag or show off with his words, but he is always quietly surveying the situation and mindfully assessing what’s really going on. The Pasadena-born Japanese-American scribe began as a reporter in the 1980s at the Little Tokyo newspaper the Rafu Shimpo and was later promoted to head editor of the paper for six years in the 1990s. This was the first I had ever heard of Kagawa and the first time I had seen the sculpture, though I have been at that intersection hundreds of times. Uptown is where Mas’s second wife Genesse lives when he meets her in the second half of the series. Mas figured that’s why so many gardeners turned out to be gamblers, philosophers, or just plain crazy. Neva gotsu the chance.” But God didn’t answer his prayers. I went by St. This essay looks back at the entire Mas Arai series and highlights how her many nonfiction projects inform her fiction. He didn’t like to talk to strangers. She’s not sure chronologically where they will be set in the 15 years of his life she has already composed, but she does plan to write some one-off stories with Mas. The stained-glass window is believed to be the only one on the United States to feature a lawnmower. We started the walk at the JACCC along San Pedro between 2nd and 3rd. In addition to Mas’s great dialogue throughout the series, his cynical interior monologue and way of thinking make him an endearing character despite his moodiness and reticence. A pat on the back and maybe a photo in the federation’s newsletter. The second title, Gasa-Gasa Girl, is a smaller world, and the third, Snakeskin Shamisen, is political. JULY 28, 2018
Editor’s note: Naomi Hirahara has been a pillar of the mystery community since she published her first Mas Arai novel in 2004. We laughed for a moment before one of the employees came and let us go. He should have come earlier, he thought, trying to scrape the letters clean with the edge of a matchbook.”
Hirahara’s description of Evergreen captures the cemetery perfectly. A few of the old craftsmen bungalows in the surrounding streets still have Banzai trees and emanate a Japanese influence.
The Daimaru Hotel
Next, we crossed over to the north side of First Street to go up into the Daimaru Hotel. In Summer of the Big Bachi, Hirahara writes:
The thing about gardening was that you had plenty of time to think.
James Irvine Garden
Immediately after meeting up we walked down a set of stairs to the James Irvine Garden on the eastern edge of the JACCC site. Looking at her work as a whole, it’s obvious how Hirahara’s years of historical research feed her fiction. Not for me. Before talking about the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation, it’s important to address Mas’s disposition. In Gasa-Gasa Girl, a sculpture at Nishi Hongwanji is mentioned. “I need to do both fiction and nonfiction,” Hirahara says. letters. The translator’s name could be abbreviated as Mas Arai. Some consolation can be provided in that Hirahara will be writing some Mas Arai short stories. “In my own cycle,” he writes, “it goes: Fact. Hirahara not only weaves Japanese-American history into her novels, but she also interjects ample Los Angeles neighborhood history and culture. I ended up purchasing it on the spot. In Snakeskin Shamisen, Reyes appears a few times, most prominently taking a group photo in a location soon to be the scene of the book’s first murder. Our final two sites on the tour required we get in the car and drive to Boyle Heights. The younger Noguchi is more internationally known, but his father was the first Japanese poet to be ever published in English in the late 19th century. Boyle Heights is a district in the City of Los Angeles, and the area called East Los Angeles is actually a section of Unincorporated Los Angeles County, just east of Boyle Heights. Most of the grass was dry and brown, and many of the old tombstones were chipped and did indeed look like crooked teeth. Gasa-Gasa Girl, the second book of the Mas Arai series, explains that he is a “Kibei — ‘ki’ meaning ‘return,’ ‘bei’ referring to America.” Kibei, she writes, is “a word made up by Japanese Americans to explain their limbo. Why did some college graduates choose this grueling work, especially during the 100-plus degree summers, before and after World War II? Who are these men and women? Many of the nonfiction titles she has completed are history projects for organizations like the Japanese American National Museum, the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation, and the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC), among others. Ellie Rush is a young LAPD bicycle cop and aspiring homicide detective. Some of the questions during the Q-and-A session demonstrated her readers’ intimate knowledge of the series and their fervor for her work. They created community-based credit unions, cultural centers, and Japanese-language schools. All you needed were a pair of chopsticks and a pair of hands to wrap around a hamburger or a carne asada taco. And for what? There is even coverage of the ongoing court cases that eventually led to surviving internees receiving redress and reparations in 1989. Eventually he sees “[a] headstone, short and squat, shaped much like his late wife herself. Together, her parents co-founded the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California. author Nina Revoyr says, “Mas Arai is a wholly original sleuth — reluctant, curmudgeonly, and irresistible.” Like Revoyr and Hirahara’s legion of fans, I found myself not only getting attached to Mas as a character, but even feeling a sadness about the series ending. The occasional italicized Japanese words sprinkled throughout the text add layers of meaning and character to the narrative. The rise of the northern section of the Arts District in the last three decades has also been the erasure of the eastern edge of Little Tokyo. It is easy to see how nonfiction projects like Life after Manzanar feed Hirahara’s fiction.
The Koyasan Buddhist Temple
After visiting the Japanese Gardeners’ Federation, Hirahara walked us north up San Pedro two blocks to First Street. In his book of essays, Stranger Than Fiction, he describes the nonfiction he writes between novels. The horn of plenty represents the produce market, where many Japanese American labored. In recent years, she has also been selected to curate several Japanese-American historical exhibits in museum sites for the National Park Service, the Manzanar History Association, and, most recently, for the Maritime Museum about the Japanese-American fishing community that was in Terminal Island near San Pedro. The audience included a core group of fans that were devoted followers of Hirahara and Mas Arai. There, you got greasy homyu, looking like day-old Cream of Wheat in a tiny bowl; almond duck, slippery, fat, and buttery, with a crunch of fried skin and nuts; and real sweet and sour pork, bright, stinking orange like the best high-grade motor oil. To commemorate her final Mas novel, I asked Mike Sonksen, a.k.a. What’s more is that she read specific passages from her work pertaining directly to every site we visited. Walking around Little Tokyo with Hirahara means stopping every half block or so to talk with other pedestrians because she is constantly running into old friends and local associates. “There was nothing imperial about the Empress Hotel,” Hirahara writes. The first book of the series, Summer of the Big Bachi, was a crossover of mystery with a literary bent. Construction on First, east of Alameda, prevented us from visiting the temple, but as we drove past the temple, Hirahara explained how Little Tokyo originally stretched east all the way to the Los Angeles River and west past San Pedro Street and even to the edge of Los Angeles Street. Hirahara also told me the garden’s three-part watercourse represents three generations of Japanese-American gardeners and the three generations of Japanese Americans that have called Southern California home. The stories of their lives after Manzanar are equally inspiring and tragic. Mary’s recently and though the congregation is no longer Japanese-American, the stained-glass window with the lawnmower, flower, and fish remains intact and the Los Angeles Zen Center is a block north. Essentially every time Mas Arai travels to a different neighborhood, a few historical facts and elements about the area will be woven within the text. Far East Café closed after the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Two decades later, the event is still going and kato-kiriyama has become a seminal figure in both Little Tokyo and literary Los Angeles. Closed in 2008 and then became Far Bar.”
In any event, Hirahara had eaten at the Far East Café hundreds of times with her family for over four decades. Even Mas himself felt apprehensive about entering a place that rented rooms by the week.” The hotel has recently been lightly renovated to have a fancier front door and a few subtle touches, but it is essentially still the same as it’s always been. This publication is mentioned in almost all the Mas Arai books, but the office is specifically cited in Snakeskin Shamisen. For many years, dating back to the mid-19th century, Evergreen was one of the only places people of color could be buried in Los Angeles County. Hirahara began her writing career here in the 1980s after graduating from Stanford. On a cold March day just after the rain, Hirahara took me on a walking and driving tour of Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights spotlighting seven sites featured in her Mas Arai books. Hirahara is truly prolific. After kato-kiriyama graduated from school, she started Tuesday Night Café in 1998, a poetry open mic in Little Tokyo. The essays, photographs, timelines, glossary, and excerpts of poetry in Green Makers spotlights the three generations of Japanese-American gardeners along with profiling the early gardening districts: Hollywood, Sawtelle (West Los Angeles), and Uptown (where Koreatown is now). Some tombstones had oval photos of older black women wearing corsages, and black men in felt hats. The next few sentences following the above quote led to the next location Hirahara walked us over to. The poem, “The Sea Shines,” laments Kagawa’s journey to the United States. When we got to Evergreen, we parked and then walked over to the northwest corner of the cemetery where a large monument pays tribute to the Japanese-American soldiers from the 442nd Infantry Regiment in the United States Military who fought in World War II. Hirahara is in many ways a one-woman Japanese-American history project. This sculpture is about five feet tall and seven feet wide and it has a poem inscribed on it in both Japanese and English from Bun’ichi Kagawa, a pioneering Japanese poet, essayist, and critic that lived from 1904 to 1981. The Daimaru Hotel holds 50 small rooms in the three floors. This moment of reverence both touched and surprised Mas. The performance area of the bookstore was packed, standing-room only, with well over 100 people in attendance. Originally established in Los Angeles in 1912, the current location is their third site and was built in 1940, just before the start of World War II. The hidden Japanese garden with a koi pond and exquisite landscaping is a location most Angelenos are unaware of; even many who visit Little Tokyo frequently are not aware that a world-class Japanese garden exists within the dense blocks of concrete. The dry grass is no longer evergreen, either. Mas preferred that his charity be less visible, if visible at all. They didn’t know how to fill their heads. Mas Arai’s occupation as a gardener is a big part of his genius, and it makes him an iconic protagonist. “It was musty with the smells of grease, oil, and rusty metal,” Hirahara writes in Summer of the Big Bachi. Her training as a journalist exposed her to many incredible stories that began to fuel her interest in writing fiction. Hirahara hadn’t noticed this other Mas Arai before. It is housed in the liminal area between the Toy District and Little Tokyo, and some have called this block “Skid Rowkyo.” On our approach to their tucked away office we sidestepped several tents and an encampment of homeless on the sidewalk along the west side of San Pedro Street. Award-winning L.A. Hirahara published kato-kiriyama’s first poems and essays in the Rafu Shimpo when she served as the editor. Looking around at the bamboo and the calm koi pond after Hirahara read that scene, it was easy to laugh because the garden’s tranquil setting epitomizes a Zen spirit in complete opposition to the chaos she described in the passage. Through their efforts, their children were able to gain college degrees and pursue professional careers.
The Rafu Shimpo
Founded in 1903, the Rafu Shimpo is an English-Japanese-language newspaper. Located between First Street and Avenida Cesar Chavez and Evergreen Street and Lorena Avenue, there are over 300,000 bodies buried in Evergreen, including thousands of Japanese Americans. Along First Street, there is a timeline in front of each address from Central to San Pedro that tells what each site was over the years. native whose prose and poetry have been included in programs with the Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Public Library’s “Made in LA” series, and Grand Park. On the way down from the hotel back onto First Street, Hirahara pointed out where the Far East Café Restaurant was for many years. How many times had he, Chizuko, and Mari eaten off their thick ceramic plates? She tells Hirahara in the book that:
It was on the way to Manzanar, that I vividly remember my parents instructing me to pay attention to the places they were taking me as a form of education. But Mas had experienced the flames of the Bomb firsthand. Koyasan is one of the best-known Buddhist temples in Southern California, a place with a long, storied history. Spoon showed up forty-five minutes late, saying her youngest daughter had taken her car without telling her, so she had to wait for another daughter to pick her up. ¤
NAOMI HIRAHARA IS one of the most prolific Los Angeles writers of the last few decades. On the drive back to Little Tokyo, Hirahara spoke more about how so much of her research, life experience, and nonfiction work fueled the Mas Arai series and her other fiction. His garage is his sanctuary. “In fact, they should have called it Hole Hotel or Dirty Inn. Fiction.” Hirahara’s bibliography shows a similar trajectory, alternating publications of fiction and nonfiction. traci grew up making annual pilgrimages to Manzanar with her parents. She read excerpts from the new book and reflected on the seven-book series. After seeing the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum a decade ago about the historic role of Japanese-American gardeners in the development of Southern California’s landscape, this book caught my eye. The day we visited their office, Hirahara introduced me to their longtime photographer Mario Reyes. This timeline according to Yosuke Kitazawa at KCET, “traces the history and memories of the neighborhood with a timeline of landmark events and businesses embedded on the sidewalk. As the years passed and I stepped onto the grounds of Manzanar each year during pilgrimage, I also came to understand the connections we had to other communities — from the indigenous/Native American peoples […] to […] immigrants and migrant workers from Mexico and Central and South America, to the institutional racism and oppression of black folks for the duration of this country. Mary’s Episcopal Church, a well-known house of worship just north of Olympic Boulevard on Mariposa. “Someone dead, go to Far East. A week after our all-day city excursion, I went to Hirahara’s book launch for Hiroshima Boy at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. Isamu Noguchi is famous for furniture design, and he also created the stone sculpture in the courtyard of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center where we started the tour. Before we crossed the river, she pointed out the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple on the northside of First in the area some call the Arts District. Fiction. Her nonfiction books have tackled seminal Japanese-American history topics like Terminal Island, the flower industry, Japanese-American gardeners, the Japanese-American concentration camps, and survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All the grandchildren, meanwhile, had arrived, pulling at mondo grasses, terrorizing the koi, running through the bamboo, and hopping on the worn bridge. The excerpt states:
[T]he flowers in the lower left-hand panel commemorates those who worked in the flower market. Reyes is described as wearing “a safari vest and red-framed glasses.” In the following paragraph, Hirahara states, “Mas narrowed his eyes. Hirahara published a poem by traci in the book titled “No Redress.” Both of kato-kiriyama’s parents were in the concentration camps in their youth. The second stop on our walking tour with Hirahara was the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation because they have been an important institution in the Japanese-American community, and because the federation has been mentioned in a few books of the Mas Arai series. Lindquist, this nonfiction work examines the “resettlement” of the Japanese Americans who had been detained in the Manzanar concentration camp during World War II. Best known for her Edgar Award–winning seven-book Mas Arai crime novel series, she has also authored several nonfiction titles on Southern California Japanese-American history. She pulls the nonfiction narrative out and reconstructs it into fiction because “it is not my story to tell with real names.” Furthermore, she says, “in fiction you have more freedom to tell secrets.” Her combined fiction and nonfiction illuminate the Japanese-American experience not only in Southern California but in the United States at large. Old money — grand estates and libraries — had first attracted Japanese gardeners, domestics, and laundries to this valley, but now the area was a magnet for new Asian immigrants, not from Japan but from China, Taiwan, and Korea. Entoro was also known as Far East Café, a chop suey house, the old kind before the new Chinese came to town. Juxtaposed with the historic yet still-thriving surroundings, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the past, while planted firmly in the present.” Commemorating events like the Japanese internments camps and Little Tokyo’s temporary status as an African-American neighborhood called “Bronzeville,” the Omoide Timeline is a fitting tribute to one of the most historic blocks in all Southern California.
The Far East Café
Though the sign still reads Far East Café, this space is now the popular Far Bar. There is a similar misunderstanding like this around Watts and Inglewood in South Los Angeles. But save my wife. Blood Hina is about drug espionage, and Sayonara Slam is international and about baseball. The Pasadena-born Japanese-American poet Amy Uyematsu has known Hirahara for over two decades. She needsu to enjoy. Most recently, Evergreen has become known for a paved path around its perimeter where thousands of Eastside Angelenos jog and walk around it. He didn’t like to look at a long list of food items with foreign, fancy names. Her extensive bibliography covering Southern California puts her in the upper echelon with the best of the best in the pantheon of L.A. Lodged between the 10-plus eateries along North First Street between San Pedro and Central, you enter the hotel from a small staircase off the street. This simplicity and reliability is another reason Mas is such a lovable character. traci’s poem in the book further explicates her connection to Manzanar, her family’s history with it, and how it connects to the contemporary United States.
Poets in Little Tokyo
On the southeast corner of Second and Central, there is a gray marble rectangular sculpture surrounded by foliage that could be easily missed. Here’s a great excerpt from Hiroshima Boy demonstrating his thoughts: “Waiting in the line was a hakujin, a white man with unruly hair, a smelly backpack at his side. One interesting detail she did tell me is that although the entire series is murder mystery or crime fiction, she made each of the seven a different subgenre as a way of keeping it interesting for her as the writer. Like earlier storied Angeleno fiction writers such as Raymond Chandler and Chester Himes and, more recently, Walter Mosley, Gary Phillips, and Nina Revoyr, Hirahara maps the social relationships of each neighborhood the protagonist passes through. Mas remembered that the photographer’s byline in The Rafu Shimpo had a Latino name.