Authors: Sujata Massey
"What Sujata Massey excels in, as evident from two
previous Rei Shimura thrillers, is the arranging of plot details,
interwoven with sprays of scene and freshly cut dialogue."
The Baltimore Sun
"Her best yet. Intricate plotting and writing as
beautiful as the ikebana described."
—Laura Lippman, author of
"Massey not only fleshes out each of [the]
subplots but weaves them together to illuminate conflicts of old and new
in Japanese manners, morals, family, and love."
"A harmonious mix . . . The narrative is
enhanced greatly by the richly detailed Tokyo setting, from ancient
teahouses to arcane rituals involving the cherry blossom festival… An
"Former San Franciscan Rei Shimura is the
perfect guide to Tokyo in ways reminiscent of James Melville's
much-missed Inspector Otani series. She celebrates not only the
geography and the landmarks, but its ancient customs and rituals."
—The Poisoned Pen
"The book is a delight…If you missed the first
two in the series, don't miss this one, too."
Contra Costa Times
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2012 by Sujata Massey, all rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and articles. Please contact sujatamassey.com for more information. This book was originally published in hardcover by HarperCollins USA in 1999, with ISBN 0-06-I09734-9, and had an Avon Books edition in 2000. The author is grateful for full copyright reversion by HarperCollins in 2012.
As usual, I am indebted to a brilliant team of experts on both sides of the Pacific. Any mistakes contained within these pages originated with me, not them.
I received entree into flower arranging through the Sogetsu School and offer sincere thanks to my first ikebana teacher, Atsuko Suzuki, a Sogetsu teacher in Japan and former president of the Kamakura Chapter of Ikebana International; and my second teacher, the late Toku Mary Sugiyama, the past executive director of Sogetsu U.S.A. She will always be missed by family and her legions of students.
I enjoyed learning about the history of ikebana from retired Sogetsu headquarters administrator and teacher Mieko Tanibayashi; Shizuko Asakura, an officer in Ikebana International and a Sogetsu teacher in Kamakura; Jane Redmon, a Sogetsu teacher in Arlington, Virginia; and Stephanie Tomiyasu, past international president of Ikebana International and a student of the Ohara School living in Yokohama. Many more friends in Ikebana International gave selflessly, proving the motto "Friendship Through Flowers" is truth and not fiction.
I thank the historic poets of Japan for giving me inspiring haiku clues, and Christopher Belton, the Yokohama-based translator and author, for his spooky translations and fact checking. For criminal matters, I am again grateful to National Police Agency Superintendent Naohito Yamagishi and our mutual friend, Koichi Hyogo, and Akemi Narita for introducing me to the Nezu Police Department. I received a crash course in ceramics from John Adair Jr., owner of Kurofune Antiques in Roppongi, and Seiko Behr, the sculptor-owner of Pottery in Chestertown, Maryland. Important assistance of a myriad of sorts was given by Dr. In-Hei Hahn; Dr. Gershen Kaufman; Manami Amanai; my beloved writers groups, and Sisters in Crime, Chesapeake Chapter; Flower Auction Japan; and the Sawanoya Ryokan in the Yanaka section of Tokyo.
I am grateful to my husband, Tony Massey, for his love and support, and to Laura Lippman, a dear friend and talented author who has been at my side for more book-signing road trips than I can count. Finally, I thank my past agents, Ellen Geiger and Dave Barbor at Curtis Brown Limited, my present agent Vicky Bijur, and the whole gang at HarperCollins, especially my editor, Carolyn Marino, Robin Stamm, publicist Betsy Areddy, art director Gene Midlowski and vice president for publishing, Helen Moore, for allowing me the chance to keep an out-of-print book alive. Finally, I thank Alison Cameron-Reume for copy-editing and Susanne Trowbridge of Interbridge.com for assistance with formatting the new trade paper edition, eBook production, and cover design.
REI SHIMURA: California girl turned antiques buyer in Japan
NORIE SHIMURA: Rei's aunt, who is married to Uncle Hiroshi and is the mother of Rei's doctor-cousin Tsutomu "Tom" Shimura
MASANOBU KAYAMA: Iemoto or ‘headmaster' of the Kayama School of ikebana. His daughter, Natsumi, and son, Takeo, are training to take over the business. His wife, Reiko, is deceased.
ERIKO IWATA: longtime Kayama School student who is Norie's best friend
MRS. KODA: senior administrator at the Kayama School
SAKURA SATO: Kayama School teacher
LlLA BRAITHWAITE: a Kayama School student who heads the foreign students' association and is Richard Randall's cousin. Lila is the mother to Donald, David, and Darcy Braithwaite.
MARI KUMAMORI: amateur potter and student at the Kayama School
RICHARD RANDALL: Rei's close confidant and a Canadian teacher of English
CHE FUJISAWA: an environmental activist from Colombia
ENRIQUE: Peruvian barman who catches Richard's fancy
LIEUTENANT HATA: Tokyo Metropolitan Police detective
MR. WAKA: proprietor of the Family Mart convenience store
YASUSHI ISHIDA: antiques store owner who serves as Rei's mentor
MISS OKADA: receptionist at the Kayama School
PLUS a dash of environmentalists, antiques customers, and spoiled children
Nobody runs in Japan. A nation of naturally fast walkers has no reason to pick up its pace—except for emergencies like a closing train door. During four years in Tokyo, I've noticed few runners outside of senior citizens chasing a better cholesterol count, or teenagers trying to make the high-school team.
That morning I was jogging at a pathetically slow pace, the better to weave between office workers without toppling them. The city is crowded, and there are unwritten rules about knocking people down. At the Roppongi Crossing intersection, I had to wait two minutes for the light to change so that I could cross over and go three blocks farther to the Kayama Kaikan, the landmark building that was headquarters for one of Japan's leading schools of flower arranging.
Being late was my fault. I had lingered over my morning coffee, watered all my plants, and found a half dozen other reasons to dither so that, in the end, I had to jog from the train station to the school. As my aunt Norie frequently points out, my job as a freelance antiques buyer gives me control over my time. Not making it to the Kaikan on time was my own passive-aggressive response to her demands.
Being half Japanese and half American, I sometimes struggle to fit in with my father's Yokohama relatives. I can understand most of the jokes in movies, drink tea correctly, and even prepare my own pickled daikon radishes. Still, I was clueless about ikebana, the uniquely Japanese art of flower arrangement. The last time I'd overstuffed an urn with plum branches, my aunt stared at it without speaking. Shortly after that, she informed me that I was enrolled as a part-time student at the Kayama School.
I had only been to the Kayama Kaikan twice, but that was enough for me to learn that in ikebana, less is more, and I'd rather spend less time arranging flowers in an overheated classroom, and more time outdoors. That Tuesday morning in late March was bright, with temperatures in the sixties—almost time for the blooming of sakura, the cherry trees that are Japan's premier symbol. A weatherman on the morning news forecast that Tokyo's cherry trees would be in flower within five days, remaining at peak condition for no more than two weeks. Viewers were encouraged to plan their cherry blossom-viewing parties accordingly.
"But watch closely, because clouds over the moon may mean storms over blossoms!" the reporter added with a corny smile. He was making a double entendre—referring to the likelihood of rain, as well as offering up an old proverb that meant misfortune is lurking even at times of great happiness.
Prediction is a risky game. During the time that I've lived in Japan, I've marveled at the number of people who insist that the future is determined by patterns held in the past. I'm not good at predicting things; that sunny spring morning, I had no idea what I was running toward. The next fortnight's cherry blossoms would bring a storm of death and revelation that none of us—my clever aunt, the proverb-quoting newsman, and especially not I—would have expected.
* * *
The Kayama Kaikan was erected in the 1980s, as Japan soared toward the bubble years of vast economic expansion. The mirrored asymmetrical tower spoke of innovation, wealth, and power, the traits that had made the Kayama family successful in teaching ikebana from the start. Aunt Norie had told me that the land-owning family began the school in the 1860s, when the second son in the family abandoned training as a Buddhist monk, but decided to teach others the flower-arranging skills that he had learned in a temple setting. The students of the first iemoto, or headmaster, were the socially ambitious wives of Japan's growing merchant class—similar to today's students, almost all the wives of salarymen.
The Kayama School and many other ikebana schools like it prospered into the twentieth century, but following World War II, there were few Japanese women with the money and leisure to continue flower-arranging studies. Not ready to shut down, the iemoto invited an American general's wife to see his work, and after she enrolled, many other officers' wives followed. The Kayama ikebana philosophy became more avant-garde and international, spurred on by the new student body and the current headmaster, who traveled the world. By the late 1960s—a full century after the school had opened its doors—the small cement building where my aunt had trained had grown into a low-rise, which was demolished in turn to give space to the shiny new tower.
Walking through the school's giant glass doors, I faced its signature artwork, an installation of jagged sandstone boulders. It would have been interesting to climb through the rock garden to examine the flower arrangements peeking from various crannies, but I didn't have the time. I stepped into the large elevator with mirrored walls and a polished granite floor, and sailed up to the fourth-floor classroom.
Outside the classroom doors, tall containers sat filled with a lavish assortment of flowers and branches. At my previous class I'd learned that each student was allowed to choose a bunch of line materials—branches that would give a dominant shape to the arrangement—and another bunch of smaller, decorative flowers to use as an accent. Today I took the last bunch of cherry blossoms and some white asters, and slipped into the classroom, where a dozen women were working at the two long tables. Aunt Norie was snipping loganberry branches with her best friend, Eriko Iwata, at a table close to the Tiers lectern. Norie and Eriko were like two peas in a pod: both slender housewives in their early fifties, who looked about thirty-five. They wore their hair in pageboy styles, and had chosen similar gabardine slacks and silk blouses with sleeves folded over, exposing their hairless forearms. Why the two of them felt it necessary to shave their forearms, let alone wear silk blouses to a flower-arranging class, was beyond me. I was dressed in a short-sleeved striped cotton sweater over a pair of flared jeans I'd picked up at a teen boutique in the Harajuku district. Even though the jeans were a nice deep black, I doubted my aunt would be fooled into believing they were proper ladies' trousers.