The World of Shig Sato: Food in Japan

A reader discovering the world of Shig Sato will soon learn that food becomes in interesting side character – Miki’s breakfast of miso soup and rice, Abe’s early life growing up in a ramen shop, Ses Fujimori’s love of okonomiyaki, Shig’s lunchtime katsudon, even Mos Hishida’s nickname, a result of his steady diet of Japanese-style hamburgers. Any reader not familiar with Japanese cuisine might wonder at it all. In truth, the food of Japan is as simple as it is varied.

The simple: fish and rice. But is that really all there is? It doesn’t begin to encompass the world of sushi, much less the whole of Japanese cuisine. The popular Japan Talk website lists 100 types of sushi. Notice that fish, vegetables, eggs, meat – it’s all included. Sushi, sashimi, makiit can take minutes to prepare, a lifetime to master.sushi

The importance of rice in Japanese culture cannot be overstated. The language uses the word gohan for “meal” as well as “cooked rice.” Gohan is a part of each word signifying breakfast, lunch and supper. In feudal times, wealth was measured how much rice one possessed and peasants were keenly appreciative of a payment in rice for their labor – coins were no good to them when they had to eat. Japan’s propensity for natural disasters, and it’s involvement in war, often led to a scarcity of food. Rice stockpiles were worth fighting for.

As an nation comprised of many islands large and small, a reader would be right in thinking that all types of seafood is a part of the Japanese cuisine, from the common tuna to the exotic –  pufferfish, anyone?

What many Western readers of the Shig Sato series may not realize is that farming – livestock, grain, vegetable, fruit, any combination and variety – can be found in most of the nation’s 47 prefectures. Almost any grocery store or market will have fresh local produce, seasonal fruit, cuts of meat and poultry, and packaged foods like curry mixes and spices. (When my in-laws came to visit from Canada, flour and vanilla were found and donuts were produced in an afternoon!)

One may not think of baked goods when thinking of Japanese cuisine, yet the tasty sweets and snacks appeal to young and old. And it doesn’t take much to find pan – bread – and some have even embraced the staple, when it’s made with rice flour.bakedgoodies

The varied: Being an international city, Tokyo is home to an array of dining experiences any world traveler would appreciate. Michelin stars are not unknown in the city. Gourmets and foodies alike can find were the finest food is served, and also the stores that sell the products for those daring and talented enough to create at home.

Regional specialties abound. I’ll conclude with this list of a prefecture’s favorite dish. See if you don’t recognize some, and have probably eaten some others (and some not!).

Hokkaido – Grilled mutten

Aomori – Sea urchin and abalone

Miyagi – Oysters

Yamagata – Potato stewsweetpotatoes

Fukushima – Pickled herring

Ishikawa – Turnip sushi

Gifu – Potatoes with sweet chestnuts

Nagano – Buckwheat dumplings

Aichi – Deep fried chicken wings

Tochigi – Giyouza (potsticker) dumplings

Chiba – Steamed peanuts

Kanagawa – Curry

Mie – Lobster

Shiga – Duck hot pot

Osaka – Okonomiyaki

Hyogo – Kobe’s famous beer-fed beefkobebeef

Tottori – Snow crab

Tokushima – Buckwheat porridge

Nagasaki – Sasebo burger (thanks to the navy base there)

Kukamoto – Sliced horsemeat

Miyazaki – Kyushu-style fried chicken

Okinawa – Fried pork belly

To get a copy of  The Gangster’s Son click here . To get a copy of  Shig Sato Book 2 The Thief’s Mistake click here — and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter and enter the World of Shig Sato. 

Shig Has Gone From Here to There

Hello Everyone!

For some time I’ve been thinking about Brave New Deadline and the role it plays in my writing life. I have always been a writer split between fiction and non-ficition. I cannot see having one without the other; that’s just how I am. My yin and my yang, as it were.

Brave New Deadline began life as a place on blogspot for random thoughts, essays and rants. As I developed an interest in publishing my stories and going the indie route, I knew I had a home for launching the adventure.

But now I’ve come to realize that the fiction and the non-fiction need their own homes. Separate bedrooms.  Whatever.

My good friend Shig Sato and his world, and all my other fiction – mystery, history, short, flash, and whatever is in between – can now be found at josephmarkbrewer.wordpress.com. Brave New Deadline will remain a place for comments, questions, concerns, essays, and other non-fiction scribbles. For the Shig Sato Mystery series, and another project in the pipeline for 2016 (!) please catch up on all the news at josephmarkbrewer.wordpress.com.

Thanks!

Joseph Mark Brewer is a journalist and author of the Shig Sato Mystery series. To get a copy of  The Gangster’s Son click here . To get a copy of  Shig Sato Book 2 The Thief’s Mistake visit his Smashwords page or Kindle page or visit his website www.josephmarkbrewer.com.

 

The World of Shig Sato: Women and Medicine in Japan

In the world of Shig Sato in 1991, our hero is dealing with the loss of his beloved police career due to forced retirement at age 60, But more importantly, he is mourning the death of his beloved wife, Miki, a physician who specialized in gerontology. Shig and Miki’s love was built on mutual respect, admiration, and dedication to serving others. Miki’s desire to become a doctor was born in the war years of the 1940s when as a young teen she helped out her uncle, a doctor, and aunt, a nurse, caring for wounded in the aftermath of the air raids in Nagoya and surrounding areas in her home prefecture of Aichi.Ginko Ogino

But was it a realistic goal for a young woman in the 1940s? Perhaps. The story of women in medicine Japan dates back as far as the ancient healers and midwives. Changes to modern Japan came after it opened itself to the West in the 1850s – the modern world came to Japan’s shores. This led to opportunities for determined women.  Ginko Ogino (pictured) was the first licensed and practicing woman physician in Japan in the 1880s, practicing obstetrics and gynecology. Kei Okama was the first Japanese woman to earn a degree in Western medicine, having studied at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania while she and her husband were in the United States. She graduated in 1889 and upon her return to Japan she worked at the Jikei University School of Medicine hospital and opened her own clinic. Like Ogino, Okama was married to a Japanese Christian.

Educational opportunities for women expanded in postwar Japan, but old traditions die hard. A young woman with intelligence, determination and drive faced a daunting academic and practical education in order to be a practicing physician. Prevailing misogynistic attitudes were always a challenge to overcome. And family pressures to marry and have children prevailed. Perhaps Miki Sato was born at the right time – when she began her medical studies in the early 1950s, fewer barriers existed than during the time of Ogino and Okama. Perhaps she met the right man: Shig Sato came from a family of strong women he respected and admired. Still, the economic boom that helped lead Japan to the join Western democracies was still decades away. Miki, and her country, were finding their way in the modern world.

To get a copy of  The Gangster’s Son click here . To get a copy of  Shig Sato Book 2 The Thief’s Mistake visit my Smashwords page or Kindle page or visit my website www.josephmarkbrewer.com — and don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter.  See you soon!

The World of Shig Sato: Ses Fujimori and the yakuza

Yakuza.

In some countries it’s called tong, triad, mafia, la cosa nostra — in Japan it’s yakuza. Organized crime. As an institution, it is a part of the fabric of Japanese life. For an individual, yakuza means many things: outcast, criminal, brother, compatriot.

But what is yakuza? Our hero Shig Sato’s closest childhood friend is Ses Fujimori, boss of a powerful yakuza clan, a position not just inherited from his father, Key Fujimori, but earned by Ses’s ruthlessness and business acumen. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call yakuza “bōryokudan” – violence groups – degenerate, violent gangsters with no sense of tradition or honor. Yakuza consider this an insult. They refer to themselves as “ninkyō dantai” – chivalrous organizations. Members often have elaborate tattoos, sometimes covering most of their body.yak

These organizations – often called clans, or families – in the Tokyo of 1991 view themselves much as Ses Fujimori does in the fictitious Shig Sato mysteries: legitimate businesses and charitable organizations, motivated by nothing but concern for the public good. The yakuza response to the 2011 tsunami and the 1995 Kobe earthquake are well documented. But so are the criminal aspects: Extortion, loan-sharking, day-labor contracting, drug-trafficking and blackmail all fall under the various clans’ control. It is gambling that is at the root of yakuza – the name comes from the worst hand possible in a card game (a reflection of the low opinion society views the men and the organizations).

Some say yakuza dates back to the 17th century and ronin – masterless samurai. Authorities knew roving bands of the “kabuki-mono” – crazy ones – were troublesome and were intensely loyal to one another. Some say the men viewed themselves as honorable, Robin Hood-like characters who protected towns and citizens. These gangs of men, among them some gamblers and some peddlers, gradually organized into clans, or families, adopting roles of  leader/father and follower/child. Gambling, prostitution – legal and sometimes encouraged from time to time by the government of the day – were businesses the yakuza controlled. In the Shig Sato series, gambling is the activity that built the Fujimori empire, from its humble beginnings in Kawasaki in the late 1800s to its nearly untouchable status as a quasi-legitimate business empire 100 years later.

Shig Sato’s  sense of giri – obligation – is central to who he is. This includes honoring his relationship with yakuza kingpins Key and Ses Fujimori. And Sato must reckon with this situation as he begins his new life as a reluctant P.I.

Next time: Miki Sato and women in medicine in Japan

To get a copy of  The Gangster’s Son click here . To get a copy of  Shig Sato Book 2 The Thief’s Mistake visit my Smashwords page or Kindle page or visit my website www.josephmarkbrewer.com — and don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter.  See you soon!

The World of Shig Sato: Japan Inc.

Tokyo, 1991.

Our hero Shig Sato suffers a double whammy that summer. When he closes the file on the murder of Kimi Yamada, he never returns to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. He accepts his forced retirement, but that is an afterthought as he tends to his beloved wife Miki during her final days. Her death and his retirement wounds Sato in ways he has yet to work out as Book 2, The Thief’s Mistake, begins.

And for Japan: 1991 is the beginning of the end of the Bubble Economy. Before long, the country will change from high times to The Lost Decade.

What happened? It helps to know a little something about Japan Inc.

Japan Inc.

Tokyo-picsIt’s no secret that Japanese business and government work hand-in-hand to help bring prosperity to the island nation, especially back during the post-war recovery years. The Ministry of Finance, which sets monetary police and indirectly controls the Bank of Japan, and the (then) Ministry of Industrial Trade and Industry, are key partners. Chief among the business organizations is the Keidanren.

Monetary policy going back to 1985 set in motion land speculation, and the Nikkei stock market soared – from 13,000 in late 1985 to a historic high of 38,957 in late 1989. But within a year, the stock market lost 35% of its value, land prices stagnated, and a strong yen and tight money controls became the norm. Political scandals rocked the long-established political elite, and a new generation of business and social leaders demanded to be heard. In the years to come, what the world knows as Japan Inc. lost much of its luster.

As the Shig Sato series begins, forty-plus years after the end of WWII, Japan has a new emperor and the nation has a new vision of the future. But change is an awesome thing. For some, prosperity ended and their lives shifted to uncertainty. For Shig Sato, will his new life as a reluctant P.I. match the lost decade to come?

Next time: Ses Fujimoiri and the yakuza

To get a copy of  The Gangster’s Son click here . To get a copy of  Shig Sato Book 2 The Thief’s Mistake visit my Smashwords page or Kindle page or visit my website  www.josephmarkbrewer.com — and don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter.  See you soon!