Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | pop culture
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Strawberry Yellow by Naomi HiraharaI've always been a fan of detective and crime mystery fiction, starting from my earliest days devouring the Hardy Boys and Three Investigators books when I was just a kid. I graduated to author Agatha Christie (including her female sleuth Miss Marple), Ellery Queen and of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Then in college I fell in love with the hard-boiled noir novelists, such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Among this pantheon of excellent writers and their incredible fictional sleuths, these days I look forward to each new book by Naomi Hirahara in her Mas Arai series. Arai is a little like Miss Marple -- an unlikely crime-solver in the guise of a senior citizen. But he's unlike everyone else I've read, because he's a 70-something Nisei, or second generation Japanese American who was born in California but spent his childhood in Japan. He survived the bombing of Hiroshima and returned Stateside, where the plot of "Strawberry Yellow" takes root. It starts with the funeral of Mas' second cousin Shug in Watsonville, California, where Mas worked on a strawberry farm upon his return from Japan after WWII. Shug grew up to become a renowned strawberry expert, cultivating new strains. Mas grew up a little rough around the edges, but became a gardener in Los Angeles, married and had a daughter who's now grown and he lives alone since the death of his wife. He's a crusty old man who avoids conflict and also people, and hates controversy but seems to always find himself in the middle of a murder, or theft, or some other crime. And in spite of his quirky and thorny personality, he solves the problems. You won't find a sleuth like Mas Arai in the annals of crime fiction. Naomi HiraharaAlong the way, Hirahara, who is herself the daughter of a gardener who was raised in Hiroshima, does a stellar job of accurately and lovingly reflecting her Japanese American (JA) community, including cultural traditions, venerated Japanese values, tangled family ties and the language. That includes not only lots of Japanese terms (she has a handy glossary online of some Japanese terms used in the Mas Arai books), but also capturing the heavily accented English of older JAs.

Here's a conference I wish I could attend, but my schedule and budget don't allow a weekend trip to LA on Saturday, March 23. Organized by the tireless Jeff Yang, who has a long history as a chronicler of Asian America and is currently a columnist for the Wall Street Journal covering AAPI topics in his perfectly titled "Tao Jones"...

Pretty cool: Domino's Pizza goes all in on mobile tech wizardry -- at least for its Japanese market -- with a new app featuring Hatsune Miku, a Vocaloid, synthetic/anime J-pop persona that's entirely digital. According to a new video that has Domino's Japan CEO Scott Oelkers introducing the app, Domino's staff came up with songs for the app, and the...

I’m a fan of anime and manga, although I don’t actually follow the zillions of comics or animated series and movies, because they’re instrumental in building bridges between Japan and the United States. I’ve spoken with eager young Caucasian anime fans in full cosplay (dressed in costumes playing the part of their favorite anime characters) who said they’re taking Japanese...

[caption id="attachment_4973" align="aligncenter" width="520"] The striking graphic that opens the article on Jezebel.com[/caption] As I read with disbelief the daily dispatches about North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un's bellicose statements about aiming nukes at the United States, threatening South Korea and putting his impoverished country under martial law to "prepare for war," I know that there are very serious issues...

Like zillions of other people, I'm enchanted by Hello Kitty and amazed by the worldwide phenomenon of the cute cat that was born in Japan and now adorns all manner of products and objects and toys and appliances worldwide. And, I'm enchanted by this totally cool video of a 7th grade school science project, in which Hello Kitty flies into...