I have done a number of posts about places that have featured in my novels – all of them can be found listed on the pages about the respective novels, listed here. Sometimes when I am planning the novel, I already have locations in mind – although I may still go there (again) to double check that it works, as with Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu, The Daigo Fukuryū Maru Exhibition Hall, or the New Otani Hotel, for example. There are times when I write the book having decided upon a location by using maps or other information – and then visit to double-check that it works – such as Sakura Cafe in Ikebukuro or walking the Meguro River. But, this post is about another type of location – one which I wanted to include in a book so that I could immortalise a place and person.
Often when I am Tokyo I stay with a family in the Itabashi-ku, the closest station being Naka-Itabashi. This area became the setting for one of the main characters in Hijacking Japan. For many years we would go to a restaurant, Kashiwa Sushi (柏鮨), in the Yayoi area. Although still close to Naka-Itabashi and the family’s house, it seemed that we took a different route to/from the restaurant almost every time we went, so I wonder whether I would have ever found the place by myself.
The owner, Katsuya Kashiwagi, was a very jolly chef and sitting at the counter was always so enjoyable, not only as we could see the food being prepared, but also due to the interaction with Kashiwagi-san (and sometimes others at the counter). Meanwhile, his wife would ensure that we didn’t run out of beer or sake. Going to the restaurant and seeing the Kashiwagi’s was often one of the things that I looked forward to most about my trips to Japan. The January trips would often lead to me receiving a gift from the owner and his wife, and I also took omiyage on many occasions, which would be on display by the time I next visited.
It came as a massive shock when I found out that Kashiwagi-san had suddenly passed away in August 2015 and the restaurant had closed down. It created a massive void in my trips to Japan. Still we have yet to find a restaurant that comes close to the atmosphere, taste, and convenience of Kashiwa Sushi.
I knew that I wanted to find a way to ensure that Kashiwagi-san and the restaurant would not be forgotten. As I was now writing novels, it was logical to bring them into a book. I did this with my third novel, FOUR, although it meant having to come up with an excuse as to why the protagonist, Iwakura, would want to travel so far from his Tokyo apartment to that part of Tokyo. But it was worthwhile.
Kashiwagi-san, Rest in Peace.