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The World of The Last Tea Bowl Thief

The new book is a two-timeline tale, with one thread taking place in the samurai era, and the other unspooling in modern-day Tokyo, where two women from opposite sides of the globe discover that both their futures depend on possessing a cultural treasure that’s been missing since before they were born, but neither can get her hands on it without the other.

But the places in the book are based on real stuff that still exists in Japan today. Here are a few of them!

Those of you who have been joining me here and on my Tokyo travel blog, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had will recognize all kinds of stuff in the book, because all that time you thought I was just franting about town, I was actually doing Serious Book Research! (Okay, also some franting.)

But check these out:

You recognize Kappabashi, right? The kitchenware district, where you can make your own plastic food? The shop on the left actually says “Okuda” across the top, and that building is what inspired me to give Nori’s family that name too. (The interior of her family’s shop is more like the one to the right, though)
And do you remember this crazy hollow gingko tree at the shrine near where I live in Tokyo? It gets a place in the spotlight too. This shot is looking straight up inside the trunk, and even though it looks like just a shell of bark with branches, it still spouts a boatload of bright green leaves every spring
And you know how I love the Nihon Minka-en, that park filled with old-fashioned farmhouses that’s about an hour outside of Tokyo? They furnished some excellent fodder for the Edo Era bits that happen at the potter’s house and kiln in rural Japan
This is Hikone Castle, not Yodo Castle (which has sadly been reduced to its stone footings), but they would have looked very similar. The room on the right actually belonged to a very high-ranking samurai in Kanagawa, but it was the inspiration for the audience room where Lord Inaba receives Saburo, the poet

“A wonderful blend of history and mystery.” —Laura Joh Rowland, author of The Iris Fan

“I don’t know when I’ve been more caught up in a story. A masterful achievement.” —Terry Shames, award-winning author of An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock

“An immersive page-turner, meticulously researched and perfectly plotted. Without question, the best book I have read all year.” —Susan Spann, author of the Hiro Hattori mysteries and CLIMB

For three hundred years, a stolen masterpiece passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, indelibly altering the lives of all who possess it…read more

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

10 thoughts on “The World of The Last Tea Bowl Thief Leave a comment

    • It’s the best kept secret in (or around) Tokyo, don’t you think? Honestly, why do travel planners send people to these remote towns in Western Japan to see the farmhouses, when there are such excellent ones so close to Tokyo? Plus, the “tanuki crossing” sign you pass while from the train station never fails to delight me.

      • I don’t remember the tanuki but the park is a delight. I love that you can go inside the houses and really feel (and smell!) what it was like to live in them. I’m glad it’s a well kept secret, really. Never have to deal with crowds!

  1. My two copies were on my doorstep this morning. What a nice start to the day. I am just finishing Tana French’s latest and yours is on top the pile. Can’t wait. Congratulations my dear. Diane ❌🍁⭕️👩‍🌾

    Sent from my iPhone


    • You ordered TWO copies? BEST FRIEND AWARD. heh. And I just finished the new Tana French too. Would be curious what you thought! I’m sooo looking forward to the day when we can meet f2f again and talk books, Japan, vegetables and all.

  2. I read your latest book Last Tea Bowl Thief. It was very entertaining and excellent with good details with great writing style. Keep up marvelous work in your novels. May luck of Ireland be with you always. Similar to Tokyo, Dublin is huge with winding streets, celtic styled buildings and misty villages that echo days of long ago when Eire was great. Eire’s sister homeland lies across the Celtic seas where Scotland’s Edinburgh sings of clans and giants. You are very gifted storyteller and the blood of bards bless you to write more stories. Saint Katherine blesses you always. Evelyn Marianne Ferguson-Thibodeaux, Lafayette Louisiana.

    • Evelyn, thank you so much for writing all the kind words that every writer longs to hear! You are the sweetest, to take the time to send such heartfelt blessings and bring such a big smile to my face this morning. Dublin is indeed the birthplace of some of the world’s great stories (and storytellers!) and Scotland, as well, so I am honored you’d mention me in the same paragraph with them. Wishing you and yours all good things in the new year, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading the book and enjoying it so much!

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