Essense of Tea and Ash

Mr. Saito sat quietly in his apartment sipping tea, folding pieces of paper into shapes and figures. It was more than a hobby; it was a way of life that had sustained him following the Pacific War, better known as World War II.

A sharp rapping at his door broke the silence. There he found an official-looking man in his 40s, dressed in a two-piece suit, a lined-trench coat and expensive fedora.

“Mr. Saito, I’m Detective Sergeant Takahashi. may I come in and ask you a few questions?”

“Hai,” the old man smiled as he opened the door all the way. “What is this about?”

“I’m investigating the disappearance of Ai Sato and Ikki Suzuki and I’ve been told that you were friend’s with both.”

“Yes. Anything to help. Please sit, have some tea.”

Takahashi slipped off his shoes, laid his coat and hat on the nearby stool before taking a seat at the low table that occupied the center of the room. It gave him time to look around the old man’s place, learning more about him.

He could hear Mr. Saito moving about the kitchen, fetching hot water for the tea, which Takahashi was certain would be served formally. The detective sergeant couldn’t help but notice the intricately folded pieces of paper arranged neatly about the table.

Mr. Saito came in with a small tīpotto and set it over the small tīkyandoru, designed for keeping the water in the teapot warm. Takahashi knew better than to be impatient with the old man as he masterfully brewed the tea, serving it to his guest.

“So, what would you like to know about Ikki and Ai?” Mr. Saito asked after the detective sergeant took his first sip.

Continuing to be formally polite, Takahashi first complimented the tea-server then the tea, before asking, “When was the last time you saw either one of them?”

“I think ten days ago, but I could be wrong. Time runs together for me.”

“So, you fold paper to pass the time?”

“Hai, origami.”

“I think I’ve seen your work in the home of both victims.”

“Yes, you did. Would you like to see how it’s done?”

“Gladly!” Takahashi exclaimed, knowing that the more comfortable Mr. Saito became, the more he might talk and the better the resulting interview would be to his case.

Gently, Mr. Saito withdrew a single sheet of over-sized stiffened rice paper from a lidded-wooden box next to the table and began by following it in half, “The secret is to capture the essence of the person as the folding takes place.”

Before he could respond to the word ‘person,’ Detective Sergeant Takahashi found himself tucked between folds. And when finished, Mr. Saito, a practicing Majo, touched the perfectly plaited figure to the flame of the tīkyandoru and watched as it turned to ash.