Japanese Short Story Translation: “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” by Kisaragi Shinichi [Chapter 4]

This is the fourth chapter of “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” (大泥棒に5分は長い), a short story by Kisaragi Shinichi 1(如月新一). I have permission from the author to translate this work, and I plan to release the complete story in six chapters.

Thanks to Locksleyu from Self Taught Japanese, both for inspiration to start this project and for help with verifying the translation and editing.

If Only It Had Been Three-Minute Udon…

Do these noodles feel any different? I was slurping them up with my head cocked to the side, unable to recall what they were like before, when a sound came from the entrance; Abiko and I exchanged looks.

My expression stiff with wide eyes, I broke into a cold sweat.

First things first, we’ve got to hide! We took off, almost hyperventilating, opened the closet and pushed suits and dresses aside as we crammed ourselves in.

“Oh, if only it had been three-minute udon…”

And here we are now, hiding in the closet.

Abiko was no longer laughing innocently and saying, “Hey, check it out Toru. The soup isn’t a powder—it’s a liquid you add at the end.” Now cold, oily perspiration was oozing from his pores as he peeked out of the crack between the closet doors, bloodshot eyes wide.

I took a look at what was happening through the crack too.

I heard the door open.

The condo’s owner had returned. I suddenly feared the violent thumping of my heart would give us away.

A woman, short hair barely brushing her shoulders, appeared in the living room.  She had on a grey skirt and a white shirt under an indigo cardigan.

“Toru,” whispered Abiko in a voice like a whining mosquito.

“What?” I answered quietly.

“I’ve never seen that woman.”


“I’ve never seen her before. There was only a man in this condo.”

It seems he was trying to prove it wasn’t his fault—that when he did the recon, there was only a man; his plans didn’t account for a woman returning home. I shrugged my shoulders—it’s because you were slack on the recon. But we’ve got other things to worry about now.

A soft flickering sound, and the fluorescent lighting filled the room. I looked back at the woman.

I gasped and wished I could cover my eyes.

Our foolishness was laid bare by the fluorescent illumination. The half-eaten udon, the ring and the watch I had found, and the Kyoto guidebook Abiko had dug up were still sitting right there on the table.

The woman sat in the chair—in the very seat before the instant udon. I looked at Abiko, head cradled in my hands. Abiko mumbled, “Now we’ve done it.”

“So what shall we do?”

“We’re toast.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“I can’t just stand here watching like this. I feel so…”

Powerless, right?”

“Yeah, powerless.”

The woman began flipping through the pages of the Kyoto guidebook.

Abiko averted his eyes like an embarrassed kid caught red-handed. Next, she picked up the watch and ring that I had left and inspected them from various angles.

I wonder what will happen to us now? We’ve been in tight spots before, but this is the first time we’ve ended up hiding in a closet.

Surely she will open the closet, find us here, and call the police. If so, we might as well show ourselves now.

Suddenly, I had an idea—it felt like a tug on my fishing line, a last-ditch effort.

We can silence the woman and run away. We can tie her up and get out of here before the man comes back. I can’t count on our brawn.  If the man comes back, I don’t know if we can handle him. Now is our only chance, while the woman is alone.

“Hey, Abiko.”

It happened right as I opened my mouth.

The woman started sobbing, beginning with little sniffles quickly escalating. By the time she took the first bite of the remaining udon, she was wailing like a kid.

“Hey Toru, what’s going on here?”

Next Chapter

  1. In this blog, I always write Japanese names with the family name first. Shinichi is pronounced Shin`ichi.