“If these guys make a move, we have to take them down…and then run.”
Yamato said this to me as I stared at his eyes, or the place his eyes would have been had he not been wearing those sunglasses and I tried to figure out if he was bullshitting me because as always, his ever-present smile was wide open and the festival was completely packed with people. Women and men, old and young. Office workers and spouses, hookers and thugs. Hanazono Shrine had done it again and the “Torinoichi” festival was alive.
People flowed through the lanes of stalls and vendors finally arriving at the massive red and gold shrine that sat at the top of the steps like a heart, pumping blood rhythmically through the body.
“Are you serious?” I asked him.
Again searching his mask of a face for some indication of what exactly I had walked into. “Of course I’m fucking serious. Look, just be cool, like before, and don’t jump unless I do,” he said as he turned away and walked into the brightly lit pavilion.
The smell of grilled meat, beer and cigarettes engulfed me and as I saw the table we were inevitably going towards, I considered just walking away from this. I don’t do this anymore. I don’t know you people anymore and it’s better like that. I can just walk away and it won’t matter. Then I nearly laughed out loud realizing the slick bastard still had my phone in his hand. Ten minutes earlier “Hey let me use your phone my battery is dying,” he had said. He had spotted me in the crowd and I had been genuinely happy to see him.
I had to admit, Yamato looked well. Very slick dark blue suit, pink collared shirt with the top open and mid length black hair slicked back. He and I joked and caught up as the people streamed by us in the crowd and stared hard at us, dressed like hit-men out of their respective countries B-movies. So sure, happy to see my former boxing coach, friend and trouble maker so why not; I passed him my phone.
Well played Yamato.
In the tent approaching the table in the next instant I felt my chest expand and my muscles flush with juice as my adrenaline slowly started to build. Out of the entire group at this table we approached, the three potential problems were clear enough. The tent we had gone into was one of the many erected on the grounds within the shrine for the festival. This one in particular was a tent selling beer, shochu, grilled beef and chicken and fried noodles. About 14 long folding tables were set up inside the tent behind the grills and coolers for drinks and at the farthest table in the back right hand corner were 13 people. This is the table I followed Yamato to. We got the attention of everyone seated immediately. 8 men and 5 women. Five of the men were older, easily in their sixties with gray or black loose-fitting suits and oddly colorful cashmere scarves around their necks. Each one of them had salt and pepper hair, tightly slicked back over their heads and to a man they all wore very dark hued Gucci or Prada sunglasses with gold frames.
These men turned to look at us, first Yamato, then me, then back to Yamato, but none of them stood. They remained seated and slowly sipped their beers and sake while watching us make our way past the other tables and chairs and laughing bodies of people having a celebratory style Friday night.
The three men that did stand up as we neared the table were not older, but younger than both myself and Yamato. Mid 20’s as far as I could tell. All three of them slighter in build but with a taught smoothness that reminded me of big cats. All three of them wore jet-black suits and white shirts with large collars, opened up wide so I could see shiny gold and silver medallions, the slim tightness of athletic collar bones and chest muscles and then, just where the shirts started, the colorful patterns of tattoos that I knew ran off their pecs, to their shoulders and down the arms and backs of these men who had already proven themselves in numerous fist fights, beat downs and likely prison time. They had already earned the spot here, with the bosses and were trusted to do what needed to be done when the time came and the way they stood to meet us was not one conveying welcome, but was one filled with hostility.
These guys were the reason Yamato had tricked me into walking over here with him.
Kindness can in fact, be a weakness. Particularly when you deal with men that spend their lives walking the tight rope. Yamato bowed when we reached the table. I stood two paces behind him and one pace off to the left so that I could see everyone. This position also put me within equal distances of all three of the bodyguards. The one closest to Yamato began to snarl at him before the older man sitting in front of him raised his hand for silence. He then greeted Yamato, almost warmly, mumbling in that very distinct way that these men communicate when they are older.
Yamato kept bowing, very deeply, showing his respect for the mans position and they conversed quietly for about a minute. I stood there, both hands folded in front of me and looked at everyone without looking directly at anyone. Noted where I was in relation to everyone else. Asked myself some questions: “Can I jump over the table to hit that guy with this women sitting there? She’s sort of in the way,” and “Can I get this folding chair up in the air without it getting caught on something?” then “If we have to burn the hell out of here, do I go right to the nearest exit or left into the crowd?” Nobody at the table, including the women all of whom were in their 30’s and pretty, said anything.
Then somehow and rather suddenly, between the two of them, things were settled and Yamato stood up straight to his full height, at least as tall as me so about 6’3 and nearly as broad across in the shoulders, and he looked directly at the younger man who had tried to start a problem with him and suddenly broke into a big smile and jokingly told him in a booming voice “You need to relax son! Here, let me get you a drink!” The table laughed, except for the three bodyguards, still standing and Yamato raised a hand for a waiter. At this the young soldier, clearly offended and in possession of some beef with Yamato, tried to push past a folding chair to stand directly in front of us.
I instinctively moved up a pace to be between Yamato’s back and the bodyguard on our left who then slowly reached one hand up to his shirt collar and pulled it open showing off a large tattoo of a bright red Cherry Blossom with a Dragon dancing around it emblazoned on his chest. He did this and leaned his head back giving me his best menacing, wide-eyed “Fuck OFF: I’m connected,” look. I know this game though, have played it once or twice before and what you learn quick is that the only thing you can’t do, ever, is back down. That’s what gets a folding chair crashed across your face. Weakness incites a predators malice. So I cocked my head to the side slightly then pulled up the sleeve of my black suit jacket enough for him to see the beginnings of the ink on my right forearm. Then I blinked slowly a few times and shrugged my shoulders….”So What?” being the message.
I have no doubt now that these three young gangsters would have tried very hard to beat the living shit out of Yamato and I, had their Boss, two of them actually, not told them to
“Sit the fuck down it’s all finished now,” because men like them, living that lifestyle don’t care.
It’s what they do. I know this from before. That having been said, between Yamato and myself we probably weighed as much as all three of them. Also, between the two of us we have over a hundred fights in the ring, I have been in and out of that over the years, the ring and the cage, and Yamato was at one point a Light-Heavy weight boxing Champion who I know from experience has very fast hands and hits like a freight train. Aside from that, both of us had done these types of dances before. It’s not something I want in my life now, but to some degree at least, once you’ve been there, you can’t forget what you know.
The math in my head said they couldn’t have been armed with anything beyond a small knife, a gun would be out of the question here with all the police and people, and there were loads of easily improvised weapons at the ready on all sides. Shit, I can give a man a concussion with a magazine if that’s what I happen to have. It would be embarrassing to get your teeth knocked out with a rolled up edition of “Elle”.
Finally, Yamato and I weren’t playing king of the mountain I knew now; he had to squash a beef with this old guy and only needed things to be cool long enough for him to have his say. He tricked my overly kind-to-friends-ass into backing him up hoping my presence would keep things copacetic by throwing everyone off-balance; massive white guy, dressed like he is going to a funeral with the black suit, white collared shirt and black tie, black wrist watch and a few silver rings. If it went south, we would cause enough damage to give ourselves a few seconds and then be gone into the waves of people. What’s more is that he knows me, and knows about me and has seen some things.
He knew that I wouldn’t go with him if he asked plainly because I don’t do that anymore, but he knew if he got me there, I would know what to do, when to do it and when to go wheels up and flee if necessary. By the time I meandered back to my friends across the shrine at another stall, maybe ten minutes had gone by but my hands were shaking heavily from the adrenaline dumping out of my system and I did the mental math realizing how bad that could have been.
A few beers down the hatch…
(courtesy of Yosomono who was lining them up) and the atmosphere of the festival and all was good. Until he called me back. “What the hell? Get your friends and come drink with us! Yeah bring everyone and don’t forget the blond girl.” I can tell you this much, when you drink with these people, no matter what you drink, eat, order or do; nobody expects you to pay. They don’t even bother asking. Later on, after many beers, loads of sake and a train of gangsters, hostesses, pimps, boxers and even a monk had come and gone Yamato pulled me aside and in his fashion, still wearing the sunglasses and smiling, slightly hunched over vaguely resembling a Japanese gangstered out John Wayne he said by way of thanks, his arm around my shoulders, “OK. Tonight was lucky. I got the drinks next time…but that was fun though right?”
Fun? No. Memorable? Oh, yes.
If this wasn’t good enough for you, try these:
|Advancing Feminism via Porn||Interview with a Japanese Dominatrix||White woman Japanese sex||Groper Train Search for the Black Pearl||Interview with Adult Model: Erika Satou|
Gah! That was nothing but the most badass thing I’ve read about this year. I am thankful that someone who gets in situations like this also has the writing ability to tell about it in a gripping manner!
I guess it takes a 100 cage matches to build the badassery that was presented here. I need a good clobbering!
Thanks for the comment John. Actually, there are only 2 cage matches in the mix. Boxing and Kickboxing dominating the scale on the heavy end. But whatever helps. I can say though that this kind of shit is something best to avoid. It all sounds cool till someone gets hurt or arrested right?
Awesome story. This one going in the book?
The book is Fiction “based on true events” but the time lines are scrambled as it’s all happening over 24 hours. So no. I don’t want to write about Yazzie stuff in that book. I don’t think it would fit and it seems like every book by a foreigner out of Japan is about gangsters or Hostesses. The gangster ones are usually just research pieces with the writer never being involved and the Hostess ones although possibly interesting are all the same. Nope. I’ll avoid this topic. This post was just what happened Friday night. 5 years ago it wouldn’t have even been note worthy. Maybe I’m getting old. Thanks for the comment man, REALLY looking forward to whatever you decide to put on paper next….
Well told story, it was fun to read. You sound like one tough cookie. I couldn’t even began to imagine being in such a situation, which is probably why I enjoyed reading it so much. Looking forward to the next one.
Thanks as always for the comment. Tough is all perspective. I know some guys that make me look like a pansy.
Deception is the key. This is the part where I misquote ancient Chinese strategy on making your defenses like water rushing through a great canyon. Fast moving and ever changing to the environment, yet so deep that the enemy can not possibly see into it’s depths. I have been in similar but different situations like that. They aren’t fun, but do make for a good story. Surviving things like this makes you smarter and more apt to take less things for granted. Good read Eric.
“Elle”…sure would be embarrassing. My only problem is that if I knew I wus going to get knocked out in such a manner, I might find it hard to stop laughing.
So makes me appreciate my mundane existence. Over a lifetime, people can pick up an amazing set of skills. Getting older is definitely an added bonus. Plus, the stories get better each time you tell them. Pretty amazing what people get through.
Your life sure looks like a good read so far.
Haha good comment. Too true. I’ve met some amazing people so far. Amazing good, amazing bad and amazing gray area. Like I said, I have met some people that make me look like a candy ass. But I’ve had my moments.
“maybe ten minutes had gone by but my hands were shaking heavily from the adrenaline dumping out of my system and I did the mental math realizing how bad that could have been.”
I once mistook 2 motorcyle boys for 8ish and shoulda been killed. They were so surprised by my bizzare act…I basically stalked and pinned them into a parking lot corner. They lower their throttles when it’s a School day still. They got Imperial flags on the back of their bikes but they don’t make no trouble.
They’ll never know it was me with the hands shaking so bad I couldn’t grip my brass knucks cuz I thought I’d lose em’ and get beat with em…..
Just delete the links. They are for you…I ain’t drubbin traffic. I just rarely read other people having fun like me…it’s gotta be the pugilist background? Everyone around here…especially the ALT’s thinkI’m fucking nuts. We’d get along good. 🙂
I understand what you mean and how that is.
People who know, know. Those that don’t know either hate, or think you have mental problems.
Whatever…I’ve never thought I had it too bad. Not like I had to grow up in Somalia or the Congo or bloody Afghanistan. Seems like with me it all boils down to me being stubborn and having a mouth on me.
It seems like people either have the aura or not. I used to have a mate who was the nicest bloke in the world, yet when we went out to a club there would always be two or three blokes who tried to start something with him. He was kinda built, but not insanely massive or anything like that and never actively sought out trouble. I have never had any trouble at even the most dodgiest clubs, except over pool games, must be something about me that doesn’t warrant their attention? A couple of times I ran into a gang of 10 or more guys on the footpath when I was pissed and walking home alone in Sydney, where they tried shoulder barging me and asking me for money/smokes, but just kept my head up and walked straight through them expecting a clip across the back of the head, yet I managed to get away unscathed . Must be lucky perhaps?
Anyway it seems like you both have that aura about you perhaps. I have always managed to avoid violence despite growing up in a shitty area and having a lot of close calls, which is perhaps why I find your stories so interesting and how you deal with things.
You are completely right. I had so much trouble in Southern California. So people that lived there and didn’t experience that generally don’t believe me. I worked as a bouncer too which was a bad idea. Five of us would be standing in a line and the guy pumped with liquid courage would walk right up to me. It was nearly a weekly occurrence. I was so high strung when I got to japan, it’s a miracle nothing bad happened. That is one of the reasons I love Tokyo. Everything bad here has been a situation I put myself in. One way or another. I can handle that. But generally, normal people, normal Japanese people, are not walking around looking for fist fights.
Yeah, the passive aggressive and sooky/guilt trip type behaviour is a lot easier to deal with in that respect. I like that about this country too, apart from a few weirdos, you’re generally left alone. I like it how I can go to the loo at a convenience store and leave an expensive road bike unchained out the front too, or maybe a token thin one if it looks dodgy. No gangs of little shits walking around to put you in hospital for your wallet either.
I always noticed that a certain type of girl would always gravitate towards the aura types at bars, which could be part of the reason. Was is the same in CA?
I rarely went to bars or clubs other than to work. I was bouncing 5 or 6 nights a week to make ends meet. And seeing all the guys working their “game” and basically looking like assholes really turned me off. Wasn’t till I had been in Japan for a couple years before I actually found I could go out and have a good time.
That having been said, I dated some very attractive women in CA. And by and large they came to me. I had no real conscious game at all. A few that came up to me when the club was closing, but the real stunners were all from the gym.
The Socal scene can be nasty. People pack all the time. Most thugs will leave you alone if you can give them the impression that they might walk away with your wallet in exchange for a missing minor appendage. Explaining to people that you are missing an ear or a finger because some dude cut it off when you were trying to mug him is embarrassing. The unknown of that is enough to keep people out of your business in most cases.
Haha….True. But also, there are some people, who just do not give a fuck (At least at that time in their lives) and will entire the fray knowing that it’s going to leave scars. They just live like that. You and I have known one or two of these men.
We sure have. I miss those days.