Saturday, January 16, 2010

If I knew the Japanese word one uses for "two" when counting small, digital things, I'd use it here, or, Two notes on Tokyo Vice

Before I leave Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice behind, I have two more brief notes to share, little bits of insight into cops and yakuza:

The cops on The Wire seem to spend all their time drinking shitty beer

In the course of describing a meeting with an odd, shaven-headed cop known as Alien Cop, in a bar that Adelstein describes as "so dark that when I lit my cigarette it seemed as if I were setting off fireworks," he explains how to drink with a Japanese cop:
Rule number one of drinking with cops: you are permitted to order only (1) sake, (2) shochu, (3) beer, or (4) whiskey. Tiki-tiki drinks are not allowed. A dry martini may be acceptable since 007 drank them. Order a Blue Hawaii and you might as well pack your bags and start covering family affairs.
Fortunately, one of the few things I can say in Japanese is "I would like two beers, please," and I didn't do too badly getting martinis when were were in Tokyo, either . . . so maybe I should go meet some Japanese cops?

Even the yakuza are victims . . . of nostalgia!

Late in the book, Adelstein, looking for information, visits a yakuza in the hospital. The yakuza, who is dying of cancer, says,
Maybe I had pride in being a member of the organization once upon a time. But you get loser to the end you question things. You begin to wonder if everything you took for granted is so good. The organization I entered isn't the same as it was. When things become too big, they get out of hand, things go bad. A lot of the yakuza have no rules anymore, they don't respect ordinary citizens, they don't respect anything. They're involved in all kinds of really bad shit.
All of which may be true, but at the same time it makes me wonder: is there any group of people other than professional historians that doesn't unthinkingly believe that the good old days really existed?

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