If you had asked me how I ended up in a hotel room with a card-carrying yakuza one recent weekend night, I would have been hard pressed to come up with a short explanation. This is not going to be a tale of an illicit tattooed love affair, so you can put that out of your mind right now.
It wasn't just the yakuza and I. We were joined by a wrist-cutter, a girl woman, one of the beau's baito (part-time worker) and the beau himself. That I found myself on the 6th floor of the Smile Hotel clinking beer cans with a member of organized crime is all the beau's doing, really. He is the one who started fishing in the first place.
The beau, bless his analog heart, is not a technology man. He didn't use a computer growing up and so has missed out on what used to be the novel idea of "online community." Missing out on chatroom socialization ("14 y/o blond with green eyes looking for fun"), he hasn't had the experience of connecting with people he doesn't know via the Internet. Until the fishing game. God knows what compelled him to start, but he is now playing a fishing game on his cellphone with hundreds of thousands of people around Japan. And by extension, learning what it is like to have online friends, a concept most of us have long since first experienced. Do you remember what it was like first talking to people over the Internet? I do. I was on my island in the South Pacific and felt liberated to be able to talk to people online, and boys in particular, given I went to an all girls' school. Let's not go there though.
So this particular weekend several of the beau's fishing buddies descended upon Tokyo from distant locales: Y-san the Kansai yakuza, Wrist-cutter (so named because she has made public her habit and the beau takes calls from her at all hours to talk about her problems) and Girlwoman, a smoking and drinking dynamo who looks about ten when she pulls her sweatshirt over her folded knees and sits on the bed like a dumpling. It was so cute watching the beau get ready for his first Internet meet-up, I felt like I was sending him off to his first day of school. And would you know it, I couldn't resist sneaking in a little "don't tell anyone where you live" spiel as he was stepping into the elevator.
I hadn't intended to join this meeting of fishing minds at all and had a date with a dark bar in Asakusa that evening, but on the last train home I get a call from the beau telling me to come to the Smile Hotel. How could I resist? The chance to meet a real live yakuza doesn't come along very often in my life as a salarygirl.
The hotel door opened and there was the baito, urging me to come in to the capsule-sized room. As I shook hands with Wrist-cutter and Girlwoman, they both looked at my hand clasping theirs as if it was the hand of god on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. And I'm not even being narcissistic here, promise. These girls were from the boonies but come on, there are foreigners they can touch in the boonies too, am I right?! I'll admit it was kind of cute, I haven't encountered any foreigner-deprived Japanese in a while and they are always extremely eager for any morsel of foreign strangeness thrown their way. As I shook hands with Y-san, he remarked that I looked like a doll. I like him immediately.
I perched on the bed, keeping up my doll-like facade, and the drinking commenced. Y-san cracked open an Asahi Superdry for me and we clanked to the fishing gods. It was funny to see how this group of previous strangers was now acting, having spent the evening at dinner and karaoke before retiring to the hotel room. They were still calling each other by their screen names but after a couple slip-ups by the beau and his baito, everyone rattled off their full names, seemingly relieved to give up the pretense. Wrist-cutter even started crying at one point when the beau started waxing on about how great it was that this group of people from all over Japan (and the token Canadian) could get together and socialize like this. He made it sound like an invention akin to sliced bread.
As for Y-san, what a sweetheart. And he had all his fingers too. He kept extending an invitation for us to meet him in Osaka and never having been there, we are definitely going to take him up on the offer, for what better way to explore Osaka than with someone "in the business." Don't even ask about when he took his shirt off and pulled down his pants. Swoon. I am not a fan of tattooed men in general, but this mostly has to do with the tattoos chosen - ugly, tasteless junk. Maori men and Japanese yakuza however, I make an exception for. Y-san had a full back tattoo of a gorgeous koi (carp) that covered his butt and finished behind his knees. He even let me touch it. I get a little tired of the repetitiveness of the word kakkoii in Japanese to mean cool, but shit this man embodied it.
At one point in the evening the beau told me this would be an excellent chance for a Q&A session in case I had any yakuza-related questions burning to be asked. I wish I had known earlier and I would have brought a list! We talked about the tattoo thing and the cutting off of fingers (he hasn't fucked up that bad yet) but had I known I would be in the presence of such a man, I would have gone prepared. Y-san was extremely sweet but upon request gave us his "work eyes," which are pretty frightening to behold. I couldn't believe how easily he could just switch off and I'm sure for him, that night afforded him a rare opportunity to be fisherman Y-san instead of yakuza Y-san.