It was crowded at Shinjuku station. Too crowded. I was making my way towards the east exit, cursing the kanji symbols that slowed my pace, when I ran into the cops.
The train ride had been pretty smooth. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing in the clean quiet carriage or in the faces of the japanese passengers, most of which were unconscious, betrayed anything of the horrors that awaited me only moments away.
Sam was quiet, pensive, distant... We had played a quick game of basket ball that morning at Seminar House to get the blood pumping. Sam had won the match and my wounded pride left a sore and throbbing gash in my ego. The bitter nectar of defeat coarsed through my veins as I sat next to him. "Maybe if I throttle him now I thought..." But no. I had to keep it together.
My nerves had steadied by the time we stepped on to the platform. There is a store called "Kinokuniya Books", and I knew it held manga. English manga. My mission was to get hold of some. Sam had his own path to tread and what became of him after we parted ways I don`t know. But I heard through the grapevine that he ended up at the Gibri museum and by all accounts had a good time.
As for me, I hit the fan like a bag of crap and burst into a million pieces of faeces.
Two officers were stood appart from the crowd, silently watching the population bursting through the electronic gates, swiping their pasmo cards like a herd of robot drones, all working for the man. I only noticed the cops when it was too late. One of them spotted me and stepped towards me: "May I see your passport please?" How those words have haunted me since. A chemical compound of adrenaline based fear froze my spine in a grip of terror as a realization dawned on me. I stood there, frozen like a rabbit in headlights, fully aware of it`s impending doom yet unable to move a muscle. "I don`t have it on me." The words finally came out but they came casually, despite my fear, like I was dismissing a small child. I guess I had no idea of the implications that that sentence would incur. I showed one of the officers my driving license. He walked off to make a phone call and I was grateful for his return as his chum and I had felt awkward alone together, unfamiliar as we were with each other`s language. "I`m innocent" I tought. "I`m a good person". "No crime, no fine" I assured myself. "You need to come with us to the police station" said the officer who had made the call. "Balls!" I thouht. The swine was serious. But I was still relaxed, even at this stage of the game I thought I would very soon be allowed to resume my leasurly wanderings.
Instead I was guided into a small police station around the corner and was made to sit at a desk in a little smokey room while I filled out forms and answered questions about my age, weight, height, blood type and even shoe size goddamit! One of the cops was taking his sweet time in an adjacent room, making more calls and rummaging through drawes and files and turning over my french driving license in his hands with uncertain fingers. He was visibly perplexed and clearly out of his depth so I piped up: "If you need more information about me, I can call my boss who speaks Japanese".
And so it happened that Yoshko the Wise and Fumiko the Brave came to my rescue. They had to go to Seminar House, get another key to my room from reception, find my passport, drive to Kitano station and then take the train to Shinjuku and find the main Police Department building where I had been transfered in the meantime.
I had been led out of my dull smokey room and into the back seat of a police vehicle where I sat squashed between two coppers like bacon in a bap, destined for Shinjuku Police Department`s main headquarters. After taking the lift down a couple of floors below ground level, I was escorted to my new lodgings, another dull white room but easier on the nostrils. I had a view from my doorway onto another very large rectangular room where policemen were manning phones, filling in forms and filing them in large cabinets. I saw policemen walking by, baring prisoners, their hands tied in rope which was in turn fascened to their captor`s waists. I later learned that I had been taken to the section of the building dealing with organized crime. Had I known this I could have informed them that I was unable to organize my underwear let alone crime. But my japanese wouldn`t have been up to the task anyway.
In the room next door to me, another westerner had been aprehended. I empathised strongly with the young lad who was of a similar build as myself, wore glasses like yours truly, and also looked solemn and confused. I saw little of him though, being confined as I was for hours on end, waiting for my administrators to bring my ID. To vouch for me. For my right to be here! "Soon the wretched document will be presented to you" I thought. "And then you`ll apologize!".
However, when the passport finally arrived, it was I who was made to write a letter of apology to the chief of police and assure him that I would never repeat the crime (and it is a crime) of not carrying my passport, as a foreigner, on my person AT ALL TIMES.
I learned this the hard way and I hope that you don`t make the same mistake as I did or you could possibly find yourself sitting in a police station for over 4 hours, filling in forms in the intimidating position of being surrounded by up to 7 officers who will go through your belongings and then take you to a cellar to be photographed and made to submit your fingerprints.
I felt like a criminal for the day even though in my mind (not being aware of this law and how seriously it is taken) I had done little wrong.
However, the japanese police were friendly and respectful. in fact when examining my stuff, they would politely ask my permission before searching each object in turn. I was not beaten of verbally abused, although I do regret not having been brought a snack or at least a coffee as it was 16:15 when I left the building and I hadn`t eaten since 8:30.
I found Yoshko and Fumiko patiently waiting for me upon my release. They invited me to a restaurant and stuffed me full of chinese ramen noodles and sandwiches to make up for my unexpectedly miserable afternoon. I was tired and moody but their company and the supremely tasty ramen revived my senses and I began to feel human again.
It was late and dark but still crowded around Shinjuku station when I thanked my saviours and watched them slowly disappear down the escalator, headed for the Keio line. Their job was done here. And done well.
I breathed in deeply the cool evening air. The world was full of possibility now. I had choices once more. A future. I was sombody. I was George Hamish Stansfeld and I had the document to prove it.
I found an underground bar and, sheltered from the noisy neon nightlife, I imbibed an expensive pint of IPA. I told my story to the cute bar
maid and we laughed about it. We shared a moment but the price of the lager dictated a swift departure so I paid the bill, climed the stairs back to street level and walked into the crowd. Into the dark. Into an uncertain future. But this time with an ace up my sleeve. I patted the side pocket of my bag where, carefully stored away, I could feel the little booklet. My identity. My passport. My precious.