78. Soaring

At the culture center, I am given a stark reminder of the danger that lies ahead: less than a hundred yards away and in clear view from the windows of the fifth floor classroom is the Fukuoka Kōchisho (拘置所), the very jail I hope to avoid getting thrown into.

The Kōchishois enclosed in an old concrete wall, some forty or fifty feet high, with a bramble of razor wire at the top. Just beyond the wall, the top floor of the cell blocks is visible. In all the years I have taught at the culture center and looked out at the Kōchisho, I have never once detected a hint of life beyond the bleak enclosure.

What I do know about the jail is that prisoners are sometimes hanged there, the executions made public only after they have been conducted. There are no countdowns, no protests, no candlelight vigils, no dramatic eleventh hour stays of execution. This isn’t Hollywood, after all. It is Japan, where humorless bureaucrats oil the machinery of justice and the extinguishing of human life is as fittingly impersonal as a tick in a ledger in some governmental office.

And I’ll become a tick in a ledger myself if I fuck up tomorrow morning.

“You have nothing to worry about,” Adachi told me. 

Big of the man to say so! The lawyer isn’t the one who is going to get the third degree, or have his head slammed up against the wall, or receive an education in the subtleties of a nightstick. Whatever happens on Sunday, I’m sure I’ll be seeing stars by the end of the day if blow it.

I have gotto get in touch with Naila, again! 

I tried to contact my cousin twice before I left for the culture center this morning, but no luck. I still don’t know what I am going to tell the cops when I go in for questioning.

If only I could talk with Naila, and get her to corroborate . . .

Swallowing hard, I turn away from the window and sit down on the corner of my desk and wait for the students to arrive.

At a quarter to ten, students begin trickling in, filling the classroom with their sunny chatter. The pensioners don’t seem to have a care in the world, aside from bum knees, cataracts, and memory loss. Some of them, the older ones in particular who are in their eighties and still going strong, lived through the horrors of the war—one even experienced the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, another had been training to become a kamikazepilot as the war was coming to an end—but you’d never know it from the way they smile as they enter the classroom.

Dé Dale once commented that he didn’t know how I could bear to spend so much time every week with so many “losers”. I suppose if I also operated under the same opinion that my students were losers, I probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as I had in the profession. At the risk of my friend’s derision, I must confess that I actually like the vast majority of my students, and, for the most part, enjoy the time we spend together each week. Would I rather be doing something different? You bet! But for all intents and purposes, the job suits my lifestyle and places few demands on me other than I show up, do my thing, and collect my pay.

Now that the Kōchishois looming in the offing and I risk losing everything, this teaching gig included, there isn’t anywhere I would rather be than in this classroom chatting it up with pensioners about their enviably ordinary and peaceful lives.

I ask a diminutive woman by the name of Hideko (lit., child of the rising sun) if she did anything special this week. At the age of sixty-three, she is a spring chicken compared to the rest.

“Last week, I went toshopping,” Hideko begins.

Wentshopping,” I correct.

“Yes, yes. I went to shopping and . . .”

“No, Hideko, it’s not ‘wenttoshopping’, it’s ‘wentshopping’.” I say. God only knows how many times I have corrected the group on this very point.


“I went shopping.”

“You, too, Sensei?”

Oh, good grief. No, no, no. Not meYou!”

“Yes, that’s what I said,” she counters with a smug smile.

“Never mind. Please continue.”

“Last week, I went to shopping and . . .”

When she is finished with her story, I write “go to ~ ing” on the whiteboard with the “to” crossed out in red. Below it, I add several examples: “go hiking”, “go swimming”, “go fishing”, and finally “go shopping”.

After doing a quick run-through of the grammar, Hideko finally figures out what I have been trying to tell her. What’s more, it dawns on her that she made the very same mistake only a week ago. 

“I’m sorry,” she says.

“It’s quite all right,” I assure the woman. “There’s no need to apologize. This ismy job, after all. Like a gardener pulling weeds.”

Oh, thank you. Thank you. You’re too kind.”

“Besides there are no stupid mistakes . . .”


“No, there aren’t any stupid mistakes, but there sure are a lot of stupid students!”



 Back at my apartment, I try to place another call to my cousin. It is getting late on Naila’s side of the planet. If I don’t get through to her soon, the next window won’t be until the evening, my time. Trouble is I promised a friend I would throw her a small going away party.

I dial my cousin’s number and let it ring and ring and ring.

Yal’la, Naila, answer the goddamn phone!” After ten rings, I slam the receiver down. “Fuck me!”

It is tempting to give my mother a call to see if she might be able to contact her sister, my aunt Michelin, and tell Naila to call me. The poor woman, though, already has enough on her plate caring for my father. My old man is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and the last thing Mama needs is one more thing to upset her. No, I’ll have to try again in the evening.



After lounging about the swimming pool all morning, dé Dale and I got itchy feet and decided to go out and explore Bangkok until it was time to leave for the airport. 

A few blocks from our hotel was a canal, one of the many noisome tributaries that flow through the city carrying human waste and pestilence and God only knows what else. Every now and then boats roaring in either direction and churning up the muddy waters pull up to jerry-built piers, unload their shaken and rattled passengers, and speed off again.

Well, I’ll tell you, the boats are probably deathtraps, but to the two of us they looked like a hell of a lot of fun. The gods may struggle in vain against boredom, but there is no shortage of things that will amuse two lads hopped up on drugs.

We boarded an inbound boat, sitting at the very front of the boat, near the pilot, with the delight of two boys climbing into the first car of a roller coaster. 

The pilot floored the engine and the boat hurtled forward at breakneck speed, down the canal under a canopy of trees. The boat banked sharply at the Ban Bat temple and continued thundering ahead, passing under a low-lying bridge and just barely averting a collision with an approaching boat. Several minutes later, when we arrived at a pier along the great Chao Phraya, the River of Kings, the two of us hobbled off, shaken and rattled ourselves.

We spent an hour wandering around Khet Dusit, where the royal palace and parliament are located, then jumped onto the backs of motorcycle taxis that zipped us back to Siam, weaving wildly through the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The rest of the afternoon was idled away at Gaysorn Plaza and Siam Center, where you would have thought that Christmas and Chanukah had come eight months early the way we shopped, picking up souvenirs and presents like there was no tomorrow.

In the evening, we rendezvoused at the airport with Nori, dé Dale’s leggy Amazon, who had just flown in from Japan. The three of us then caught a connecting flight to Ko Samui, an island off the southeastern coast where we planned to stay for a few days before moving on to the neighboring island of Ko Pha Ngan in time for the full moon party.

Perhaps it was the altitude or the deafening drone of the twin propellers that triggered it, but midflight I began to peak again. Leaning across the narrow aisle, I asked my friend how he was feeling. More than twenty hours had passed since we had taken yabaand I was still soaring. He looked back at me and grinned like the Cheshire cat.



When my workday has finally come to an end, I consider trying to give my cousin another call, but it is still early in the morning for her. 

Better to try again in an hour. 

In the meantime, Azami and I go out for a quick bite, dropping in at Gyoshu Danshiro Shoten, an Okinawan pub just down the street from my apartment.

Without looking at the menu, I rattle off the order as soon as the waiter comes to our table: “Tofuyogoya chambururafuté, Okinawan soba, grilled Ishigaki beef, and Orion beer.”

Okinawa. Now there is a place I would not mind being, and to hell with what dé Dale thinks of the place. 

For years, I’ve been operating sullenly on the soppy emotion “anywhere, but here”, but my melancholic longing for greener pastures does have a destination—several, in fact—and Okinawa is near the top of that list.

A friend of mine checked out of life’s fast lane and moved to the southernmost island of Yonaguni where she is now spending her days hanging out at the beach, and lolling about on the engawa deck of her home, plucking a kind of banjo called the Ryūkyū sanshin and drinking the local fire water, awamori.

Although I may not be ready to live the life of a cloistered monk just yet, Ishigaki, the largest, most populous island in the Yaeyama archipelago located halfway between Okinawa and my friend’s new home of Yonaguni, would suit me just fine. The pace of life is slower there—perfect when you have nowhere in particular to go and nothing special to do. When you are rushing from one commitment to another like I usually am, just doing nothing, absolutely nothing, as dé Dale often reminded me, is a luxury.

A dip in the turquoise sea, snorkeling among coral reefs and tropical fish, a bottle of Donan 120-proof awamori and a bucket of ice to ease you into the evening, and an old man strumming away on the sanshin, singing in the Okinawan dialect, “Nankuru nai sah” (Everything’s gonna be all right) sounds like heaven to me right now.

The waiter brings a chilled mug of Orion draught for me, utchin cha [1] for Azami, and a small plate of tōfuyo.

Even in a land like Japan where delicacies abound, tōfuyo still manages to stand out.Made with the Okinawan variety of tōfu, it is first packed in salt to remove the excess water, and then fermented a second time in awamori, rice malt and red yeast until it takes on a rose-colored cheese-like consistency.

I shave off a bit of the tōfuyowith a toothpick and pop it into my mouth.Just then, Azami’s cell phone rings. 

Moshi-moshi,” she says. “Yes, he’s here with me. Hold on a moment, I’ll give him the phone . . .”



The airplane touched down on the tarmac of Ko Samui’s small airport by and by.

Dé Dale, Nori, and I shambled off the plane, ears ringing, and made our way to an improvised baggage claim area where we huddled with the other woozy passengers. Once we had our bags, we hailed a taxi that took us to the other side of the island where a pair of bungalows was waiting for of us.

By this point, dé Dale and I had been awake for over forty hours, and still “high like the kite” for most of that time. Only now were the effects of the yabafinally subsiding; the rope we had been dangling from all night and all day finally slackened enough to let our feet touch the ground.

After a trip as long as that, you might think I would have been ready to hit sack, but no, I was still having too much fun—strange fruit, indeed—and didn’t want the party to end.

Dé Dale and Nori, however, had the good sense to call it a night. With a toodle-oo, the two retired to their bungalow. The door to their bungalow shut and the curtains drawn, for the next two hours the quiet of the evening was broken every now and then with giggles and moans, and the thud of a headboard banging against the wall, steady as a metronome.

Left alone to my own self-destructive devices, I took the roll of yaba out of my pocket. There were still five more of those crazy pink pills left. Splitting one in two, I popped half into my mouth. 

Good God, what was I thinking?

The following morning, dé Dale said he wanted to get in touch with nature while on the island, so the three of us went on a quest for magic mushrooms.

I was still hopped-up on yababy then, having spent half of the night wandering around the dimly lit, sparsely populated village in a fruitless search for a party or a go-go bar or a show featuring genital acrobatics—anything that might fight back, if only temporary, an imaginary army of ants that was crawling all over me. 

Unfortunately, little was open, nothing but a dismal little cyber café with two lousy computers and dial-up Internet. A hippy with blond dreadlocks dressed in what looked like pajamas sat before one of the computers. He hunted and pecked at the keyboard, clicking the mouse with the frenzied urgency of a day trader. Watching him reminded me of something dé Dale had once said: Most hippies today are phonies.

Returning to the bungalow, I plopped down on the bed and turned on the boob tube. A Thai soap opera was on. It featured beautiful people with gleaming white teeth and alabaster complexions living lives of such material abundance it made me wonder what the people in the shantytowns along the train tracks and stinking rivers of Bangkok must have made of it all. Flipping the channel, I caught CNN just as it was breaking for a commercial. Imagine that. Changing the channel, MTV was showing Crazy Town’s “Butterfly—shugah baby—again. On another channel, NHK Worldwas stultifying viewers with its bone-dry reportage of the news . . .

“Ah, fuck it,” I said, and, turning the TV off, headed out to the beach where I waited for the sun to rise.

Later that morning, when dé Dale, Nori, and I were walking along the beach, we happened upon a beach bar, the walls of which were painted in a wildly psychedelic motif, like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

“Bingo,” dé Dale said, snapping his fingers.

He sauntered up to counter and asked the bartender, a scrawny Thai man of about thirty, and the only person in the joint, if he knew where we might be able to score some shrooms.

The bartender laughed and in impeccable English told us that five years ago magic mushrooms would have been easy to get hold of, but now? “Sorry, but you’re fresh out of luck, mate.”

Dé Dale sat down at the counter and ordered a round of Singhas. 

When the bartender brought the beers over, he whispered something to the effect that if it was partying we were after, he might be able to arrange for something.

Dé Dale was game and gave him a nod, warning, “Better not disappoint us!”

“You won’t be,” the bartender replied and took off down the beach, giving us the run of the bar. When he returned half an hour later, he produced a small case of pink pills with WY imprinted on them.

Dé Dale and I looked at each other and started laughing.

[1] Utchin cha (うっちん茶) is jasmine tea from Okinawa.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

61. Fine and Dandy

Adachi hands back the police documents to me, warning that, no matter how interested he may be in the case, he is swamped at the moment. “I’m going to argue a case before the High Court in Tōkyō.”

“The High Court?”

Maybe this Adachi isn’t a buffoon after all.

“Yes, they’ve finally agreed to review an appeal I lodged years ago.”


I’m feeling somewhat better when I leave Adachi’s law office. The anvil is still creaking above my head, but at least now there is someone who might push me out of the way before it all comes crashing down.

The next order of business is to call my girlfriend Azami and arrange a time and place to meet.

I ride the rest of the way into town and park the bicycle at an underground parking garage below the Iwataya Department Store. From there, I make my way through a passage to Mitsukoshi, another department store. I take an elevator to the fifth floor where a little used overhead passage connects Mitsukoshi with an adjacent office building. It is there that I find a bank of green pay phones.

Azami picks up on the fifth ring.

Moshi, moshi.”

Hearing her voice, I nearly break down and cry.

“Azami . . .” I say, my voice wavering. “Where are you now?”

“I’m at my grandfather’s.”


“I’m in Kagoshima.” 

“Dammit . . .” She is literally on the other side of the island of Kyūshū, a four-hours’ drive away. She might as well as be on the dark side of the moon for what I need her to do.

“When are you coming back?”

“Tomorrow. In the afternoon, I think. Why?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“What is it?”

Paranoia has taken a firm grip on me ever since this morning’s raid. While discretion has never been my strong point, I now err on the side of caution: I don’t want to tell my girlfriend what has happened over the phone in the off chance that the police happen to be listening in. Who knows what they are capable of? They have my cell phones and can see the history of incoming and outgoing calls. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce which numbers belong to the people closest to me. It’s elementary: Azami will be identified as a person of interest, and her calls monitored accordingly. At least that’s what I would do if I were a cop.

“I can’t tell you,” I reply, then curse myself for not having better tact. 

“Why not?”

“I just can’t. Not now. Not over the phone.” I’m starting to lose it.

Tell me,” she demands, her voice moving up a register.

Goddamn it, Azami! If I say I can’t tell you, then I can’t tell you.”

There, now I’ve done it. I have just succeeded in doing precisely what I hoped to avoid. “Sorry, Azami. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, yes. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” Fine and fucking dandy. “Listen, I’ll explain everything tomorrow evening.”

“I’ll call you tonight.”

“No, no, no! Don’t call me tonight.”

“Why not?” There is no stopping the meltdown now. “Are you having an affair?”

“Good God, Azami! No, I am not having an affair.” Oh, if only that were the problem! “Azami, I don’t have my cell phone on me.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve lost it.”


“I don’t know! If I knew it wouldn’t be lost.”

“I’ll call your cell phone.”

“Don’t call my cell phone!” I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten. “Azami, I’ll explain everything tomorrow. Just don’t call my cell phone, okay?”


“I mean it. Do not call my cell phone.”

I hoped that talking to my girlfriend would ground me; that the sound of her voice would reassure me that everything was going to be all right. Calling her has only made things worse.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

57. Nothing to Hide

Adachi’s private office in the back is even more cluttered than the reception area. A steel bookshelf has been rigged up against the wall and is stuffed with volumes of law books and journals. A large conference table, taking up what little room there is in the office, is covered with piles of legal documents, heavy stacks of books, newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes filled higgledy-piggledy with papers. From a distance the table could pass for an overloaded container ship inching its way through a narrow canal.

Lifting a box off of a seat, the lawyer invites me to sit down.

“I’m sorry for coming unannounced like this,” I say, taking the seat. It wobbles unsteadily below me. “But, this morning my apartment was raided by the police.”

“Did they tell you why they were there?”

“No, they wouldn’t say. Here.”

I hand the lawyer the papers I have with me: copies of the warrants and an itemized list of things confiscated from my apartment.

“What’s this?” Adachi asks, pointing to the Modafinil on the list.

“That has nothing to do with the case . . .”

Before I can explain, Adachi picks up the phone and starts dialing the number of the chubby Customs agent with the pencil mustache. 

“Is this Nakata? Oh good. My name’s Adachi, I’m a lawyer and I’ve got a Mr. Bon . . .” 

“Boncoeur,” I prompt. I can’t tell if the lawyer before me has brass balls or is a reckless fool.

“I’ve got a Mr. Boncoeur here. He’s quite upset about what happened this . . . I see . . .”

After speaking briefly with the Customs agent, Adachi hangs up the phone and announces definitively, “This is a case of attempted smuggling.”

“Yes, yes, I realize that now. That’s what I was going to tell you,” I reply, somewhat exasperated.

Adachi apologizes, saying he mistakenly assumed the case revolved around the Modafinil.

Starting over from the beginning, I explain what happened, the phone call to my cousin, and so on.

“Well, attempted smuggling isn’t nearly as bad as actual smuggling. If the drugs had, for instance, made it to your home and you had used them, well, then it would be an entirely different story. Hmm, this is very interesting.”

Adachi pushes his glasses to the top of his head and takes a second look at the papers again.

“Very interesting, indeed,” he mumbles to himself. “I worked on a similar case a few years ago . . . An American teaching at a junior high school here in town . . . When he was coming through Customs at the airport, he was found to have drugs hidden in the lens of his camera . . . He claimed they had been planted on him . . . Hmm, very interesting.”

Of all the names on the list, why did I have to choose this guy?

I wanted to back-peddle out of Adachi’s cluttered law office and find another lawyer, that Kōga, perhaps. Trouble is, I now have even less time than before.

“I wouldn’t worry,” Adachi concludes after muttering incoherently to himself for a minute. “If the police thought you were guilty, they would have arrested you this morning.”

“You know, I would really like to believe that, but I’m afraid I don’t trust the police. I mean, what if they are just postponing my arrest?”

“I don’t think they’d do that.”

“They want me to come in for questioning on Sunday morning and again on Monday.”

“Make sure you go, then.”

“Do I haveto? Am I legally obligated to go?”

C’mon, man, throw me a fucking bone here!

“No, but it will only make you look more suspicious if you don’t. And then they’ll definitely arrest you.”

“Isn’t there anything youcan do?”

“I’m afraid not,” he says flatly. “Just tell them what you’ve told me and you should be all right. You haven’t got anything to hide, right?”

Nothing to hide? Good Lord, I have plenty.

“No, nothing,” I say. “I didn’t ask or want my cousin to send her medicine. I didn’t evenknow there was something ‘illegal’ in the package until this morning when my place was raided.”

“Well, tell them that and I’m sure everything will be settled before long.” 

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

56. Ready or Not

Adachi’s office is a dishearteningly modest affair. Two dowdy middle-aged women stand behind a cheap reception counter, shuffling through documents in silence. A dirty window in the rear looks out onto a parking garage.

First off, I apologize for coming unannounced, then explain my situation in brief and ask if I might be allowed to meet Adachi.

One of the women tells me that “Sensei” [1] is out at the moment, but would return shortly. I take a seat on a squat vinyl sofa shoved into a corner between a sad little Benjamin tree with browning leaves and a clunky old copy machine that stinks of toner.

On the wall above the copier hangs a clock with a convex glass cover that hasn’t been cleaned in ages—a thick layer of dust cloaks the upper half of it like a fur collar. The time doesn’t look quite right either. A quick peek at my cell phone and I realize that I have even less time than I thought before I need to get back to work. I curse myself for not cancelling my evening lessons.

Twenty minutes pass and I’m starting to think it might be a better idea to consult another lawyer when a man hurries in. Gaunt and disheveled, he looks more like an absent-minded professor than a legal eagle. Noticing me, his eyes bulge. He gives me a nervous nod, then maneuvers around my legs to step into the office. After chatting a moment with the two spinsters, he makes a beeline for a room in the back and closes the door.

One of the secretaries serves me a cup of green tea and says that Senseiwill be with me in a moment. As I wait there sipping the tea, my feet are pointed towards the entrance. It is all I can do to keep from bolting out the door. 

If I’m not mistaken, another lawyer, a Kōga-sensei, has an office just around the corner. According to the List of Attorneys, he not only has experiences with narcotics cases but also speaks fluent English.

But what if Kōga isn’t in? I’ll lose another fifteen to thirty minutes. No, better stay put.

And stay put I do—precious minutes ticking away like diamonds being smashed into smithereens—until Adachi emerges from the back room. Running his fingers through pomaded hair, he gives a nod the secretaries. The resignation in his face couldn’t be clearer. 

Sensei is ready to see you.” 

Ready or not, here I come. 


[1]Sensei(先生), a word that literally translated means a “person born before another”, is used after a person’s name to mean “teacher”. It is used as a title to address teachers, professors, and professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, doctors, and politicians. The word can also be used to show respect to someone who has achieved mastery in an art form, such as an author.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

54. Lawyers

As I make my way through the heavy doors of the Consulate with nothing but that lousy 24-page Guidelines for Americans Arrested in JapanI can’t help but feel let down. I don’t know what I was expecting. Diplomatic sanctuary, perhaps? The Cavalry riding in to save the day?

At least Ms. Satō has provided me with a list of lawyers. Once outside the Consulate, I start skimming through the list. The names are given alphabetically: Abé, Adachi, Baba, Eguchi, Kōga, Moriyama, Nakano, and so on. Each lawyer’s alma mater, areas of specialty, and English proficiency are also listed.

I happen to know the Abé at the top of the list. She is an attractive, competent lawyer in her mid-thirties who helped me get the ball moving with my divorce two years ago. Although she is someone I can confide in, I eliminate her because she doesn’t have any experience with criminal law or narcotics. Not many on the list do. This isn’t America, after all.

Second on the list is a Mr. Adachi. Much older than Abé, judging by the date of his graduation, Adachi is one of the few who has apparently worked on cases dealing with drugs. The clincher, however, is the address of his law practice: it is only a short walk from my apartment. I hop on my girlfriend’s bicycle and head straight for it.

28. Benkai

Thursday morning, July 13th



I look up from my book to find Bear peering in through the window.

It may be a new morning, but I’m already feeling as if it is Groundhog Day again.


He mumbles something I don’t catch.

“Pardon me?”

Benkai,” he says. “Your lawyer’s here. Get ready.”

“My lawyer?” I say, brightening.

I’m so delighted I could do a little jig right here in the cell.

Maybe now we can get this matter all settled and Rémy can finally be on his merry little way.

If I had my druthers, I would have them release me before Gilligan wheeled around with lunch. Three nights in jail is more than enough.

I put the gray shirt on, making sure to tuck it in properly, and then kneel before the door, legs tucked under my fanny.

Several minutes later, just as the radio exercises are starting to kick in, a dull metallic clank at the front of the cell tells me the door has been unlocked.

Rokuban, benkai,” a guard says, opening the door and taking a step back. Benkai, yet one more truncated word in the lexicon of Japanese Ministry of Justice. I give the word some thought, turning it around in my head like a Rubik’s cube until it occurs to me that it must be shorthand for bengoshi kaidan, or a consultation with one’s lawyer.[1]

After confirming my name and number, the guard then leads me to the right, and up the corridor.

As we are walking past the windows of my neighbor’s cells, I can’t help but look in on them. The boy next door in Cell 25 is at his desk writing what looks like a long letter. In the next cell, the long-haired, bearded Castaway sits against the wall, knees pulled up against his bare chest and bony arms at his sides. He stares vacantly at the opposite wall, rocking slowly.

At the end of the corridor we come to a wall of bars. The guard orders me to turn to the left as he fiddles with the lock. We do-sa-do upon passing through the opening, and, once again, I’m told to turn away while he locks the door behind us.

The guard then takes me up a flight of stairs and down a broad hallway. Similar to the hall on the western side of the jail, here, too, the outer wall has posters featuring Kyūshū’s scenic spots.

Wouldn’t it be more humane if there were windows offering a glimpse of the world outside the jail, something real and familiar to hold on to so the prisoners didn’t go completely bonkers?

At the end of the hall, we arrive at another wall of bars. A guard on the other side, sitting at a wooden desk cluttered with forms and rubber stamps, asks for my number.


He makes a notation in a register and gives me an inkpad to dab my finger on. I put my fingerprint on the form.

We do-sa-do again, and yet another guard comes ‘round the outside to escort me. The hallway narrows and then slopes downward, the floor changing from bare concrete to white tile. Through a door on the right, and down a flight of steps we are back on the ground floor. Passing through one more locked door, we enter an “L” shaped hallway, windowless and antiseptic with evenly spaced doors running along the inner wall. The guard opens one of the doors and tells me to get in and take a seat. He turns the air-conditioner on and locks the door behind me.

The room is small, and lit up like a showcase. I sit down on a metal chair that is bolted to the floor and rest my hands on the cold stainless steel counter before me. A thick pane of glass separates my side from an identical, but unlit room on the other side.

This is how germs must feel when examined under a microscope.

On the wall is a list of rules:


No yelling.

No banging on the glass.

No standing.


A fluorescent light on the other side flickers on, the door opens.

My lawyer, Adachi, hurries in, looking just as disheveled and confused as when I first met him a week ago.

“I tried to get here as soon as I could,” he says, placing his briefcase on the metal counter and sitting down. He takes a long hard look at me, and then exhales slowly. “Things have gotten rather serious, haven’t they?”

“You can say that again.”

[1] Benkai (弁会) is indeed the abbreviation of bengoshi kaidan (弁護士会談), meaning a consultation or meeting with one’s lawyer.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.