66. Calling Azami

After taking a shower and getting dressed, I notice that the message light on the phone is flashing. I press the play button.

Beep. “Rémy? Are you okay? I miss you . . .”

Beep. “Answer the phone, Rémy. I want to hear your voice.”

Beep. “Are you with another woman again?”

Beep. “Pick up the fucking phone now or it’s over between the two of us!”

Beep. “Why don’t you answer the phone? I’m going crazy worrying about you.”

I know I have to fill Azami in on what is happening before she has a complete meltdown, but I can’t risk doing so from home. I don’t know, for one, if anyone is listening.

I leave home earlier than usual, elaborately rigging the apartment with markers: business cards in the door jams, cellophane tape at the base of the fusuma sliding doors. If the cops were to snoop around my apartment while I am away, I will know.

At the train station, I ring Azami up.

“Where are you?” she demands right away.

“I’m at Hakata sta . . .”

“Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

“I couldn’t . . .”

“Where were you?”

“At home.”

“Why didn’t you pick up then? You were with someone, weren’t you?”


“Then, why didn’t you?”

“Azami, shut up for once and listen!” I sigh heavily and continue. “My apartment was raided by the police yesterday.”

“Oh Rémy, I knew something like this would eventually happen,” she groans. “I knew the police would eventually catch up with you and dé Dale.”

And she wonders why I didn’t pick up the phone.

“We can talk about that later, but first I need you to do one thing for me this afternoon.”


“Meet me at Small at seven-thirty.” 

Small Spaces is one of my regular haunts.

“Why can’t I meet you at your apartment?”

“For the love of God, Azami!” I yell into the receiver. “Just be at Small at seven-thirty!”

“Okay,” she says reluctantly.

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.

47. Why didn't I say No?

A little before noon, my students start to arrive, and each one, noticing the Macs are gone, asks the same question: What happened?

“I sent them away,” I tell them, “to be debugged and upgraded and . . .”

Oh, you’d think I’d just delivered a zinger the way they double over with laughter. The thing is, for years I have been singing the praises of Macs and lobbing insults at their lousy PCs, a grassroots rabble-rouser standing up to that tin-pot dictator of a company, Microsoft. Now I have to pretend to swallow my pride and admit that I, too, could be frustrated by the very same problems they have had with their own PCs.

How would they react if I told them the truth that the cops stormed into my place only hours ago and confiscated the computers? Would they stick around and try to encourage me, or would they politely excuse themselves?

Having dodged the issue of the missing Macs, I now have to try to maintain my composure over the next ninety minutes. No small task when the levee holding back all my anxieties is leaking like a sieve.

What if the cops find something in my urine? Why the fuckdid I have to say “yes” to dé Dale? I wasn’t even interested . . . I, I didn’t even want it . . . Why, oh why did I say “yes”? Why couldn’t I have said “no”? I could have, but what did I say? “Sure, dé Dale, why not?” You know why? You’re a weak fucking bastard’s why.

Every fifteen minutes the stress gets to be too much and I have to excuse myself from the lesson to go to the toilet. “Drank too much coffee this morning,” I tell my students. “Ha, ha, ha.”

And what are the cops going to find on my hard disks? Good God, my whole life is in those computers. If they can’t find enough to arrest me in my urine, they’ll surely have no trouble finding it among all the files . . . 

Returning to the lesson, I mop the perspiration from my brow. 

“Damn hot today, isn’t it? You hot, too? No? You’re fine? Amazing! I’m burning up here. Mind if I turn up the air-con? You do? Damn.

Has dé Dale been busted, too? Is he being questioned by the police right now?

Runnels of sweat flowing down my back, I set an electric fan next to my feet and switch it on high.

“I want you to think carefully about what might have happened around you,” Ozawa told me before he left. 

He had gestured specifically toward the dining table as if he knew what dé Dale and I had been doing there last weekend, as if he had been watching usthe whole time.

What have the cops seen? What do they know?

“Tell us anything you can remember.”

Ozawa, that’s the problem. I remember plenty, but you are the last person in the world I will ever tell.

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.

44. Think, Rémy! Think!

Snap out of it, Rémy! Think!

On the sofa with my head in my hands, I can think of a number of reasons why my place would be raided. And that’s the rub, as Billy Shakes wrote. Now, I’ve got to find out which one it is before day’s end.

The fact that I am still a free man is as confusing, and frightening, as it is encouraging. How much time do I have before the cops decide they have enough evidence and return with an arrest warrant? The mere thought of it sends a fresh shudder through my body.

It is about eleven in the morning when I am finally able to pull myself together. With work starting at twelve, I only have an hour’s time. 

Not nearly enough, but better than no time at all.

I leave my apartment and head for the nearest Internet café. It isn’t far, but I take a deliberately meandering route, riding my bicycle in the opposite direction to the local video rental shop.

The cops were familiar with my schedule, meaning it is likely I have been under surveillance for some time.

They’ve probably still got a few men shadowing me.

That’s what I would do, were I on the ball-busting side of the law.

Am I being paranoid? You better fucking believe I am! And for good reason: all of the cops who came to my place were plainclothesmen. They were average looking Tarōs—guys you wouldn’t remembered even if they’d rubbed up against you on a crowded train and goosed you. Anyone out on the street now could be a cop.

As I pedal in that roundabout way to the video shop, every man and nondescript white car I pass looks suspicious.

At the video shop, I pick up a random DVD, then pop into a variety store next door called Village Vangaurd, leaving my yellow bike out front for anyone to see. Hurrying through a maze of racks and bookshelves to the rear of the shop, I emerge from a little used exit that opens onto a narrow backstreet. Just as I hoped, it is deserted. 

The clock is ticking, but rather than risk drawing any more attention to myself than I already do as the only gaijinaround, I continue up the street at deliberately leisurely pace until I reach the Internet café. Once there, I buy a prepaid card and find a private room. Wasting little time, I log onto my e-mail account and start erasing any mails that might be construed as remotely suspicious. The account was set up only half a year ago, so there isn’t much to delete.

There is, however, a mail from my cousin Naila saying that she has sent a package for my birthday. The content of Naila’s mail, if interpreted literally, is innocuous. I leave it as is. If one of my suspicions proves correct, the mail might come in handy. Finally, before logging out, I make slight alterations to my password, changing a hyphen to an underscore, a “b” to a “6”, and setting the default language to French.

After taking out the garbage, I try to glean whatever I can about getting busted in Japan from blogs and Internet sites. It is hopeless, though. With the Internet as overcrowded as it is with pathetic little people sitting before little screens tap-tap-tapping away at little keyboards and feeling empowered by the "IT Revolution", it is getting damn near impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I pop the prepaid card out of the reader, dump it in the garbage, and leave the café.

As I’m heading back towards the Village Vangaurd, I make a mental list of all the things I need to do before Sunday morning. Top of that list: contact dé Dale to find out whether the investigation has originated with him and, if it hasn’t, to warn him that he might be next. Paying him a friendly visit at his apartment, or even sticking my head into one of his shops is out of the question. The cops may be waiting for me to do precisely that.

Next, I need to talk to my cousin Naila. Then, I have to get in touch with my girlfriend Azami . . . and visit the U.S. Consulate . . . and meet with a lawyer, and . . . It is enough to send my head reeling.

At Village Vanguard, I pick up a few cans of Dr. Pepper and candy before exiting out the front door and hopping back onto my bicycle.

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.

42. I'll be there.

After searching my apartment high and low for a full two hours and bagging up what scant evidence of wrongdoing they may have found, most of the agents are now allowed to leave. Hardly better than common thieves, the lot of them, they carry away all three of my Macs; the two cell phones; my passport and “gaijincard”;[1]as well as the Modafiniland Campho-Pheniquefrom my fridge. Nakata assures me that I will get it all of it back as soon as possible—tomorrow afternoon at the latest, he says.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Although the pile of shoes at the entry to my apartment has grown smaller, a mountain of paperwork remains. Most of the forms—from the document that accompanied my urine sample to the release forms for the evidence that has been hauled away and passwords for my computers—need to be itemized, signed and stamped with my inkan.

Were this Lebanon, the whole affair might end with a few kind words and a handshake greased with a generous baksheesh. Were I in the States, a lawyer might be at my side, stonewalling. I couldn’t be further from either place. I know that I have to make at least a token effort to appear as if I am cooperating, otherwise they will throw me in the can for a month to make me pay for my impudence.

Only when the final piece of paperwork is signed and stamped can the last of the cops, including Nakata and Ozawa, leave.

Ozawa gets up off the sofa where he has been sitting all morning. He asks me one more time if I know why the police have come to my place. I make a show of giving the question some deep consideration, then shake my head. “No, none whatsoever.”

He gives me a blue card with a map to his office on the back of it. At the bottom, he has scrawled his name and phone number.

“We want you to show up here at nine-thirty, Sunday morning. If for any reason you can’t make it, if, say, you become sick, or come down with a cold, or get busy with something, whatever the reason, call this number, okay?”

“Don’t worry. I will be there,” I answer. In the back of my mind, however, I am seriously considering lamming it.

“In the meantime, I want you to think carefully about what might have happened around you,” Ozawa says, gesturing towards the dining table, “and tell us anything you can. You understand?”


“Okay, see you Sunday.”

Nakata also gives me a card with his contact information. Looking at the card, I learn for the first time that he isn’t a cop after all. He is a Customs official.

As soon as they leave, I lock the door and go to the living room where I drop heavily onto the couch and clutch my head to keep it from screaming open.

[1]All foreign residents in Japan are required to register with their local ward office if they live in cities, town offices if they live in smaller towns. Once registered, they will be given a photo ID called the Certificate of Alien Registration which they must carry on their person at all times and present to authorities when asked. The rules and name for this changed in 2013. Many foreigners call them “gaijincards”.

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.

41. The Final Warrant

Nakata comes to me with yet another set of warrants to search my body and to obtain a urine sample.

Having run around my apartment for the better part of an hour directing the search, he is now sweating like a pig, mopping his bloated, red face with a handkerchief. I am beginning to feel the heat myself, so I offer to get him some iced tea. This only pisses him off more. He takes some swings through the air with his short pudgy arms, a wimpy jab with the left, a girlie punch with the right, and says, “I do shōrinji kempō.”

I suspect this Nakata character means it as a kind of threat, a hint of things to come if I continue to be a smartarse, but I can’t help finding his little martial arts demonstration comical. The man couldn’t kung-fukick his way out of a wet paper bag.

“Wow!” I say, a smirk breaking across my face. “What dōjō do you work out at?”

Nakata waves me rudely away, and orders another cop to pat me down. 

After the pat down, I am told to turn my pockets inside out. I do, dumping the contents onto the coffee table before me: two handkerchiefs, a hundred and fifty-three yen in change, some lint, a button, a scrap of paper with a note to myself to buy some toilet paper, pannacotta, a new toothbrush, and so on.

Nakata then tells me to raise my shirt and drop my pants. As a cop inspects the insides of my jeans and socks, the cop with the video camera keeps the film rolling.

After pulling my pants back up and buckling my belt, I am given a clear plastic cup with a red screw-on top. 

Figuring this was what they expect me to tinkle in, I start to make my way towards the toilet. Another cop, it’s getting hard to keep track of who is who, catches me by the shoulder and tells me to wait. It may be my apartment, but—make no mistake—I am no longer Lord of the Manor.

First, they take my photo holding the empty cup in my hand. A second shot is then taken of me in the W.C., another standing before the john with my “dingdong” hanging limply out of my pants. The whole humiliating episode is being caught for posterity on video as well. And, to make doubly sure that I don’t cheat, a third cop, much younger than the rest and as sinewy as a greyhound, stands at the door of the W.C., keeping his eye on me.

Where’s the Whizzinator[1] when you need it?

Listen: that calm Windbreaker was admiring only moments before dissipates as soon as the piss starts dribbling into the plastic cup. Icy sweat trickles down my spine. My knees become weak. My fingers twitch nervously.

How many days did dé Dale say it took? Three to ten? And what’s today? July sixth. Four full days have passed. Only four! God almighty, I am screwed. I am screwed. I am screwed.

“I’m sorry, but this is all I can manage,” I say, showing the young cop the sample, hardly enough to drown a gnat.

“It’s enough,” he says with a confidence that is unsettling.

Enough for what? Enough to find what they’re looking for? Enough to throw me in jail?

I screw the top back on, and as I turn to leave the restroom, he catches me off guard by saying, “Aren’t you gonna wash your hands?”

“Silly me,” I say with a nervous laugh. At the washbasin, I put the urine sample down on the counter and start lathering up like a surgeon before an operation, all the way up to the elbows. The young cop is clearly irritated by my antics, but the last thing I am trying to do is get a rise out of him. No, I just need a moment to clear my skull of all the anxiety howling inside of it.

I rinse off, dry my hands and return, as instructed, with the urine sample to the living room where I am given a strip of silver metallic tape to seal the cup. Again, as instructed, I affix my official seal, known in Japanese as an inkan, to the tape in three places to prevent it from being tampered with. Finally, my photo is taken with the urine sample. I couldn’t feel prouder.

Now drenched in sweat myself, I mop the back of my neck and forehead with a handkerchief. In my breast that telltale heart of mine is pounding away like a kettledrum, so loud I am certain the cops can hear it.

Surely, this is what they have been waiting for: the moment the gaijinfalls to pieces right before their very eyes. All they need to do is to tighten the screws a little, to press me about what they might expect to find in the urine when they analyze it, and I will crack.

But no, as luck would have it, the cops allow themselves to be distracted once more. 

All morning long as they have been going about their search, they seemingly forget what they are supposed to be doing only to get caught up with the novelty of being in my home. If it isn’t the interior decorating and tidiness, then it is my pet rabbit or the Tanabatadecorations or the antique Imariporcelain dishes on display in the bedroom that stops them in their tracks. Considering that your average Japanese lives in an abominably cluttered rabbit hutch, it is only to be expected, but, the way they oohand aah, you’d think they were high school boys from the sticks in the big city for the first time rather than cops raiding a suspect’s home.

And now, the Keystone Kops are fascinated by the inkan[2] I have stamped my urine sample with. Cackling and cooing, they pass it around among themselves. The stamp, mind you, not my urine sample.

Several years ago, on the advice of a girl I was dating at the time, I had my inkanengraved with a transliteration of my family name, Boncoeur, into kanji: 良心. Individually, the two characters literally mean “good” (良) and “heart” (心). Together, however, they form the word ryōshin,which means “conscience” or “honesty”. Most Westerners in Japan have their seals written in katakana, the syllabary used primarily for foreign loan words. My own name in katakana, ボンクール (Bonkūru), never quite lent itself to the confined space carved into the end of an inkanstamp.

Explaining all of this to the cops goes a long way in helping me gather up those loose strings and regain my composure. Inside I may be a ball of nerves; outwardly, however, I manage to keep from unraveling. That is, at least, what I hope is happening. Who knows if the cops are sharp enough to see through my act?

[1]Trust me, you’ll want to google Whizzinator.

[2]Inkan (印鑑), or hanko (判子), are seals carved in wood or plastic which are used in lieu of signatures in personal documents, office paperwork, contracts, art, or any item requiring acknowledgement or authorship. In China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea inkan are still used in combination with hand signatures.

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.

39. Search and Seizure

The cop who was pawing my underwear earlier now walks over to me with two cell phones in his hands: “These yours?”

“Yes, but, um, I no longer use thatone,” I say pointing to the older of the two. “It hasn’t worked for months.”

“We’re confiscating both of those, too,” Nakata calls from the dining room. 

Pyon-kichi hops back towards me, scratches playfully at my legs, then takes off for the balcony, a trail of droppings left in his wake.

One of the cops asks me where my wife is. When I reply that I’m not married, his eyes widen. Perhaps he believes he’s just caught me in a lie. “But, you said your wife named the rabbit.”

“One, we are divorced and, two, Pyon is an old rabbit.”

“Aah so,” he replies, somewhat crestfallen, and drifts away, scribbling in his notebook.

Meanwhile, the other cops continue to go through my belongings. There is no rhyme or reason to their search: they give the contents of one box a thorough going over only to overlook the next box altogether. They run their gloved hands through the contents of one drawer, but leave the drawer next to it alone. It only serves to reinforce my initial impression that they don’t know what they are looking for. When they first started poking around my apartment, I expected them pack everything up in uniform white boxes and march away in a neat line—as I’ve often seen on the news—leaving me in nothing but my skivvies in the center of a cleaned-out apartment. After nearly an hour, though, all they have confiscated are my passport and cell phones.

A middle-aged cop, poorly dressed and sweating profusely, shows me a stash of unexposed film in one of my smaller Balinese containers, about ten rolls from some of my more recent trips.

“What’s this,” he asks.


“I know it’s film, but what is it of?”

“This and that.” 

It’s not that I’m trying to be difficult, but, really, what’s the point in being too cooperative?

He turns to Nakata and asks if he should pack the film up and take it to the lab as evidence.

“By all means, please take them,” I interject. “And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you could you make extra copies for me, too. I haven’t had the money to get them developed.”

Nakata tells him to forget about the film. 


33. Matori

Cool as a cucumber, the cop in the wrap-around sunglasses explains that he is Ozawa from Matori, the Mayaku Torishimari Kyoku (麻薬取締局), the Japanese equivalent of the DEA. He also has a piece of paper: a warrant to search my apartment.

“I understand,” I say. “I’ll get out of your way, then.”

What else am I supposed to tell the man? This sure ain’t the United States where you demand to see your lawyer; no, the only thing you can do is let them go about their business and hope against hope they don’t find what it is they are looking for.

As they begin searching my apartment, I go to a back room and sit down heavily on the sofa.

Ozawa follows behind me, taking a seat near mine, while an older cop in a baggy double-breasted suit sits down next to me.

“Do you know why we’re here?” Ozawa asks.


“You have no idea?” He says, giving the older cop a look that speaks volumes about the contempt he must feel for the gaijin[1] in his presence.

“No. None at all,” I reply.

Ozawa doesn’t seem to buy it. He pushes his sunglasses up on to the top of his shaved head and rubs his eyes. Looking long and hard at me, he says, “You can’t think of any reason that would have all of us storming in here?”

The guy has the build of a wrestler, the hands of a strangler. He’s also got a good 20 to 30 pounds more meat on his bones than I do. If he wanted to knock me about, there wouldn’t be anything I could do but try my best to enjoy it.

“A mistake?” I offer.

“A mistake?”

The cop in the double-breasted suit chuckles; Ozawa looks away in disgust.

Another cop with longish hair and acid-washed jeans is standing a few feet away, filming me on a small video camera.

“Yes, a mistake,” I say. “My neighbor down the hall in four-oh-five is yakuza. People are always confusing our apartments.”

“Are you trying to make a fool of us?” Ozawa yells.

“No, no, no, not at all. It’s just that you asked . . . Never mind. I’m sorry.”

[1] Gaijin (外人, lit. “Outside Person”) is a contraction of gaikokujin (外国人, lit. “Outside Country Person) which is Japanese for “foreigner”. Many Japanese, aware that some non-Japanese residents take offence at being called gaijin will bend over backwards to not use the word “foreigner” when speaking English. Instead, they’ll say something silly like “other country people”. To which I’ll say, “Oh, you mean ‘foreigner’, right?”

Some foreign residents of Japan take umbrage at being called gaijin, likening it to an African American being called a “nigger”, but the word isn’t nearly as emotionally charged as that.

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.


32. This is No Joke

When I open the door, I find an intimidating gang of middle-aged men standing in the corridor. The beefy one in front, who’s in wrap-around sunglasses and blue work clothes, flashes a badge.


“Yeah, right,” I say, barely able to suppress the nervous laugh that bubbles out of me.

Badge or no badge, the guy looks like a thug. Shaved head, a scraggly, but trimmed beard, and those ridiculous sunglasses. If this goon’s a cop, then I am a man of the cloth.

“Someone put you up to this, right?” I say. “Was it dé D . . .”

Before I can complete the sentence, they storm my apartment—one after the other like an implausible number of circus clowns jumping out of a VW bug—so many, I lose count.

As I’m watching them rush in through the front door, I notice something curious: before stepping into my apartment each one of them nimbly removes his shoes. By the time they are all inside, a heap of leather and rubber and canvas, a pyramid of sneakers, loafers, and rubber boots has formed at the entry.

The last one to enter my apartment is a pudgy little man with closely cropped salt-and-pepper hair and a pencil mustache. Right away, he corners me in my dining room and starts waving a badge and a piece of paper in front of my face. He says something to me that I can’t quite catch, and then turns to the others and starts rattling off quick, excited orders.

Only now does it hit me: this is no practical joke.

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.

31. Knock, Knock

But then comes that knock at the door that will change everything.

I look to the clock on the wall. “Eight-o-two? Who on earth could be coming by at this hour? Must be dé Dale.”

Ever since the Frenchman confided in me that he was going to leave Japan, never to return—NEVER!—we have been spending a lot of time together—for better, for worse.

More knocking.

Then again, maybe it’s FedEx with the package . . . but at eight in the morning?

The knocking grows louder.

Jesus, I’m coming already!”

I peer through the peephole, but can’t see anything. Someone or something on the other side of the door is covering it.

Gotta be dé Dale.

Oh, if only it were.

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.