It never ceases to amaze me how peaceable the Japanese are. Although I have been living in heart of Fukuoka’s second biggest entertainment district after Nakasu for almost fifteen years I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen drunks fighting in the streets. Last night was one of those rare times when heated words fueled by alcohol ignited into fisticuffs, bringing the truculent tally to five, or an average of one brawl every three years.
Before my building was remodeled and an anti-pigeon net strung up outside the balcony, I would lob the occasional egg at the drunks if they ever got too rowdy. Seriously. Nothing quite takes the fun out of a party like an egg suddenly falling from heaven and landing near your feet.
The first time I did it, I expected an angry reaction, retaliatory vandalism, but, no, the mob just quietly moved on. The second time, same thing: gasps of surprise, followed by silence.
One afternoon while I was trying to get some work done at home, someone outside started yelling angrily. When I went to my balcony to have a look, I found a man, pacing back and forth on the sidewalk and roaring into his cellphone. From the way he looked and sounded, I gathered he was a yakuza trying to squeeze a deadbeat for money.
Normally, I wouldn’t get involved—I treasure my kneecaps—but this thug went on and on and on, yelling into his cellphone. After about ten minutes I had enough. I opened the fridge and, not finding any eggs, took a full carton of milk and returned to the balcony where I poured the contents down four floors and right onto the goon’s head. Silence. Peace.
The anti-pigeon outside my balcony net has put an end to all of that fun. As a result, all I can do is grin and bear it whenever the drunks wake me up in the middle of the night. Like this morning, for instance.
At a little after four in the morning, someone yelled at the top of his lungs, “Dô-iu imi?”
There was the sound of a scuffle, more bad-tempered shouting, and then thankfully the voices grew distant.
I tried to go back to sleep, but the sky was already growing light. (Incidentally, an article I wrote on this will appear in the Last Word page of this month’s Metropolis.) I pushed myself out of bed, made myself a cup of coffee, and started cleaning the house.
When I went to water the plants on the balcony I noticed there was a patrol car, lights flashing, half a block a way and eight police talking to two men. One of the men was on the sitting on the ground, back against the shuttered front of a restaurant. The other man was milling about on his cellphone with six of the cops following him around.
Curious to see how this would play out, I put my watering can down and watched.
About thirty minutes later, a small car pulled up and a man in his early thirties got out. He spoke with the police a moment, then went over to the man who was still sitting on the ground, and started to chew him out. The man on the ground bowed again and again and shouted what sounded like, “Gomen nasai! Gomen nasai! Gomen nasai!” (I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!)
Several years ago, I saw a similar situation take place at a chain restaurant. The cops were called when a customer, a man in his fifties, got drunk and disorderly. After several minutes, a woman who I’m guessing was the man’s wife arrived, apologized to the police and then gave her husband an earful.
After another twenty minutes or so, papers were signed, and the drunk was pulled to his feet and shoved into the car, taken home by his friends or co-workers (I’m not sure which).
I’m not the biggest fan of Japanese police, but I couldn’t help but marvel at how different it is in the United States where cops often unload a full clip of bullets first and ask questions later, or dump you in a drunk tank for talking back.
 The Koreans and Chinese, I am certain, would vehemently disagree.
 I haven’t come across many belligerent drunks in Japan, something that is refreshingly different than America, where alcohol and fisticuffs often go hand in hand.
 Literally, “What does that mean?” but can carry the nuance of “What the fuck you saying to me?” if shouted angrily.