During my holiday in Japan, I saw both the little man and the hotel manager, and the story demanded to be written! Just in case you don’t know; bushido was the moral code by which samurai warriors lived and died; the Yakuza are Japan’s equivalent (very approximately) of the Mafia; members of the Yakuza wear elaborate whole-body tattoos declaring their clan affiliation. Note: This story is strictly fictional!
The little man with the scowling face walked across the hotel lobby. His white shirt, worn under a dark-grey pinstripe suit, failed to conceal the elaborate tattoos surrounding his neck. By and large, the hotel guests paid him no attention; why should they? He was nothing to them, and they were less than nothing to him. They were there to holiday, to see the sights – to spend money. Yes, he approved of that, as it made his leader happy.
The guests mattered to the hotel manager, Akira Hisakawa, though. His position meant far more to him than merely a source of income. It was a source of pride. It was his purpose in life. He patrolled the restaurants, the lobby, housekeeping, the “in-house” convenience store, to make sure that everything was flawless. Nothing untoward or ugly should come between his guests and their enjoyment.
“In modern Japan,” he would say to his immediate subordinates, “We administrators are the new samurai. We must be meticulous. We must be as familiar with our procedures as warriors with their weapons, as if our lives depended upon it. We must live by bushido.” They would nod, and remember apprehensively where they had fallen short.
Not that the manager was a harsh man; he didn’t need to be. The disappointment on his face when something was less than perfect was all that was needed by way of admonition. And if he were to say quietly, “Bushido, Nobu-san, bushido,” why, Nobu would be so mortified that he would do anything, literally anything, to put right the deficiency.
Every day at eleven o’clock in the morning, seven days a week, Akira-san sat at the desk in his office to update his action plan to make the hotel even better. It was a beautiful desk made of glass. There was no clutter. Close to Akira-san’s right hand was a fruit bowl. If a subordinate distinguished himself, he might be rewarded with an invitation to spend five minutes sharing a piece of fruit with Akira-san.
It was cherry blossom time, all rooms were fully booked, and Akira-san was at his desk. He frowned at the report for breakfast in the restaurant. There had been a short period when saucers had not been available by the coffee service. Worse, at nine-thirty there had been three groups of people in the queue for a table. They had all been seated within ninety seconds, but that was not the point; they should not have had to wait at all. The restaurant manager’s plan to improve was not good enough.
His office door opened; but staff had strict instructions never to disturb him in his office.
The little man with the scowling face walked across to Akira-san’s desk, threw himself into the chair in front of it, and crossed his legs.
“Good morning, Hisao-san.”
The little man’s scowl became even more ferocious. How did this man know his name?
“Hironori Kurosawa is not happy.” The little man took out an extremely sharp knife and began to clean under his fingernails. Akira-san hid his distaste.
“I am grieved that Hironori-san is not happy. Perhaps if I could meet him we could arrive at an arrangement that would suit us both?”
“You can pay now, and he will overlook your insolent behaviour – this time.”
Hisao-san impaled a bright red, perfect apple with his blade. Akira-san’s hand strayed under his desk.
“I have no quarrel with paying Hironori-san for what he provides, but he has not done enough to justify the very large monthly sum. Two of my guests were approached by a drug dealer last month.”
“I am not an unreasonable man… ” began Akira-san.
The little man catapulted out of his chair, knife in hand, towards Akira-san. There was a soft “phut” as the taser, concealed under the desk, fired. Hisao-san shrieked, struggled, and finally dropped to the ground. Two members of the hotel staff burst into the room to find Akira-san standing on the little man’s wrist, removing the knife from his flaccid fingers.
“Check him for weapons,” he said. The baggage handler picked up Hisao and held him firmly, while the manager of reception frisked him carefully. Hisao was shaking and strengthless.
“I suggest a twenty percent discount this month to compensate for the poor performance in protecting us. I’m happy to meet Hironori-san to discuss this, if he wishes. Good day, Hisao-san. He bowed, in a perfunctory manner. Automatically, Hisao-san bowed in response, and left.
“Police?” queried the manager of reception.
“No, of course not.” The reception manager quailed.
Outside the office, Hisao-san tried unsuccessfully to recapture his swagger; his scowl had become a grimace that even a heedless tourist might spot. Sometimes he really hated his job…
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