This is stippy’s eighth part in a ten part series (see also parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7) about one foreigner’s experience of being put in a Japanese prison (留置場 or “ryuchijyo”, a prison for locking up people for as long as 23 days until they are convicted, or cleared of a crime).
Below is the continuation of George’s story that he wrote in his diary while in the Japanese ryuchijyo. This time George reveals how he got through the hardest part of his imprisonment, the second and third week, and found peace only when reading manga from the prison book shelves. He also tells us more about the driver’s push for a “jidan”, or settlement for money, and how the urge to see his family again forced him to take this path of direct retribution. For context, you should read the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh parts of this series before continuing on with this eighth installment of George’s jail journal.
From here is taken directly out of the journal (only tenses changed for readability):
I was really getting desperate to go home by Day 15. I had stopped making diary entries and was getting into a state of depression. From Day 6, even when Bad Cop had come “Good” to a degree, days 6-14 were terribly draining on my soul as I wasted my time away. On one of the days, maybe Day 12 or so, I was taken by Detective Kudo, Bad Cop, the weak translator-cop, a driver, a cameraman and another cop to drive around the scene of the incident (事件の現場). We drove off in a mini-van with me cuffed and roped in to the back corner seat. We drove the same route as the taxi to where my friend had gotten out after been woken up, and where the events heated up. We also drove under the two big blue road signs that clearly showed the road (straight) leading to the destination I was requesting to be taken. I described my conversation with the taxi driver as we drove slowly along, and how we had come to a stop after my giving up on the taxi driver’s bluff of ignorance and that I had started yelling and banging on his navigation system telling him to use the damn thing. We then got out – all of us – except the driver and walked around the scene of the altercation. I was given a bulky leather cover to disguise the cuffs and rope that bound my arms, but I am sure that being the tall gaijin surrounded closely by middle aged Japanese men, did nothing to conceal the fact that I was the bad guy to passersby. To the stupid I would have looked like just another gaijin holding a strange leather bag, out for a stroll with some old “oyaji” mates.
After showing the cops the location of the altercation and where the driver (and I) had gone down, we drove around trying to map out the exact path of my “escape”. It was a mad dash at the start as I just tried to distance myself from the driver who was screaming and coming at me. I panicked and had broken into a full sprint and had just kept running for around a kilometer. I had no idea I had run so far and we could not figure out where I had disposed of the phone. I had just thrown it away as – in my crazed, drunken and guilty mind – it was evidence. Wherever it was thrown, it was not anywhere to be seen on my escape route.
The only real solace I got around this trying time was from reading one of the more palpable manga from the prison library. “Slam Dunk” was a massive hit a few years back as it was probably one of the first manga to be based on a sport: basketball. It revolved around a hilarious character, Sakuragi-kun, who was a punk 15 year old drifting through school with his yankee pals, failing to get a date with any of the girls, having no hobby such as sport or a club and getting into fights thanks to his incredibly hot temper. After failing to get a positive response from asking 50 girls at his High School out, he is on the verge of giving up when suddenly a cute girl bumps into him in the hall at school. He goes blank but she immediately assumes from his 189 cm height and lean build that he is in the basketball team. She comments on his physique and he falls in love instantly. She tells him how much she loves basketball and from that moment on, his quest to become not just a basketball player but a basketball superstar begins. It turns out that he has one skill that makes him perfect: he can jump incredibly high and dunk. Though that takes him a while to accomplish, the book was absolutely hilarious with the great manga expressions and language used. It was the first manga that I really liked and it became the source of my inspiration for the entire week through the middle of my detention.
Three things broke up Day 15’s daily manga reading. Thoughts on future businesses and note taking, a post-lunch snooze and a late afternoon visit from my lawyer. Again he reinforced the fact that my victim was sticking to his story of me being a “furyou gaijin”. Apparently he had told the Police that his image of me was as an unemployed foreigner looking to escape paying the taxi bill and get a new phone. Say what? My lawyer got to meet the man and had a confirmation of his fears that the taxi driver was not a very intelligent type, or necessarily a good man. I was assuming the judge would have the same opinion. I also desperately wanted to know whether the Detectives had called my friend as I had given them his mobile number of the first day. At least my friend could prove two things for me. One thing was that he had come around the taxi and stood behind me to ask what the hell I was doing. This would be proof enough, in my opinion, that I had not run away as the driver had said. Instead I had tried to calm the situation down, though I obviously failed miserably. The other thing was to prove that another taxi had stopped to investigate the arm waving of the driver and his shouting “robbery, help me, help”. This also would prove, in my opinion, that there was at least a period when I tried to make peace rather than run. That is, the second taxi had stopped and seen that there was no aggression in my behaviour at the time. I understood that my friend had gotten in that taxi and gone home safe in the knowledge that I was “sorting out” the taxi dispute in a nice reasonable manner.
Something I had also come to learn during the middle period of my detainment was that in addition to a cut received on his forehead the driver had in fact fractured a rib in his fall. Oh dear God. It just got worse. In terms of jidan (示談, settlement) proceedings, I of course was about to be screwed. He would have to take 3 weeks off work while the cut healed but now with the news of the rib this would be 6 weeks of unpaid recuperation. It was apparently peak season for the driver and he was earning 400,000 yen a month. That meant a sum of 2.4 million yen (US$18k?) that he would miss out on and that I would need to pay for him. Fair enough that I pay for damages I thought, but 6 weeks seemed a bit long to me (actually it wouldn’t have mattered if it were only a day. I would still have thought it too long and too much money, the guy was obviously bullshitting through his nose). My lawyer was going to try to cut him a deal if I could pay the cash up front and settle at more like 1.5 million yen. I hoped that this would do the trick and get me out of this God forsaken place and back to my family. But secretly I just wished there was some way that I could get out without having to pay the asshole a cent, even if it meant staying in a few extra days or something. Unlikely. I actually asked my lawyer about the potential outcome if I did not pay the guy his settlement, but that result would be too miserable for anyone to tolerate as it would mean going to court and hanging out with my pals Wajima and Hakamada for a good 2 months in total as the courts were pretty busy. No thanks. Even if he did accept the settlement there was no guarantee that I would get out in my 22 days. There was a fair chance, my lawyer said, that I could get charged with the whole robbery, assault thing and spend a few months in a “real prison”. Which incidentally I had been told by all my roommates was a fair sight better than the detention center as there would be TV and things to do like jobs at the prison. Still, no thanks.