The izakaya suddenly goes silent. When I turn around all I can see is a row of salarymen lining the entrance. And there he is. The regional manager casually walks in, wearing full samurai armor, his fat oozing from the sides, his rosy cheeks and smile masking a mind made for cruelty.
“Oh God, who invited this cunt?” the Welshman says out loud.
I see the majority of the people scatter and flee for the door. They hurry to pay their bill and leave, but it soon becomes apparent that no one can leave with Inoue’s large frame blocking the entrance. Inoue lingers there, taking in deep gobs of air and letting them out slowly.
“Hot in here, eh,” he says and gives a short little sputter-laugh.
And it is. The people previously trying to make their way out the door fidget and try to find places to stand and sit. With so many people in the izakaya and none of the jolly merriment of seconds before we all seem to be sweating. I see out of the corner of my eye Kichijiro’s head shoot up from the table and his hands start to tremble with fear. Inoue finally begins to make his way over to our part of the table. He gives a kind of half-sputter laugh, then sits down next to the Welshman.
“You guys are dressed a bit formally for a party, aren’t you?” the Welshman says.
The samurai gives that same sputter-laugh and then calls for beers for him and all of his men. “I just came to congratulate you for a job well done and to wish you farewell on your journey back to your country.”
Kichijiro is shaking all over, and I’m rubbing my eyes, desperately trying to see what is there in front of me. I blink my eyes. When I close my right eye, I can see the same fat man in a full business suit. When I close the left eye and open the right, it’s my foster father Chuck. When I open both my eyes again, there is no mistaking it—it’s Inoue in full samurai armor.
All of us sit still. Our sweat and musk soon fill the room. I look to see where Aussie-Grunge is, and when I see her even she has a look of panic. One of the salarymen comes with a small Japanese folding fan and begins to fan Inoue. While the rest of us remain silent, Inoue and his troupe make off-the-cuff remarks in spattered English about foreigner arrogance, lazy work habits, and a lack of respect. I expect Mikey Welsh to do something—come up with some witty insult, pull down his pants and flash them, something—but all he does is shake his head. I soon realize that I’ve now met the one person who intimidates even the Welshman.
Inoue puts his flabby arm around Mikey. “I will miss you, you little arrogant foreigner—‘arrogant,’ is that the correct word?” He gives another stunted bureaucratic laugh. “My English is so poor. But what do you expect from us Japanese? We are just a simple people with simple ways.” Finally, Inoue and his troupe stand up. They ask for their tab, and I see Kichijiro settle down with a sigh of relief. “It’s okay,” Inoue says. “I did not mean to interrupt your party. Have all the fun you can handle. Everyone knows that the common worker is the soul of Japan. I just came for this one,” he says, pointing to Kichijiro.
“You see, he is my sister’s son. I try to look out for him. I give him a good job and a nice salary, but look what happens. Family, what are you going to do, eh?”
The look of disgust on the Welshman’s face is pronounced. Is he seeing what I’m seeing?