Discussing my hometown, Los Angeles, with Japanese people is mostly a lesson in repetition. Pretty much the conversations focus on guns, murder, guns, Big Macs, and guns. Typically, the first question a taxi driver asks me when I get into his cab is, "Where are you from?" I say LA and he gives the standard knee jerk reaction, "Oh, very dangerous!" Then I coolly respond, "No way, all you gotta do is always pack one pistol on you and another in your glove box."

But when you get down to it, Japanese people like mixing it up with each other as much as us Yanks. Typically though, fists are the weapon of choice and the use of guns are left as something to be played out in video game fantasy. Maybe one day Charlton Heston will find time in his busy schedule of wrestling with apes and parting the Red Sea to come on over here and get these people properly armed so they can have as much fun as the folks back in the states.

But in the meantime, I have to hand it to them, even with their only armament being, well, their arms, I have been privy to some pretty good scrapes. So here is my one-year Tokyo fisticuffs summary:

March, a typically crowded weekend afternoon near Shibuya Station. I had just crossed the street from the station to where this guy is always selling nuts from his cart and noticed two men in their mid 20s bump into each other. They sort of separated and stared down each other for a while. It was obvious neither wanted to throw the first punch. One got up the gumption and attacked, it was a pretty good hit and caused the recipient's cell phone to fall from his pocket to the ground, the ultimate indignity in Tokyo. They mixed it up for a while with a fair amount of blood hitting the pavement. Then it got silly when one tackled the other over a nearby pharmacy display (razor blades, in case you were wondering). The owner of the pharmacy and an employee ran out and grabbed the two combatants, all the while screaming at them that they both were more or less idiots.

April, an early weekday morning on the Odakyu train line. I boarded the train at Yoyogiuehara Station and saw an empty seat next to an old man with a huge stack of comic books. He looked like he had not taken a shower or changed clothes in at least a week, so I found a seat somewhere away from him. Just before we got to Machida Station, maybe 30 minutes later, I awoke from a short sleep to the sounds of screaming. The old man and another old man were yelling about something, in Japanese, I think. As the train pulled into the station, the second old man moved to get off. At this point, the first decided to jump him. This was not much of a fight, each guy was over 60 and the punches were more glancing in nature than anything else. They separated and the second old man got off onto the platform and decided to send his opponent one last reminder of him - he spat at him inside the train. Well, the first guy ran out after him and they wrestled into a heap on the platform. An alert woman on the train, seeing the events unfold, saved the day by quickly throwing the first man's comics out the window onto the platform! As the train pulled from the station, I could see them still fighting on the platform, both too consumed in each other to be concerned with the comic books.

July, a late weekend night again near Shibuya Station. I was kind of drunk at the time and about to cross the street to the station near where this one store sells crappy women's fur coats and scarves. I don't know what started this fight but I saw two guys in their early 20s squared off in defensive martial arts poses (more Jackie Chan than Bruce Lee). They both threw maybe 2 kicks each and tumbled into a writhing mess on the street. If I had not backed up and moved out of the way, I would have been a non-voluntary participant, and considering the thickness of the layer of crud (vomit, cigarette butts, and porno flyers) on the street, very grateful. I had a train to catch and don't know what happened after that.

August, a weekday night near Akebonobashi Station. I was walking home and turned around to hear a guy on a motorcycle and the driver of a car screaming at each other at a stoplight. As the light turned green, and before speeding off, the motorcyclist drove his boot into the driver's side door of the car leaving a tremendous dent. I bet the driver wished he had bought the Saturn after all. The car chased after and, as he got about even with the motorcyclist, swerved to hit him. If this were LA you could give him the benefit of the doubt by saying that he was just changing lanes without signaling, but here I could see that there were definite malicious intentions. The motorcyclist, showing great skill, avoided the car by turning down an alley in the nick of time and disappearing into the night. This was just like at the beginning of a standard CHiPs episode, though with the glaring absence of Ponch and John staring at each other before the synthesized drum beat begins.

September, a weekday holiday afternoon during a parade in Shinjuku Ward. The parade was just getting rolling and the sidewalks were crowded. An old man was walking in front of me pushing his bicycle. He accidentally brushed up against a young couple. The young man took offense at this and pushed the old man backward over his bicycle, sending him sprawling onto the pavement. This guy was a little squirt and it was obvious that he was trying to show off to his woman by roughing up the old man (any woman impressed by this would probably be similarly impressed by a fat kid frying ants with a magnifying glass). This struck me as completely pathetic so I helped up the old man and went after the young tough and his impressionable lady, hoping to ask them if they get similar pleasures prodding zoo animals with sharp sticks. But, by this time though both of them had disappeared into the crowd and I instead turned my attention to the parade.

So as you can see from my summary above, Japanese people are hitting more than just the pachinko parlors after a hard day's work of covering bad bank loans or serving coffee at Mr. Donut. But, I probably don't have to worry too much about getting in a fight myself. Whitey gets pretty much left alone around these parts, especially after I start boasting about my talents of getting single chambered crooked metal objects past Tokyo airport customs agents.

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