Thursday, October 06, 2005

我々は新撰組でござる!

The title of this entry, for those who do not read kanji (I'm talking to you, Chris Kohler!), is "Ware ware wa Shinsengumi de gozaru!", which means "We are the (expletive deleted) Shinsengumi!". The Shinsengumi, of course, were a group of samurai (swordsmen) who were fanatically devoted to the Tokugawa Shogunate during its last years (1860-1868), a period of time in Japanese history that is know as the 幕末 (bakumatsu, the end (matsu--and no, this is not the same matsu that Kohler was famously accused of not being able to read; that was 松, pine tree) of the shogunate (bakufu).

There is a great scene in the "Ruroni Kenshin" movie (an animated film that is set in the chaotic times of the Bakumatsu) where the Shinsengumi kick in the door of an inn where some anti-Shogunate leaders are conspiring. As they stand there, framed by the door of the inn, looking bad-ass indeed, their leader utters the phrase: "Ware ware wa Shinsengumi de gozaru!". This, for my money, is one of the coolest moments in the history of Japanese animation.

So what made me think of this, you ask? As I was walking home from the Isezaki shopping district today (I went there to play some "House of the Dead 3", a popular arcade game where you use a huge shotgun to put the undead to rest, thus freeing them of the endless pain of their unholy existence--at least, that is how I justify it), I had to wait on the corner to cross a major street near my house. As I waited, about eight members of the 神奈川県警察官--Kanagawa-ken Keisatsukan, the Kanagawa Prefecture Police Department, or KPPD, as we call them (no we don't, but it sounds cool, doesn't it?)--rolled up, literally, on their bicycles.

Now you Americans remember when we first started seeing bicycle cops, right? Remember how they looked like complete dorks, with their little bike helmets and reflective vests? Well, Japanese police most certainly do not look like dorks. In fact, they looked like they might just hop off their bikes and kick my ass if I looked at them wrong. So I didn't. Look at the wrong, that is. (In fact, the Japanese police are known to beat the odd confession out of a suspect from time to time...)

They don't need no stinkin' helmets, that is for sure. Despite the fact that they do not even carry guns (I think only riot police in Japan do--can you verify this, Matthew?), they look about 20 times more hard-core than any American cop outside of the movies. I only wish I had been packing my camera, though I am not sure I would have had the guts to ask them if I could take a picture. They might just have told me where I could stick my camera...

Speaking of hardcore, the other day, while I was walking down the pedestrian mall in the Isezaki district, I saw the most unrepentant, old-school yakuza underboss left in Japan. This guy was completely bald, dressed in a double-breasted black suit and crocodile-skin shoes (or gators, if you prefer the lingua franca of Tha Filthy Dirty South), was wearing sleek golden Gucci sunglasses, and walked with the aid of a cane. But he did not need the cane, it was simply a pimpin' accessory. I was very careful not to stare, as I have no desire to sleep with the fishes (魚と寝る? Do the Japanese say that? I really need to watch some more Beat Takeshi movies!).

3 comments:

Matthew said...

Some regular police in Japan do carry guns. However, it is hard to find out just who does. Some police have fake guns just for show. Some detectives, etc. get guns for specific investigations. There are few cases when they have to use them.

I don`t think that it is always a good idea for police to carry guns (in Japan, there are some countries where they ARE needed). Just a few weeks ago a kid stabbed a police officer a few times in an attempt to steal his gun (he injured the cop pretty badly but got kicked to the curb). The kid later confessed that he wanted to shoot himself.... In any case, this kind of stuff does happen in Japan from time to time, just not very often....

BTW, I hear that there is a `special` unit of the MPD (Tokyo police) pimped out with MP5`s for anti-terror and the like.

Matthew said...

BTW, you may want to check the Kenshin OVA again --

I thought that it was just 新撰組でござる which is even more badass because of economy of words....

When you head over to Kyoto next you will be able to score some great Shinsengumi stuff. Since the taiga dorama on NHK last year there has been something of a boom. I have even seen a Hello Kitty Shinsengumi key chain....

Josh Glover said...

I require Shinsengumi merchandise!!! I will email Ota in Kansai right away to see what he can pick up!