[this post isn't particularly well written, as I am purely trying to relate facts not emotions. so stick it.]
Last night I was invited to Japan to help negotiate with a dubious dealer of antiquities for the return of some stolen buddhist scrolls.
It's true. Weird huh?
Well, the thing is, many years ago I was sent to Nagoya at the bequest of Western Mining Corp to immerse myself in the culture and become fluent in the language that I could become their representative in Japan. I stayed for three years and became, Japanese.
Being Japanese is not a concept that is really understood by anyone who is not particularly Japanese. It can get very confusing, but it all made sense to me.
So I studied Yagyu Kendo, and Go Rin No Sho
, the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. I studied Feudal Japanese History and discovered that although it was Tokugawa Ieyasu who eventually became Shogun and began a dynasty that lasted 200 years, it was really the work of his predecessors, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, that enabled Japan to unite. Meiji Restoration? Well that interested me, but not as much as Sasaki Kojiro understanding the flight of the swallow in order to perfect his swordsmanship. Need to know more? Try Musashi, by Yoshukawa Eiji. Great story, and all true.
You with me? Cool.
Of course, I also studied Sake, Kirin and Sapporo beer, and having sex in Love Hotels with beautiful Japanese girls who cried out, "I'm GOING, I'M GOING" at the time of the Heavenly Opening.
But besides all of that, I secretly studied how to become Japanese. Without a doubt, this was my yearning to leave my fucked up Australian life behind and just become someone else. A whole different set of rules, of beliefs...and there was just something perfect for me in the understated discipline that Japanese society offered.
Long story short, after ten years of studying and three years of living there, I returned to Melbourne, started a band, started smoking pot, got laid, got heartbroken, and got lost. Again.
But Japan is never far away.
Three years ago I met a guy called John Gunn. We were both barflies at a pub called the Rob Roy. Except, one day over our fourteenth beer, we started talking about Japan. We'd lived there the same time, for the same amount of time, and each knew things that no-one else would know. DO YOU KNOW WHO CHIYONOFUJI IS? AAAAAAAAAAH!!!! THE BLUE HEARTS? AAAAAAH!!! NAGABUSHI TSUYOSHI! AAAAAAAHHH. ASANO YOKO!!! HOT HOT HOT!
We became friends and have remained in touch ever since.
Last night he was at my work and ended up sitting with me after close telling me the following story and asking my advice:
His mother owns some sort of multinational corporation, I didn't ask which or what they do, suffice to say, there seems to be large sums of money involved. Now, three years ago his mother decided to purchase for her PRIVATE LONDON MUSEUM, a series of scrolls originating from Japan c. 1500AD. Buddhist scrolls...hang on one tick...
ISN'T THIS EXCITING?
Anyway, being the astute collector she is, she decided to first ascertain the origin of the scrolls by carefully shipping them to an expert in Osaka. A... procurer of rare antiquities. He was able to help discover the temple from which they came, and also made a promise to restore the scrolls to their original condition. Or close to.
After a month or so, he sent back two of the five scrolls, perfectly restored. However these two were the lesser scrolls in comparison to the three that he retained.
Which he promptly confessed to losing. Somewhere in his house.
John was called in to fly to Japan and find out what the fuck had happened.
From his mother's description, he assumed he was meeting some Japanese Julius Sumner Miller looking cat in a dusty Top Secret style Book Shop filled with antiques and books.
The night before the meeting John checked into an inn and was asked his business.
I'm meeting an antique dealer, Morimoto-san.
Morimoto-sama? He is very famous, John was told.
Yes, but aaaaa, he has a reputation. Please be careful.
Turned out Morimoto-San acquires Japanese antiques for museums all around the world. He lived in a four story mansion which was the converted headquarters of the old Bank of Japan.
He was serious. But John was on a mission. And resolved to be...inscrutable.
The negotiations did not go well. John's gaijin approach could not move Morimoto-San and eventually he returned empty handed, with vague promises that Morimoto would "shuffle through his house" in an attempt to find the "misplaced" scrolls.
Which leads us to the pub.
Now, as Pat from Dallas Crane would say, I'm humble AS FUCK. Great sentence that. But there are a couple of things in life that I am confident about. My ability in bed, my ability to read other people, and my ability to negotiate with Japanese Antiquities dealers. It's very much a game, and there are very defined, set rules.
1. Morimoto will NOT lose face by suddenly turning around and admitting that he really doesn't want to give back something so instrinsically Japanese, and incredibly valuable, as these ancient scrolls.
2. Any show of emotion from John, will be seen as a weakness and a very Western response, which will only serve to strengthen Morimoto's resolve to keep the scrolls.
3. Japanese like to make deals, and they like to win. I understand this applies to every businessman in every country of the world, but I also have incredible respect for the way in which the Japanese do business. Note I'm not saying I AGREE with how they do things, but I do RESPECT their strength.
There are more rules, but I'm cooking Party Pies right now and want to eat them, so I'll get to the end of the story.
After John had filled me in on all the details, I sat back and thought about his problem. I did not speak, I emptied my glass of Canadian Club and Dry, and drew back on my cigarette.
What you need to do is, choose your words, very carefully when you next speak to him.
Morimoto-San, we both understand the heritage and importance of these scrolls.
Translation: Dude, we both know you want this shit for yourself, and that's fucked.
Everything that needs to be said, needs to be not said. THAT is Japanese. Wakarimasu?
Eventually I came up with this solution:
John was to go back to Osaka and after making the chit chat with Morimoto he was to say something along the lines of:
I understand it might be difficult for you to find the time to search your house for the scrolls, so after consulting with my Mother, we have decided that it would appropriate for you to lend us an object of similar value from your own personal collection, that we may exhibit it at our Museum until such time as you are able to locate them. Then we would be honoured to return your piece in exchange for the scrolls. Our Gallery patrons will be most excited that they will be able to view a piece from the personal collection of someone such as yourself Morimoto-San. Thankyou for this opportunity.
It's a simple hostage exchange, and believe me, that was basically the basis of Japanese Government for over 800 years. The guy is going to understand, and he's going to have to play ball. It's an honour thing.
Come with me to Japan in August. Believe me, my mother will pay you a handsome reward if we can get these fucking scrolls back, said John.
I polished off my drink, put my jacket on and said, let me sleep on it.
And that's what I'm doing.
Hey, it's nice to have something else to write about from time to time.