Chapter 13: Compensation
One day, behind a pachinko parlor near Yokohama’s China Town, I saved a young man being beaten by some pachinko workers.
When I asked for an explanation, I was told that the boy had been cheating by picking up metals with a magnet tied to a string. I asked for forgiveness on behalf of the boy and the workers were kind enough to hand him over to me.
The boy was Taiwanese. His mother had immigrated to Japan and had remarried a Japanese man, so the boy was forced to live an unfamiliar Japanese lifestyle. After graduating from Jr. high school, he did not continue his education nor seek a steady job and instead lead a life of mischief.
On the way taking him home, I recommended that he enroll in a high school. Being of Taiwanese nationality, he could claim permanent residency and prevent being deported. He was able to be with his parents now and I wanted it to stay that way.
He said, “It’s impossible for me,” and rejected the thought. However, my earnest pleading made him change his mind.
The next day I talked with an acquaintance of mine and the boy enrolled in a night school in Tokyo. The boy promised me that from then on he would try his best and no longer do mischievous things.
I assumed things were settled.
However, a few months later I received a phone call from his mother.
“My son has joined a gang.”
In that instant I realized my mistake. After sending him to a high school I had become completely unworried about him. I assumed that nothing could go wrong anymore.
As his mother choked back tears she spoke.
Around the time summer vacation ended he did not go back to school and ran away from home. When he finally did return home, his mother noticed something terrible. He was about to take a bath when she saw it. A dragon was tattooed on the back of the son she loved so much.
I quickly jumped in my car and drove to their apartment.
His mother and I spoke with him and begged that he leave the gang and dissolve all connections with it. We told him that we would do whatever it took to accomplish that. If he left the gang now he would still be able to go back to school. We told him that he needed to wash his hands of the gang as quickly as possible. We repeated ourselves over and over again until the dawn broke. It was only then that the boy gave a small nod in agreement. He also wanted to rid himself of his association with the gang as he had only joined the gain half-heartedly and was abused everyday by its members. However, leaving the club came with considerable risk and he had been too afraid to try to leave.
A few days later we went to the police who then called the leader of the gang for us. The result of the short conversation was that the boy and I had to go and speak directly to the gang’s leader.
I had come face to face with danger on numerous occasions until that point, but, no matter how to look at it, a terrifying situation is still terrifying. I am not a police officer, just your everyday high school teacher, so if there was any type of an emergency I had no means to protect myself of the boy.
In the end, the situation was nothing like I expected as our conversation went very smoothly. The conditions for him leaving the gang were simple: never enter their territory again. I was overjoyed to have been able to pull him out of the gang so easily.
However, things were not as sweet as they seemed. I will not explain what happened a month later.
I received a message that the boy had been captured by the gang for entering their territory on his way home from school. I couldn’t believe it. Everything around me became dark. There was no way to run away now.
I decided to once again pay a visit to the gang that was now holding the boy captive.
I found him sitting on a sofa. His face was blue and his body was shaking uncontrollably. He was surrounded on either side by members of the gang. Opposite this scene sat the leader of the gang. His face was very stern and grim as he addressed me.
“Mizutani, we take honor very seriously. If you break a promise, there must be repercussions. Understood?”
I lifted one finger on my dominant hand in response.
After this, the boy returned to school and gained permanent residence in Japan. He then followed his dream of owning his own restaurant and began working at a Chinese restaurant in the city.
When I think about this, the pain in my finger from that day is a small price to have paid for what was gained. [Note: there is a picture in the book opposite these words in which Mizutani-sensei’s finger is slightly missing].