We take bullets very seriously. Even the fake ones. Part 1.
A few weeks ago, I had to go apologize to a yakuza boss. Always a scary thing, especially when you’re in the wrong.
He had agreed to help out with a story I was working on, and through some mishaps he ended up getting chewed out by his own boss because of it. I flew back to Japan immediately and made bows much deeper than Toyoda of Toyota could ever make. While we were talking later, after I had made amends (I still have all my fingers if you’re curious), I gave him as a present a nifty lighter that looks just like a bullet. He, of course, appreciated the irony.
Three weeks ago, he was pulled over by the police–as yakuza often are–and his car was searched. The young detective who found the lighter was incredibly excited and called for back-up. The gang boss was telling him the whole time, “It’s not a bullet, it’s a lighter. ほら！Give it back to me and I’ll show you,” while waving his unlit cigarette in the air. The cop refused to give it back.
20 minutes and five police cars later–a detective came up to the car, motioned the gang boss to get out. The detective had on white gloves and had the bullet in his hand.
“Mr. X, is this your bullet?”
“It’s not a bullet; it’s a lighter.”
“So you say.”
Mr. X noticed the white gloves the detective had on, which are usually only for crime scenes.
“What’s with the gloves?”
“Evidence. We don’t want to obscure your fingerprints on this bullet. You’re going down for violations of the Firearms and Ammunitions Law, pal…understand? Some serious jail time.”
Mr. X, says he was getting a little bit worried. The cop stared him in the face, and then the cop took a pack of Lark cigarettes out of his coat and handed a cigarette to Mr. X. Mr. X took the cigarette and put it in his mouth and the cop lit it with the bullet shaped lighter, laughing.
“Mr. X, pretty cool! I’ve never seen a lighter like this. Do you know where I can get one?”
“I could ask.”
“Yeah, let me know. By the way, you know we’re still going to seize this. Just to be sure. Gonna have to have forensics look at it.”
“Be my guest.”
And with that, Mr. X got back in his car and was allowed to leave.
Guns and weapons are taken very seriously in Japan, and bullet-shaped lighters are probably not a source of levity. When I heard this story, I thought I was going to have to go prostate myself in front of Mr. X again and was hoping not to hit my forehead too hard on the ground, but he told me he was more amused than upset. And he asked me to get him two more of the bullet-shaped lighters.