‘You were lucky the surrender came before you were sent on a mission.’
‘Perhaps. And yet,.Bondo-san, it is one of my most cherished dreams today to come diving out of the sun into a hail of antiaircraft fire, see the tiny, terrified figures running for shelter from the flight deck of a wildly swerving carrier and know that you are about to kill a hundred or more of the enemy and destroy a million pounds’ worth of his fighting machine, all by yourself.’
‘And I suppose Admiral Ohnishi, who invented the whole idea, committed suicide when the surrender came?’
‘Naturally. And in a most honourable fashion. When you commit seppuku you invite two of your best friends to be present to finish you off if you fail. The Admiral executed the cross-cut from left to right of the belly, and then the upward cut to the breast bone, most admirably. But it did not kill him. Yet he refused the coup de grace. He sat there contemplating his insides for a whole day before he finally died. A most sincere gesture of apology to the Emperor.’ Tiger waved a hand airily. ‘However, I must not spoil your dinner. I can see that some of our honourable customs offend your soft Western susceptibilities. Here comes the lobster. Are they not splendid animals?’
Lacquer boxes of rice, raw quails’ egg in sauce and bowls of sliced seaweed were placed in front of them both. Then they were each given a fine oval dish bearing a large lobster whose head and tail had been left as a dainty ornament to the sliced pink flesh in the centre. Bond set to with his chopsticks. He was surprised to find that the flesh was raw. He was even more surprised when the head of his lobster began moving off his dish and, with questing antennae and scrabbling feet, tottered off across the table. ‘Good God, Tiger!’ Bond said, aghast. ‘The damn thing’s alive!’
Tiger hissed impatiently, ‘Really, Bondo-san. I am much disappointed in you. You fail test after test. I sincerely hope you will show improvement during the rest of our journey. Now eat up and stop being squeamish. This is a very great Japanese delicacy.’
James Bond bowed ironically. ‘Shimata!’ he said. ‘I have made a mistake. It crossed my mind that honourable Japanese lobster might not like being eaten alive. Thank you for correcting the unworthy thought.’
‘You will soon become accustomed to the Japanese way of life,’ said Tiger graciously.
‘It’s their way of death that’s got me a little bit puzzled,’ said Bond amiably, and he handed his glass to the kneeling waitress for more sake to give him strength to try the seaweed.
TIGER and Bond stood in the shade of the avenue of giant cryptomerias and observed the pilgrims, slung with cameras, who were visiting the famous Outer Shrine of Ise, the greatest temple to the creed of Shintoism. Tiger said, ‘All right. You have observed these people and their actions. They have been saying prayers to the sun goddess. Go and say a prayer without drawing attention to yourself.’
Bond walked over the raked path and through the great wooden archway and joined the throng in front of the shrine. Two priests, bizarre in their red kimonos and black helmets, were watching. Bond bowed towards the shrine, tossed a coin on to the wire-netting designed to catch the offerings, clapped his hands loudly, bent his head in an attitude of prayer, clapped his hands again, bowed and walked out.
‘You did well,’ said Tiger. ‘One of the priests barely glanced at you. The public paid no attention. You should perhaps have clapped your hands more loudly. It is to draw the attention of the goddess and your ancestors to your presence at the shrine. Then they will pay more attention to your prayer. What prayer did you in fact make?’
‘I’m afraid I didn’t make any, Tiger. I was concentrating on remembering the right sequence of motions.’
‘The goddess will have noted that, Bondo-san. She will help you to concentrate still more in the future. Now we will go back to the. car and proceed to witness another interesting ceremony in which you will take part.’
Bond groaned. In the parking place beyond the vast torii that guarded the entrance, chars-a-bancs were disgorging hordes of students while the conductresses shouted ‘Awri, awri, awri’ and blew whistles to help the drivers of other chars-a-bancs to back in. The giggling girls were severely dressed in dark blue with black cotton stockings. The youths wore the handsome, high-collared black uniform of Japanese students. Tiger led the way through the middle of the crowd. When they emerged Tiger looked pleased. ‘Did you notice anything, Bondo-san?’
‘Only a lot of pretty girls. Rather too young for me.’
‘Wrong. Yesterday many of them would have stared and giggled behind their hands and said “gaijin”. Today you were not recognized as a foreigner. Your appearance is one thing, but your comportment has also improved. You exude more self-confidence. You are more at home.’ Tiger gave his golden sunburst of a smile. ‘The Tanaka system. It is not so foolish as you think.’
Wadakin, on the road across the mountains to the ancient capital of Kyoto, was a little upland hamlet without distinction. Tiger gave decisive orders to the driver of the hired car and they arrived at a tall, barn-like building in a back street. There was a strong smell of cattle and manure. The chief herdsman, as he turned out to be, greeted them. He had the apple cheeks and wise kindly eyes of his counterparts in Scotland and the Tyrol. Tiger had a long conversation with him. The man looked at Bond and his eyes twinkled. He bowed perfunctorily and led the way inside. It was cool out of the sun. There were rows of stalls in which vastly fat brown cows lay chewing the cud. A gay small dog was licking the muzzle of one of them and being occasionally given a lick in return. The herdsman lifted a barrier and said something to one of the cows which got unsteadily up on to legs that had become spindly through lack of exercise. It ambled unsteadily out into the sunshine and looked warily at Tiger and Bond. The herdsman hauled out a crate of beer bottles. He opened one and handed it to Bond. Tiger said peremptorily, ‘Give it to the cow to drink.’
Bond took the bottle and walked boldly up to the cow who raised her head and opened her slavering jaws. Bond thrust the bottle between them and poured. The cow almost ate the bottle in its delight and ran its harsh tongue gratefully over Bond’s hand. Bond stood his ground. He was getting used to Tiger’s ploys by now, and he was determined to show at any rate an approximation of the kami-kaze spirit whatever test Tiger put him to.
The herdsman now handed Bond a bottle of what appeared to be water. Tiger said, ‘This is shochu. It is a very raw gin. Fill your mouth with it and spray it over the back of the cow and then massage it into the cow’s flesh.’
Bond guessed that Tiger hoped he would swallow some of the gin and choke. He closed his throat but lustily filled his mouth with the stuff, compressed his lips and blew hard so that the vapour from the stuff would not go up his nostrils. He wiped his hands across his lips that were already stinging with the harsh spirit and scrubbed energetically at the rough pelt. The cow bent her head in ecstasy… Bond stood back. ‘Now what?’ he said belligerently. ‘What’s the cow going to do for me?’
Tiger laughed and translated for the herdsman, who also laughed and looked at Bond with some respect. Money changed hands, and with much happy talk between Tiger and the herdsman and final bows they got back into the car and drove into the village, where they were welcomed into a shuttered and discreet restaurant, polished, spotless and blessedly deserted. Tiger ordered and they sat in wonderful Western chairs at a real table while the usual dimpling waitresses brought sake. Bond swallowed down his first flask at one long gulp to wash away the rasp of the gin. He said to Tiger, ‘And now, what was that all about?’
Tiger looked pleased with himself. ‘You are about to eat what it was all about – the finest, most succulent beef in the world. Kobe beef, but of a grade you wouldn’t find in the most expensive restaurant in Tokyo. This herd is owned by a friend of mine; The herdsman was a good man, was he not? He feeds each of his cows four pints of beer a day and massages them with shochu as you did. They also receive a rich meal of oaten porridge. You like beef?’
‘No,’ said Bond stolidly. ‘As a matter of fact, I don’t.’
‘That is unfortunate,’ said Tiger, not looking as if it were. ‘For what you are about to eat is the finest steak that will be eaten today anywhere outside the Argentine. And you have earned it. The herdsman was greatly impressed by your sincere performance with his cow.’
‘And what does that prove?’ said Bond sourly. ‘And what honourable experience is awaiting me this afternoon?’
The steak came. It was accompanied by various succulent side-dishes, including a saucer of blood, which Bond refused. But the meat could be cut with a fork, and was indeed without equal in Bond’s experience. Tiger, munching with gusto, answered Bond’s question. ‘I am taking you to one of the secret training establishments of my Service,’ he said. ‘It is not far from here, in the mountains, in an old fortified castle. It goes under the name of the “Central Mountaineering School”. It arouses no comment in the neighbourhood, which is just as well, since it is here that my agents are trained in one of the arts most dreaded in Japan – ninjutsu, which is, literally, the art of stealth or invisibility. All the men you will see have already graduated in at least ten of the eighteen martial arts of bushido, or “ways of the warrior”, and they are now learning to be ninja, or “stealers-in”, which has for centuries been part of the basic training of spies and assassins and saboteurs. You will see men walk across the surface of water, walk up walls and across ceilings, and you will be shown equipment which makes it possible for them to remain submerged under water for a full day. And many other tricks besides. For of course, apart from physical dexterity, the ninja were never the super-humans they were built up to be in the popular imagination. But, nevertheless, the secrets of ninjutsu are still closely guarded today and are the property of two main schools, the Iga and the Togakure, from which my instructors are drawn. I think you will be interested and perhaps learn something yourself at this place. I have never approved of agents carrying guns and other obvious weapons. In China, Korea and Oriental Russia, which are, so to speak, my main beats, the possession of any offensive weapon on arrest would be an obvious confession of guilt. My men are expected to be able to kill without weapons. All they may carry is a staff and a length of thin chain which can be easily explained away. You understand?’
‘Yes, that makes sense. We have a similar commando training school for unarmed combat attached to Headquarters. But, of course, your judo and karate are special skills requiring years of practice. How high did you get in judo, Tiger?’
Tiger picked his teeth reminiscently. ‘No higher than a Black Belt of the Seventh Dan. I never graduated to a Red Belt, which is from the Eighth to the Eleventh Dan. To do so would have meant abandoning all other forms of activity. And with what object? To be promoted to the Twelfth and final Dan on my death? In exchange for spending the whole of my life tumbling about in the Kodokan Academy in Tokyo? No thank you. That is the ambition of a lunatic.’ He smiled. ‘No sake! No beautiful girls! Worse still, probably no opportunity in a whole lifetime to exercise my art in anger, to tackle a robber or murderer with a gun, and get the better of him. In the higher realms of judo, you are nothing but a mixture between a monk and a ballet dancer. Not for me!’
Back on the open, dusty road some instinct made Bond glance through the rear window between the dainty lace blinds that are both the hall-mark of a truly sincere hired car and a dangerous impediment to the driver’s vision. Far behind, there was a solitary motor-cyclist. Later when they turned up a minor road into the mountains, he was still there. Bond mentioned the fact. Tiger shrugged. ‘He is perhaps a speed cop. If he is anyone else, he has chosen a bad time and place.’