Dikko Henderson made a wide gesture with his left hand. Bond decided that Dikko was getting cheerfully tight. He had found a Palomar pony to run with. They must be rare enough in Tokyo. They were both past the eighth flask of sake, but Dikko had also laid a foundation of Suntory whisky in the Okura while he’d been waiting for Bond to write out an innocuous cable to Melbourne with the prefix ‘Information-wise’, which meant that it was for Mary Goodnight, to announce his arrival and give his current address. But it was all right with Bond that Dikko should be getting plastered. He would talk better and looser and, in the end, wiser that way. And Bond wanted to pick his brains.
Bond said, ‘But what sort of a chap is this Tanaka? Is he your enemy or your friend?’
‘Both. More of a friend probably. At least I’d guess so. I amuse him. His CIA pals don’t. He loosens up with me. We’ve got things in common. We share a pleasure in the delights of samsara – wine and women. He’s a great cocks-man. I also have ambitions in that direction. I’ve managed to keep him out of two marriages. Trouble with Tiger is he always wants to marry ’em. He’s paying cock-tax, that’s alimony in the Australian vernacular, to three already. So he’s acquired an ON with regard to me. That’s an obligation – almost as important in the Japanese way of life as “face”. When you have an ON, you’re not very, happy until you’ve discharged it honourably, if you’ll pardon the bad pun. And if a man makes you a present of a salmon, you mustn’t repay him with a shrimp. It’s got to be with an equally larg« salmon – larger if possible, so that then you’ve jumped the man, and now he has an ON with regard to you, and you’re quids in morally, socially and spiritually – and the last one’s the most important. Well now. Tiger’s ON towards me is a very powerful one, very difficult to discharge. He’s paid little slices of it off with various intelligence dope. He’s paid off another big slice by accepting your presence here and giving you an interview so soon after your arrival. If you’d been an ordinary supplicant, -it might have taken you weeks. He’d have given you a fat dose of shikiri-naoshi – that’s making you wait, giving you the great stone face. The sumo wrestlers use it in the ring to make an opponent look and feel small in front of the audience. Got it? So you start with that in your favour. He would be predisposed to do what you want because that would remove all his ON towards me and, by his accounting, stick a whole packet of ON on my back towards him. But it’s not so simple as that. All Japanese have permanent ON towards their superiors, the Emperor, their ancestors and the Japanese gods. This they can only discharge by doing “the right thing”. Not easy, you’ll say. Because how can you know what the higher echelon thinks is the right thing? Well, you get out of that by doing what the bottom of the ladder thinks right – i.e. your immediate superiors. That passes the buck, psychologically, on to the , Emperor, and he’s got to make his peace with ancestors and gods. But that’s all right with him, because he embodies all the echelons above him, so he can get on with dissecting fish, which is his hobby, with a clear conscience. Got it? It’s not really as mysterious as it sounds. Much the same routine as operates in big corporations, like ICI or Shell, or in the Services, except with them the ladder stops at the Board of Directors or the Chiefs of Staff. It’s easier that way. You don’t have to involve the Almighty and your great-grandfather in a decision to cut the price of aspirin by a penny a bottle.’
‘It doesn’t sound very demokorasu to me.’
‘Of course it isn’t, you dumb bastard. For God’s sake, get it into your head that the Japanese are a separate human species. They’ve only been operating as a civilized people, in the debased sense we talk about it in the West, for fifty, at the most a hundred years. Scratch a Russian and you’ll find a Tartar. Scratch a Japanese and you’ll find a samurai – or what he thinks is a samurai. Most of this samurai stuff is a myth, like the Wild West bunk the Americans are brought up on, or your knights in shining armour at King Arthur’s court. Just because people play baseball and wear bowler hats doesn’t mean they’re quote civilized unquote. Just to show you I’m getting rather tight -not drunk, mark you-I’d add that the UN are going to reap the father and mother of a whirlwind by quote liberating unquote the colonial peoples. Give ’em a thousand years, yes.
But give ’em ten, no. You’re only taking away their blowpipes and giving them machine guns. Just you wait for the first one to start crying to high heaven for nuclear fission. Because they must have quote parity unquote with the lousy colonial powers. I’ll give you ten years for that to happen, my friend. And when it does, I’ll dig myself a deep hole in the ground and sit in it.’
Bond laughed. ‘That also doesn’t sound very demokorasu?
‘ “I fornicate upon thy demokorasu” as brother Hemingway would have said. I stand for government by an elite.’ Dikko Henderson downed his ninth pint of sake. ‘And voting graded by each individual’s rating in that elite. And one tenth of a vote for my government if you don’t agree with me!’
‘For God’s sake, Dikko! Plow in hell did we get on to politics? Let’s go and get some food. I’ll agree there’s a certain aboriginal common sense in what you say…’
‘Don’t talk to me about the aborigines! What in hell do you think you know about the aborigines? Do you know that in my country there’s a move afoot, not afoot, at full gallop, to give the aborigines the vote? You pommy poofter. You give me any more of that liberal crap and I’ll have your balls for a bow-tie.’
Bond said mildly, ‘What’s a poofter?’
‘What you’d call a pansy. No,’ Dikko Henderson got to his feet and fired a string of what sounded like lucid Japanese at the man behind the bar, ‘before I condemn you utterly, we’ll go and eat eels-place where you can get a serious bottle of plonk to match. Then we’ll go to “The House of Total Delight”. After that, I will give you my honest verdict, honestly come by.’
Bond said, ‘You’re a no-good kangaroo bum, Dikko. But I like eels. As long as they’re not jellied. I’ll pay for them and for the later relaxation. You pay for the rice wine and the plonk, whatever that is. Take it easy. The wingy at the bar has an appraising look.’
‘I come to appraise Mr Richard Lovelace Henderson, not to bury him.’ Dikko Henderson produced a wad of thousand yen notes and began counting them out for the waiter. ‘Not yet, that is.’ He walked, with careful majesty, up to the bar and addressed himself to the large Negro in a plum-coloured coat behind it. ‘Melody, be ashamed of yourself!’ Then he led the way, with massive dignity, out of the bar.
DIKKO HENDERSON came to fetch Bond at ten o’clock next morning. He was considerably overhung. The hard blue eyes were veined with blood and he made straight for the Bamboo Bar and ordered himself a double brandy and ginger ale. Bond said mildly, ‘You shouldn’t have poured all that sake on top of the Suntory. I can’t believe Japanese whisky makes a good foundation for anything.’
‘You’ve got something there, sport. I’ve got myself a proper futsukayoi – honourable hangover. Mouth like a vulture’s crutch. Soon as we got home from that lousy cat house, I had to go for the big spit. But you’re wrong about Suntory. It’s a good enough brew. Stick to the cheapest, the White Label, at around fifteen bob a bottle. There are two smarter brands, but the cheap one’s the best. Went up to the distillery some whiles ago and met one of the family. Told me an interesting thing , about whisky. He said you can only make good whisky where you can take good photographs. Ever heard that one? Said it was something to do with the effect of clear light on the alcohol. But did I talk a lot of crap last night? Or did you? Seem to recollect that one of us did.’
‘You only gave me hell about the state of the world and called me a poofter. But you were quite friendly about it. No offence given or taken.’
‘Oh, Christ!’ Dikko Henderson gloomily pushed a hand through his tough, grizzled hair. ‘But I didn’t hit anyone?’
‘Only that girl you slapped so hard on the bottom that she fell down.’
‘Oh that!’ said Dikko Henderson with relief. ‘That was just a love-pat. What’s a girl’s bottom for, anyway? And so far as I recall they all screamed with laughter. Including her. Right? How did you make out with yours by the way? She looked pretty enthusiastic.’
‘Good show.’ He swallowed the remains of his drink and got to his feet. ‘Come on, bud. Let’s go. Wouldn’t do to keep Tiger waiting. I once did and he wouldn’t speak to me for a week.’
It was a typical Tokyo day in late summer – hot, sticky and grey – the air full of fine dust from the endless demolition and reconstruction work. They drove for’ half an hour towards Yokohama and pulled up outside a dull grey building which announced itself in large letters to be ‘The Bureau of All-Asian Folkways’. There was a busy traffic of Japanese scurrying in and out through the bogusly important-looking entrance, but no one glanced at Dikko and Bond, and they were not asked their business as Dikko led the way through an entrance hall where there were books and postcards on sale as if the place were some kind of museum. Dikko made for a doorway marked ‘Coordination Department’ and there was a long corridor with open rooms on both sides. The rooms were full of studious-looking young men at desks. There were large wall maps with coloured pins dotted across them, and endless shelves of books. A door marked ‘International Relations’ gave on to another corridor, this time lined with closed doors which had people’s names on them in English and Japanese. A sharp right turn took them through the ‘Visual Presentation Bureau’ with more closed doors, and on to ‘Documentation’, a large hall-shaped library with more people bent over desks. Here, for the first time, they were scrutinized by a man at a desk near the entrance. He rose to his feet and bowed wordlessly. As they walked on Dikko said quietly, ‘This is where the cover tapers off. Up till now, all those people really were researching Asian Folkways. But these here are part of Tiger’s outside staff, doing more or less classified work. Sort of archivists. This is where we’d be politely turned back if we’d lost our way.’ Behind a final wall of bookshelves that stretched out into the room a small door was concealed. It was marked ‘Proposed Extension to Documentation Department. Danger! Construction work in progress’. From behind it came the sound of drills, a circular saw cutting through the wood and other building noises. Dikko walked through the door into a totally empty room with a highly-polished wood floor. There was no sign of construction work. Dikko laughed at Bond’s surprise. He gestured towards a large metal box fitted to the back of the door through which they had come. ‘Tape recorder,’ he said. ‘Clever gimmick. Sounds just like the real thing. And this’ – he pointed to the stretch of bare floor ahead – ‘is what the Japanese call a “nightingale floor”. Relic of the old days when people wanted to be warned of intruders. Serves the same purpose here. Imagine trying to get across here without being heard.’ They set off, and immediately the cunningly sprung boards gave out penetrating squeaks and groans. In a small facing door, a spy-hole slid open and one large eye surveyed them. The door opened to reveal a stocky man in plain clothes who had been sitting at a small deal table reading a book. It was a tiny box-like room that seemed to have no other exit. The man bowed. Dikko said some phrases containing the words ‘Tanaka-san’. The man bowed again. Dikko turned to Bond. ‘You’re on your own now. Be in it, champ! Tiger’ll send you back to your hotel. See you.’
Bond said, ‘Tell Mother I died game,’ and walked into the little box and the door was closed behind him. There was a row of buttons by the desk and the guard pressed one of them. There came a barely perceptible whine and Bond got the impression of descent. So the room was a lift. What a box of tricks the formidable Tiger had erected as a screen for himself! The authentic Eastern nest of boxes. What next?