'I will,' said Bond. 'But is this not a picture of the life that is being officially encouraged in your own country?'
Tiger Tanaka's face darkened perceptibly. 'For the time being,' he said with distaste, 'we are being subjected to what I can best describe as the “Scuola di Coca-Cola”. Baseball, amusement arcades, hot dogs, hideously large bosoms, neon lighting - these are the part of our payment for defeat in battle. They are the tepid tea of the way of life we know under the name of demokorasu. They are a frenzied denial of the official scapegoats for our defeat - a denial of the spirit of the samurai as expressed in the kami-kaze, a denial of our ancestors, a denial of our gods. They are a despicable way of life' - Tiger almost spat the words - 'but fortunately they are also expendable and temporary. They have as much importance in the history of Japan as the life of a dragonfly.' He paused. 'But to return to my story. Our American residents are of a sympathetic type - on a low level of course. They enjoy the subservience, which I may say is only superficial, of our women. They enjoy the remaining strict patterns of our life - the symmetry, compared with the chaos that reigns in America. They enjoy our simplicity, with its underlying hint of deep meaning, as expressed for instance in the tea ceremony, flower arrangements, NO plays - none of which of course they understand. They also enjoy, because they have no ancestors and probably no family life worth speaking of, our veneration of the old and our worship of the past. For, in their impermanent world, they recognize these as permanent things just as, in their ignorant and childish way, they admire the fictions of the Wild West and other American myths that have become known to them, not through their education, of which they have none, but through television.'
'This is tough stuff, Tiger. I've got a lot of American friends who don't equate with what you're saying. Presumably you're talking of the lower level GIs - second-generation Americans who are basically Irish or Germans or Czechs or Poles who probably ought to be working in the fields or coalmines of their countries of origin instead of swaggering around a conquered country under the blessed coverlet of the Stars and Stripes with too much money to spend. I daresay they occasionally marry a Japanese girl and settle down here. But surely they pull up stumps pretty quickly. Our Tommies have done the same thing in Germany. But that's quite a different thing from the Lafcadio Hearns of the world.'
Tiger Tanaka bowed almost to the ground. 'Forgive me, Bondo-san. Of course you are right, and I have been diverted from my story down most unworthy paths. I did not ask you here to pour out my innermost repugnance at the occupation of my country. This of course is repugnance against the fact of defeat. I apologize. And of course you are correct. There are many cultured Americans who have taken up residence in this country and who are most valued citizens. You are right to correct me, for I have friends of this nature, in the arts, the sciences, in literature, and they are indeed valued members of the community. I was, let us say, letting off steam. You understand?'
'Of course, Tiger. My country has not been occupied for many centuries. The imposition of a new culture on an old one is something we have not suffered. I cannot imagine my reactions in the same circumstances. Much the same as yours, I expect. Please go on with your story.' Bond reached for the sake flask. It stood in a jar of warm water being heated over a slow flame from a charcoal burner. He filled his glass and drank. Tiger Tanaka rocked two or three times on his buttocks and the sides of his feet. He resumed.
'As I have said, there are a number of foreigners who have taken up residence in Japan and, for the most part, they are inoffensive eccentrics. But there is one such person who entered the country in January of this year who has revealed himself to be an eccentric of the most devilish nature. This man is a monster. You may laugh, Bondo-san, but this man is no less than a fiend in human form.'
'I have met many bad men in my time, Tiger, and generally they have been slightly mad. Is that the case in this instance?'
'Very much the reverse. The calculated ingenuity of this man, his understanding of the psychology of my people, show him to be a man of quite outstanding genius. In the opinion of our highest scholars and savants he is a scientific research worker and collector probably unique in the history of the world.'
'What does he collect?'
'He collects death.'
THE DEATH COLLECTOR
JAMES BOND smiled at this dramatic utterance. 'A collector of death? You mean he kills people?'
'No, Bondo-san. It is not as simple as that. He persuades, or rather entices people to kill themselves.' Tiger paused, the wide expanse of his brow furrowed. 'No, that also is not being just. Let us just say that he provides an easy and attractive opportunity - a resort - for people to do away with themselves. His present tally, in just under six months, is something over five hundred Japanese.'
'Why don't you arrest him, hang him?'
'Bondo-san, it is not as easy as that. I had better begin at the beginning. In January of this year, there entered the country, quite legally, a gentleman by the name of Doctor Guntram Shatterhand. He was accompanied by Frau Emmy Shatterhand, born de Bedon. They had Swiss passports and the doctor described himself as a horticulturalist and botanist specializing in sub-tropical species. He carried high references from the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, Kew Gardens, and other authorities, but these were couched in rather nebulous terms. He quickly got in touch with the equivalent authorities in Japan and with experts in the Ministry of Agriculture, and these gentlemen were astonished and delighted to learn that Doctor Shatterhand was prepared to spend no less than one million pounds on establishing an exotic garden or park in this country which he would stock with a priceless collection of rare plants and shrubs from all over the world. These he would import at his own expense in a sufficient state of maturity to allow his park to be planted with the minimum of delay - an extremely expensive procedure if you know anything about horticulture.'
'I know nothing about it. Like the Texan millionaires who import fully-grown palms and tropical shrubs from Florida?'
'Exactly. Well, the park was not to be open to the public, but would be freely available for study and research work by authorized Japanese experts. All right. A wonderful offer that was enthusiastically accepted by the government, who, in return, granted the good doctor a ten-year residence permit - a very rare privilege. Meanwhile, as a matter of routine, the Immigration authorities made inquiries about the doctor through my department. Since I have no representative in Switzerland, I referred the matter to our friends of the CIA, and in due course he was given complete clearance. It appeared that he was of Swedish origin and was not widely known in Switzerland, where he only possessed the minimum requirement for residential status in the shape of two rooms in an apartment block in Lausanne. But his financial standing with the Union de Banques Suisses was Grade One, which I understand requires you to be a millionaire many times over. Since money is almost the unique status symbol in Switzerland, his clearance by the Swiss was impeccable, though no information could be obtained about his standing as a botanist. Kew and the Jardin des Plantes, on inquiry, referred to him as an enthusiastic amateur who had made valuable contributions to these institutions in the form of tropical and sub tropical species collected for him by expeditions which he had financed. So! An interesting and financially sound citizen whose harmless pursuits would be of some benefit to Japan. Yes?'
'Sounds like it.'
'After travelling round the country in great style, the doctor took a fancy to a semi-ruined castle in Kyushu, our southern island. The castle was in an extremely remote corner of the coast not far from Fukuoka, the principal prefecture of the island, and in ancient times it had been one of a line of castles facing the Tsushima Straits, the scene of the famous defeat of the Russian navy. These castles were originally designed to repel attacks from the Korean mainland. Most of them had fallen into disrepair, but the one chosen by the doctor was a giant edifice that had been occupied until the last war by a rich and eccentric family of textile millionaires, and its monumental surrounding wall was just what the doctor required for the privacy of his undertaking. An army of builders and decorators moved in. Meanwhile, the plants ordered by the doctor began arriving from all over the world and, with a blanket customs clearance from the Ministry of Agriculture, they were planted in appropriate soils and settings. Here I should mention that an additional reason for the doctor's choice of site was that the property, which extends for some five hundred acres, is highly volcanic and furnished with many geysers and fumaroles, which are common in Japan. These would provide, all the year round, the temperature needed for the successful propagation of these tropical shrubs, trees and plants from the equatorial zones. The doctor and his wife, who is by the way extremely ugly, moved into the castle with all speed and set about recruiting staff in the neighbourhood who would look after the establishment and its grounds.' Here Tiger assumed his sorrowful face. 'And it was at this time that I should not have dismissed as fanciful certain reports that reached me from the Chief of Police at Fukuoka. These were to the effect that the doctor was recruiting his staff uniquely from former members of the Black Dragon Society.'
'And what might that be?'
'Have been,' Tiger corrected him. 'The Society was officially disbanded before the war. But in its heyday it was the most feared and powerful secret society in Japan. It consisted originally of the dregs of the soshi - the unemployed samurai who were left high and dry after the Meiji Restoration of about a hundred years ago - but it later recruited terrorists, gangsters, Fascist politicos, cashiered officers from the navy and army, secret agents, soldiers of fortune and other riff-raff, but also big men in industry and finance, and even the occasional Cabinet Minister who found Black Dragon support of much practical value when dirty work had to be done. And the odd thing is, though it does not seem so odd to me today, that the doctor should have chosen his site, leaving out its practical amenities, in just that corner of Japan that used to be the headquarters of the Black Dragons and has always been a hotbed of extremists. Toyama Mitsuru, the former head of the Black Dragons, came from Fukuoka; so did the anarchist Hirota, and Nakano, leader of the former Tohokai, or Fascist group, in the Diet. It has always been a nest of scoundrels, this district, and it remains so today. These extreme sects never die out completely, as you have recently, my dear Bondo-san, found in the resurgence of the Black Shirts in England, and this Doctor Shatterhand found no difficulty in collecting some twenty extremely tough and dangerous characters around him, all most correctly clothed as servants and gardeners and, no doubt, perfectly good at their ostensible jobs. On one occasion the Prefect of Police thought it his duty to make a courtesy call and give his distinguished inhabitant a word of caution. But the doctor dismissed the matter on the grounds that competent guards would be necessary to maintain his privacy and keep trespassers away from his valuable collection of plants. This seemed reasonable enough, and anyway the doctor appeared to be under high patronage in Tokyo. The Prefect bowed himself out, much impressed with the lavish display of wealth in evidence in the heart of his poor province.' . Tiger Tanaka paused and poured more sake for Bond and more Suntory for himself. Bond took the opportunity to ask just how dangerous this Black Dragon Society had really been. Was it the equivalent of the Chinese tongs?