Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Terrorists can't have kittens


As I am to embark on the armored bus I am quickly taken away to a small room. People keep talking to me in Japanese and I have no idea what's going on. This is the day I learn that Bengoshi means lawyer. Everything is done according to protocol, my handcuffs are off and I am left alone in that empty booth; even the guard goes out.
Some time later, a man comes in. He seems to have come here in a hurry and seems more worried than me. I wonder, once more weather my case is what it seems to be.
I tell him my story and about the potential life sentence that I have just received but it turns out that my lawyer speaks English just a little better than I speak Japanese. So much for discussing conspiracy theories. So I tell him the most important thing: to contact the outside word and tell them that I am alive. They should be quite worried by now and I have been denied all contact in case I asked them "to hide evidence".
I tell the lawyer that, under no circumstances, he should tell anyone that I am in jail and that I refuse to contact any embassy.
I give him the e-mail address of Orianne, my ex-girlfriend which is probably looking for me already. Of course I ask the lawyer to stay as vague as possible and under no circumstance write that I am in jail or that he is a lawyer.

In my mind, they will be reassured and when I do get out everything will get back to normal and nobody will know that I was in jail, ever. It will keep everyone from being paranoid each and every time I put myself in danger because let's face it: it happens often. And yes I do hope to get out, I am able to accept many things but I am not accepting a life sentence and nor should anyone who has any sanity left.

Unfortunately nothing goes according to plan. First, they take me to the police station again and request my permission to send a copy of my passport to my embassy. Since my perceived life sentence I decided to cease any cooperation and good will I might have shown throughout my detention process. I tell the cops to go fuck themselves and if they so much as talk to my embassy I'll make it my life mission to sue them to the ground.
One thing I have to give the cops though is, they do play by the rules.
I was beginning to realize what this meant: somebody found me. Somebody had found out that I was in jail, the French embassy was aware of this and was pushing for more information and we all know how annoying french bureaucracy is. Consider it payback for giving me life in jail, assholes!
Some might argue that dealing with french embassies is much worse than eternity in a box and I wouldn't necessarily disagree but I was pissed off.

That night, I feel a true desperation. Not only am I locked in a box but my friends and relatives are losing it! I have often wondered, when watching series like Prison Break what kind of inmate I would be. Would I be picked on? Would I be one that successfully tries to avoid conflict? I never imagined that I could be a violent one but tonight, I would just beat one of my inmates senseless if they gave me half a reason to.
Or I could commit suicide, that would be very annoying. To be honest, it wasn't the first time I thought about it, lack of stimulation of the mind does this to you. Despite the engineering efforts to render the box suicide-proof, nothing is ever suicide-proof.
I find two ways to do this, the more realistic one inspired by the British series Bad Girls. The cell has a toilet space and toilet paper is kept there overnight. It should be possible to make small squares of that paper and deposit them down the throat, one on the top of the other, maybe making some of the pieces wet to prevent the air gaps. It would be suicide by asphyxiation, not the most comfortable one buit quite efficient.
As I am weighting the pros and cons, I realize that there is one annoying side effect to suicide that I am not ready to embrace: death. Despite death, it is perfect, it annoys the police, the guards, maybe even makes some of them lose their job. But it will annoy my friends and family more and Janela already had suicide history in her boyfriend circle.
You can't commit suicide if you truly don't want to die, just to annoy people. For a while, I sit there, philosophizing inside my head why does death need to be such an essential part of suicide.

The next day, I am asked to the visitation room.
"Who is it?" I ask the guard
"I don't know."
"Investigation? Or Lawyer?"
"Ka-ta-ri-ne"
"Who's that?"
"I don't know."
"You speak Japanese only," says the guard
"Fuck you!" My reason to say this was mostly because prisoners always say this in Hollywood movies and since this situation makes no sense, I might very well be in a movie.
"Japanese only." But I bet he understood fuck you, that's international but acted as if nothing happened.

So I am sitting there with the Japanese guard looking as puzzled as I am, waiting to see what comes through that door. I think about refusing the visit and just going back but if people are trying to help me, I should at least give them a chance. Plus, I am curious.
I meet a thin woman with short hair who doesn't look too Japanese. I sure never saw her in my life but if I didn't know any better she looks a little bit like my parent's neighbor Barbora who lives in the south of France. And there she speaks Japanese.
"Hello, my name is Catherine, I am Barbora's sister. Do you speak Japanese?"
This much I can understand but I explain to her that she just used 75% of my Japanese vocabulary in one sentence.
She switches to french.
"Japanese only!," says the guard who also used 75% of his English vocabulary in that sentence.
Catherine, who turns out to be a Japanese-French translator talks to me in French followed by the same sentence in Japanese.
"I want to tell you that your parents know where you are and are thinking about you a lot."
I know this was reassuring but my worst fears have come true. My parents know I am in jail and actually, they know everything.
How did they find out? Did the police give in under to pressure from the French annoying embassy despite the fact that they legally have no right to share any information regarding my case with them unless I authorize it?

It was later that I found out what was going on defied my craziest dreams or should I say nightmares.
Orianne, my ex-girlfriend with whom I maintain a great relationship organized a search party remotely operated from her apartment in Rennes, France.
They were tracking down my all my known movements and last known locations.
They have retraced my exact itinerary in Tokyo, up to the university of arts and they even managed to contact the last person I spoke to, a university of arts student who had invited me to his place.
Several people in Tokyo were contacted and were looking from me, from my parents side, my facebook followers and exchanging information on several reddit threads.
My cousin had contacted the Czech embassy but they didn't really care, another stupid Czech tourist in trouble, if they've got a dime each time that happened...
My parents contacted the French Embassy who find out what was happening to me and the french embassy managed to confirm that I was in prison. My father used his academic connections to contact some university professor in Japan who managed to find out where I was independently.
They also scanned my tablet's online activity to pinpoint whatever information they could and I could go on forever, the document is here.

Ironically, what my friends, followers and family found out was pretty much what the Arakawa police was looking for during my investigation but unfortunately, they weren't so lucky.
The head detective also wanted to extract information from my tablet but since it has a dockable keyboard, he didn't understand that it was a tablet and thought it was a very confusing laptop. He accidentally dropped the weird piece of technology and the touch screen broke.
The broken touchscreen generated a series of parasite clicks which opened random applications all over the place. At the end, it opened weibo, the Chinese version of twitter and the detective asked me why I had a Chinese operating system. I told him I had no such thing and from that moment, my tablet was filed as just too confusing for the Arakawa police force and therefore, a word of advice:
Orianne, coordinator of the investigation about me... the one that worked.
If you followed the Japanese manga/anime series Death Note, they've got one thing right: L is a much needed asset but he is dead.

Once my friends found me, they started to pressure the police station and that's when I was called to sign the documents to disclose my personal information at least to the French embassy which I refused. I had kind of assumed, when I saw their concerned faces, that they were accusing me of something ludacris like mass murder of Mars aliens but maybe they were just dealing with all the people trying to get me out.

On Catherine's advice, my mother compiled a set of pictures from my Facebook photos where I appeared friendly and appealing to the Japanese people. It was mostly me with Japanese children or cute kittens which conveyed the message that I don't mean any harm.
Last but not least, Catherine took custody over me which invalidated the main one of my three accusation claims: the defendant has no fixed address in Japan.
My lawyer printed those pictures and my new Japanese address and brought them to the prosecutor. I don't exactly know what happened that day in that room but I know that all charges were dropped and I was to be released the next day.

The prosecutor told me: "You may not have a good opinion of Japan right now but I wish you luck with the rest of your trip. I hope you will meet more kind people who will paint a better picture of Japan"

Seriously how could I judge Japan from this? Everything what happened in the last few days was so far beyond my understanding and even further beyond my judgement.

My cellmates congratulated me, they were genuinely happy. It was an emotional moment, I said I'd write to Toshi when he gets out but I must confess, I didn't.

As the police gave me my things back, I noticed that most of my souvenirs were missing, including the giant shells I got as a gift on Kyushu island.
I really liked these shells...

I don't know why the hell would the police steal sea shells that can be found pretty much everywhere in Japan but as I said, I don't really understand the Japanese justice system. I also recovered my tablet which had survived to everything until now but had now a broken touchscreen.
I pointed out to the police that there were a lot of things missing and they were very embarrassed and polite and gave me toothbrush. Go figure.

For about a week I lived at Catherine's place. She was incredible at switching between French and English and her knowledge of the Japanese language down to its deeply mysterious mechanics was amazing. She lived with her husband who was Korean-Japanese and really nice.

Catherine and her husband provided me a safe haven after my release
After a week of being as active as an average potato, I decided to move my ass and hitchhike north, towards Hokkaido.

In conclusion, I was not released because I was innocent, I was released because kittens are cute.