There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 3: Tsukimori-gumi’s Natural Income Sources
Volume 3: Tsukuyomi, the Dark Secret Organization
Illuminated by the neon signs that lined the busy street that we were on, Tsukimori-oyabun turned back toward me and flashed me a wry grin while pushing his light brown sunglasses back up. Everything about him was screaming “he’s a yakuza!”, but apparently he really wasn’t a yakuza. At the very least, I had used telekinesis to pay the Metropolitan Police Department a visit, and confirmed that the name “Tsukimori-gumi” was indeed not on the list of official crime syndicates, the list of unofficial crime syndicates, nor the list of pseudo-crime syndicates. Tsukimori-gumi really was just a benefit society. Guess you really can’t judge people by their appearances. What I needed to do was to simply believe in the Oyabun who had put himself in harm’s way to save me.
I had been officially appointed by Miyama-san to serve as Oyabun’s bodyguard, and so I was acting the part by walking half a step behind him and warily keeping an eye on our surroundings. However, not a single denizen of what had turned into Crime City Tokyo approached to pick a fight with a guy wearing worn-out jeans and a tank top stretched out over ripped, bulging muscles. Taking the yakuza-like appearance into account, perhaps it would have been fair to say that Oyabun was the one who looked more likely to be looking for someone to pick a fight with. Is there even any meaning to me coming along as a bodyguard?
“Can Strangers even open stores, sir? I mean, in the legal sense.”
“You can drop the ‘sir.’ And to answer your question, officially, I own all of the businesses and I’m hiring all of them as part timers.”
“Isn’t that illegal employment then?”
“We just pretend like we don’t know what that is. If we make it too troublesome to bother with us, the police just give up. After all, they don’t actually have the time or resources to spend on minor offenses like illegal employment.”
But what he said was the truth, was effective, and was a necessary measure.
Legalities aside, what Strangers were desperately in need of right now were ways to fill their stomachs and put a roof over their heads. In the time that it would take to follow ‘official’ procedures, one would either die, be it from hunger or cold, or be assaulted by a hoodlum. Instead of earning money through larceny or burglary, it was better to earn money in an illegal way that doesn’t cause other people trouble.. Comparatively speaking, that was.
“The funds needed to keep the benefit society running doesn’t just come out of nowhere. The original capital came from my own pocket, but there’s no way I can endlessly cover the living expenses of all 800 members of Tsukimori-gumi. Just food alone costs ¥24 million, did you know? I need these people to get their own jobs, earn money for themselves, and to become independent.”
“Wow. It sure isn’t easy, huh.”
800 people x ¥1,000/day x 30 days does indeed work out to ¥24 million. What a frighteningly large amount.
At their core, the large majority of Strangers were, to be put bluntly, idiots who had flocked to Tokyo without carefully planning things out and therefore ended up starving on the streets. Of course, some of them were people with a proper head on their shoulders who had simply met with misfortune of some kind, but these were few and far between.
With no connections and no one to rely on in this foreign land, there was literally no other way of survival for these people that was not illegal. Even if they were to present themselves for forced deportation and acquiesce to returning to their own countries, the lines were so long that they’d have to wait months.
The more I listened to Oyabun’s explanation along the way, the more I understood about how drastic the Stranger issue was in Japan.
When a foreigner who’s entered Japan on a tourist visa fails to leave the country by the end of his or her visa’s effective period, it officially becomes illegal overstaying, and said foreigner is to be held at a Ministry of Justice facility.
There was also a system where the MOJ would temporarily exempt some people from this requirement. However, at a time like this, the interviews where they evaluated whether to grant this exception or not had grown even stricter than before. As a result, many people were left locked up inside a facility for extended periods. The heavy stress caused by such circumstances was causing a high number of suicide and attempted suicide cases. However, nothing whatsoever was being done to address this problem.
In total, there were 18 holding locations for illegal overstayers in Japan, with the overall maximum capacity being 30,000. According to the MOJ’s latest official figures, however, there were an estimated 110,000 illegal overstayers still within the country. Obviously, that was far too many for the holding facilities to fit them all. As illegal overstayers turned into illegal overstayers due to basically an automatic update of their status due to the passage of an arbitrarily stated period of time, if they did not present themselves for deportation, their numbers would never go down. To make matters worse, there was a fatal flaw in Japan’s forced deportation system.
In short, deportation proceedings could proceed only if the person in question acquiesced to being deported. If they refused, or if their home country refused to re-accept them, then there was nothing that Japan could do.
In the past, there had been an incident where a man who was forcibly deported on a long-haul flight while gagged and bound ended up dying from the experience. After that, the MOJ became extremely leery of forced deportation. And rumors of this incident reached the ears of those currently still in holding facilities, prompting them to refuse deportation. It was a vicious cycle.
The problem was not only coming from the illegal overstayers, unfortunately. Their home countries also generally did not want to re-accept troublemakers who had illegally overstayed in some other country. It was no skin off their back, so these countries did all that they could to refuse re-entry. Generally the idea was that Strangers who troubled the Japanese government when in Japan would simply trouble their home government when back home. Japan is not a trash can!
It was pretty much icing on the cake that those with pending asylum applications also could not be deported. Even those who clearly were not asylum seekers could still apply for asylum. As such, it had fast become basic common sense for illegal overstayers to apply for asylum first thing upon being caught.
The only options available to Strangers were these three: exploit the holes in the Japanese legal system to mooch off of the country, turn to crime, or die of hunger while waiting for “proper” procedure to take its course. What with the large majority of Strangers being idiots, I felt like they should all learn a lesson or two. However, the current state of affairs, which was pretty much “all trash should just die!” brought to life, was also a definite problem in my eyes.
This was a problem that I had planted the seeds for, after which it grew like a plant being supplied with all the fertilizer and water that it wanted. It might be weird to put it this way, but all those idiots with nothing but weeds in their heads and the Japanese government with all its loose and shoddy handling made for a rather synergistic union. In all the wrong ways, that was.
And yet, there was this guy here, who threw open the doors of his own house, dug into his own pockets and paid out astronomical amounts without expecting any return, and even ran around outside every night in an effort to make the city just that little bit better.
Is this person a saint?!
“…That was a rather nonchalant answer. Have you forgotten that you’re a Stranger too? If you don’t work, you’re going to starve to death too.”
“Oh, right, yessir.”
Oops, it slipped my mind, but that’s right, my cover story is that I’m a common Stranger who doesn’t have a family and has lost his memories. Gotta make it seem like I care more about all this. All right, self-reflection over.
“Anyways, here we are at our first stop. I’m coming in! You raking in the dough, Dora?”
After energetically throwing open the glass door of a diminutive office building that looked on the verge of being squashed by its towering neighbors, Oyabun called out to a foreign lady who just happened to be in the middle of lining up various jars on a shelf within a shop on the side.
“Oyabun! Maido oki-ni1!”
The lady in her forties who replied energetically had wavy flaxen hair, prominent wrinkles and freckles on her well-tanned face, and a smile that was missing a few teeth. Large circle earrings dangled from each of her ears.
Dried medicinal plants and flowerpots dangled from the ceiling of the store, with wooden planks featured prominently in the rest of the interior design. When paired together with the appearance of the store owner herself, the entire composition looked like a witch tending to her apothecary.
“This is Diandra Ionescu from Romania. We call her Dora. Dora, this guy here is an amnesiac Stranger.”
“Ahhh, he’s a friend. Friend. From Tsukimori-gumi.”
“Oh! Friend! Maido oki-ni!”
“Nice to meet you too.”
Dora-oba-san grabbed my hands and pumped them vigorously immediately after introductions were over.
“What’s this store? An herb store?”
I posed my question while looking around at the unlabeled jars of honey-colored liquid that populated the shelves together with wilted bouquets of roots or something. Oyabun answered me nonchalantly while accepting some of those suspicious-looking jars from Dora-oba-san.
“It’s dappo honey2.”
Oi oi oi oi, are you sure that Tsukimori-gumi really isn’t a yakuza clan? Please spare me the reveal that they’re actually dealing narcotics as a major source of income.
Seeing me beginning to turn pale and shake from shock and dismay, Oyabun laughed wryly while throwing one jar my way.
“Here, have one. Don’t worry, we only use absolutely natural ingredients. There’s actual honey, lavender, rosemary… uh, what else is in here?”
“Ingredients are lavender, rosemary, stevia, and lemongrass sireemadam.”
“Ah, right, that’s it. DD even got someone to help out with the cultivation and all. We grow all these herbs ourselves.”
“Doctor Degenerate3. Tsukimori-gumi’s in-house back-alley doctor.”
“That description alone already sounds terrifying.”
I was honestly quite proud of how Amaterasu was filled with really unique characters, but Tsukimori-gumi was clearly not that far behind. It was literally the first time in my life that I heard the term “back-alley doctor” being used seriously. That’s a Stranger organization for you, I guess. Kinda makes sense, suppose, what with the very definition of the organization being a gathering of the weirdest and most eccentric people from all over the world.
It took almost no time for my curiosity to get the better of me. I dipped a finger into my jar and took a lick. It turned out to be the absolutely best honey that I had ever tasted. Before I knew it, I was already on my fifth or sixth lick. The smell was also quite incredible.
“This would definitely sell. Are you sure there aren’t any illegal substances mixed inside? It’s far too delicious.”
“Apparently, Dora’s family back home ran a bee farm, so she’s using a family secret recipe or something. So then, Dora, how’s things? You earning a profit?”
“Earning, yes! Cash, cash. New topic, more herbs please. This much.”
So saying, Dora-oba-san used gestures to make a mountain with her hands. Oyabun nodded readily in response.
“Ahh, you want a lot more herbs, right? Okay, I’ll bring them over tomorrow.”
“Maido oki-ni, Oyabun!”
“You’re welcome. As for yourself, don’t work too late, all right?”
Oyabun exchanged a firm handshake with Dora-oba-san and waved goodbye. I followed him back out onto the neon-lit streets. As he began walking off with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders thrown back with confidence, I found myself admiring how reliable his back looked.
There was no doubt that he was a great employer. I was still coming to terms with the fact that he had just said ‘don’t work too late’ to someone who was essentially his employee. I had previously been under the impression that these creatures known as ‘employers’ only knew how to say things like “It’s your responsibility!”, “Pay cut!”, and “Finish this by today!”
The other stores on Oyabun’s patrol route all turned out to be places where Strangers were working. A lot of those Strangers were running small stores inside dingy-looking buildings, but some were working part-time at small-scale restaurants, and there were even a few (illegally) opening small stalls in alleyways just one step off of the main street. Some of the very last kind even had assigned bodyguards, for obvious reasons. According to Oyabun, there were Strangers under the Tsukimori-gumi umbrella scattered all over Tokyo running their own stores.
There was an enormous variety in the ways that these people were earning their living.
There were eateries run by groups of Strangers of differing nationalities who would serve local cuisine from their own culture.
There were cultural stores where Strangers showed off their country’s folk songs or dances.
There were arts and crafts stores selling traditional handicrafts from different countries.
There were even stores selling vegetables grown in verandas or rooftops à la urban agriculture, with ‘freshness’ being the selling point.
Some of the more technologically-minded Strangers were helping manage eCommerce websites and online payments for many of the above stores.
Basic Japanese was all that was needed for heavy labor at places like construction sites. Additionally, the Tsukimori residence itself was also in need of people to prepare the handout meals, do the laundry, and various other tasks. This, too, counted as “working,” and the wages for these jobs came out of Oyabun’s own pocket. I also fell into this last category.
Now, it obviously wasn’t possible for 800 people to all stay inside the Tsukimori residence. Apparently, we had leased out land on the outskirts of town and rented out cheap real estate that happened to be on the market. Society in general was distrustful of Strangers, and thus it wasn’t easy to find places that would be willing to lease. There were, however, exceptions — one prominent example being Kaburagi Realtor, a name that I may or may not have heard of before.
Most realtors would refuse to lease as soon as the word ‘Stranger’ came up, regardless of whether the property in question was residential or commercial. Strangers had no guarantors, would steal provided furnishings (let alone easily carry-able items like stoves, there was even an account of someone unscrewing a curtain rail to sell it), made a ton of noise, would really dirty up the place, easily erupt into fights or get involved with trouble, suddenly die of unnatural causes, default on their rent, and skip out by night as if it meant nothing. Of course, not all Strangers were like this, but because a large majority was, all of them were branded as “Bad Customers” and thus would be turned away at the door without even given the chance to get a word in.
Then there was Kaburagi Realtor. The owner, a beautiful woman who was familiar with a large variety of languages with varying degrees of proficiency, would personally interview applicants one by one. If she determined someone to be capable of paying, she would agree to lease without a second thought, Stranger or not. She even had a heart so large that she would pretend to see nothing when renters go so far as to split up a single room into two or three sub-leases.
I had no idea that Kaburagi-san was doing something like that. Oh wait, no, I think I remember her once mentioning something about helping foreign investors get a foot into the market by purchasing property for them by proxy.
However, I had lost my memory, so I hadn’t the faintest idea who Kaburagi-san was. Surely she is breathtakingly beautiful, is super cute, is an extremely hard worker, has a mischievous side, and is someone who so earnestly pursues her dream of becoming a princess that she’s purchased herself a peerage and is designing the construction of a castle!
Almost all the Strangers in Tsukimori-gumi could only speak broken Japanese, but at least it was to the level where basic communication was possible. Rather, it would be more correct to say that after joining Tsukimori-gumi, Strangers were “strongly recommended” to learn certain basic Japanese words and phrases absolutely necessary for doing business, and it was only after this that each one was allowed to open a store based on what made him or her special. However, broken Japanese was very limited in the conveying of more difficult concepts, so at two or three of the stores, I got to show off my EIKEN Grade Pre-14 proficiency and help resolve whatever problem it was that the store owner was having. I got thanked by Oyabun each time. The honor is all mine, boss!
In this manner, I got to experience up close and personal the struggles and circumstances that Strangers were dealing with, something that I had previously only seen through the news and social media. Our patrol continued on without a hitch all the way until we reached a store that was selling high purity curry powder.
Prakash Kumar-shi was a young man from India who had quit his corporate job to open his mind’s eye here in the “power spot” that was Tokyo. Somewhere along the way, however, he got scammed by yakuza and ended up losing everything that he owned.
Now, this guy actually had zero knowledge about spices. Just like anyone else, he would use store-bought powder when making curry, and had absolutely no experience with handling anything “authentic.” However, under Oyabun’s order, his job was to stand at street corners holding a placard that said “Authentic High Purity Curry Powder” and sell what was essentially store-bought curry powder mixed with ‘herbs.’ With his Indian-looking face sporting a goatee and his Indian-looking outfit complementing his light brown skin, he very much looked like an Indian. Now, when someone who really looks the part sells something that fits expectations, there is actually a rather sizable percentage of people who would end up thinking “That looks kinda legit!” and buy whatever it is that’s being sold. Might sound like a scam, but in this case, it technically was not. After all, what was being sold was still perfectly edible curry powder. Incidentally, Tsukimori-gumi also had a Brazilian woman going around selling “Authentic Coffee Beans.”
Oyabun was having a lively conversation with Prakash-san, who actually could speak Japanese fairly well, while exchanging Dora-oba-san’s dappo honey for some authentic high purity curry powder.
Aren’t these guys just way too amusing?! How about I just use the entire Tsukimori-gumi as the foundation for the dark secret organization? No, wait, today is still the first day, I gotta at least watch them a little bit more!
As I was busy holding myself back while watching on, a yakuza-looking thug wearing black sunglasses and a black suit suddenly appeared in front of me. The man had his hands in his pockets and was slouched in a menacing pose.
“Hey ‘brothers,’ business looking pretty good, huh?”
Oooo, great delivery! That was a really yakuza-like line! This guy’s really yakuza-like! Though when compared to Oyabun, he’s not even the littlest bit scary.
“This here’s Tanioka-gumi turf. Who gave you permission to sell your shit here, huh? Let’s hear it, huh?!”
“Oh, hey there, look, we’re really sorry about that. We’ll move immediately.”
“Stop giving me that shit and just pay up, you fuckers!”
Oyabun stepped out in front of Prakash-san, who was quivering with fright, and lowered his head in apology. The yakuza was getting a kick out of seeing such a macho dude lower his head, and quickly let that get to his head.
Who do you think you are to make our Oyabun lower his head to you, huh?! How about you cough up some “compensation,” huh?!
As a bodyguard, I couldn’t just do nothing. Even if we were conducting illegal business, that was no reason for us to get shaken down. You are the one who’ll disappear!5
I moved to stand in front of Oyabun. Oyabun murmured “Oi, don’t make it a scene!” under his breath, to which I nodded in acknowledgement. To respect his wishes, I decided to settle this peacefully.
“And who the fuck are you supposed to be, huh? Nobody called for you, so how about you just disappear, huh?”
“Oh, come now, how about we all calm down? Would you like a lick of this honey—oh look, your shoelaces just snapped. Looks like today might be an unlucky day for you. Maybe you should go home for the day, don’t you think?”
“The fuck you smoking, bro? Like fuck I care about my fucking shoelaces. And honey? The fuck’s wrong with you?”
The yakuza only shot a quick glance at his shoes. He looked a bit pissed off, but otherwise showed no intention of leaving us alone.
Aww, that didn’t work?
Mannnnn, it just hurts my heart so, so much. I really don’t have a choice, do I? Guess it’s Unluckiness Level 2, then.
As the yakuza continued talking up a storm in a menacing tone, a snap! could be heard coming from around his waist area.
Immediately afterwards, the torn ends of the yakuza’s belt dangled down.
“Um, your belt snapped.”
“Hah? Like fuck I care about my fucking be—wait, belt? MY BELT?!”
The yakuza’s eyes nearly popped out of his head as he did a double take at his freely dangling belt. Thanks for the hilarious reaction!
“Oh man, now that’s reeeeally unlucky, don’t you think? Hmm?”
I closed the distance to the dumbfounded yakuza. As if he was being approached by a terrifying monster, the guy slowly stumbled backwards, his face twitching uncontrollably.
I brought my face to his ear, then whispered.
“Whatever is going to snap next, I wonder. Maybe you really should go home for the day, hmm?”
“I-I suddenly remembered something urgent I gotta do! I’ll let you guys off the hook for today! B-B-Be thankful!”
Yakuza has run away!6
I used Telekinesis to pickpocket 55,000 yen from Yakuza’s wallet! Oh hey, this guy actually had quite a lot on him.
“I’m not sure what just happened, but it looks like things went well. Thanks for your help.”
“Maido oki-ni! Maido oki-ni!”
Oyabun and Prakash-san thanked me profusely, causing me to become slightly embarrassed. That was an easy event. The dark side of society’s kinda fun!
As Prakash-san’s place was the last stop on today’s patrol, Oyabun and I turned to head back toward the Tsukimori residence.
I thought I had handled the encounter with the yakuza rather well, but Oyabun had a grim look on his face the entire time. Did I actually mess up somehow? Should I have peacefully sent the guy into the hospital instead?
“Oyabun, is something the matter?”
Reacting to my question, Oyabun stared at my face and, after a moment of hesitation, spoke to me.
“You’ve only just joined us yesterday, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to tell you. That yakuza just now mentioned the name ‘Tanioka-gumi,’ didn’t he? Tanioka-gumi is a yakuza gang that’s exploded in size in the past year. Now, they’re the largest group within Tokyo.”
“Our businesses are being hit really hard by them. The guys who assaulted you and your friends yesterday were also from Tanioka-gumi. Even though I go around on patrol like this every night, I can’t be everywhere at all times. Due to that… I’m sorry to say this, but at this rate, Tsukimori-gumi cannot last even three more months.”
“Eh, for real?”
Turns out, the organization that I had considered as the foundation for the dark secret organization was actually on the verge of collapse.
What should I do?
Hey there, thanks for reading!
If you’re enjoying the series, please consider buying Volumes 1 and 2 in Japanese and English to support Kurodome-sensei and me!
All details in the Table of Contents page.
1 “Maido” normally means “thank you for your continued patronage,” whereas “ookini” means “thank you” in Kansai dialect. To my knowledge, these two phrases are not normally said together, but if they are to be, the correct way would be to say them like “Ookini! Maido ari!” as two separate sentences in that order. In other words, Dora here is butchering both the pronunciation of “ookini” and also the sentence structure itself. I suspect this to be a reference to boy idol group SMAP’s 1994 hit song “Hey Hey Ookini Maido-ari.”
2 A play on “dappo habu,” also known as “loophole herb.” Dappo habu is similar to synthetic marijuana. As this article puts it, dappo habu is “a quasi-legal mix of herbs laced with chemical compounds that pack a narcotic punch…the chemists who made it managed to play a legal cat-and-mouse game, tweaking the molecular makeup of the active ingredients whenever a previous strain was banned. Tinkering in the lab would allow the new variant to slip under the legal radar again for a time, hence the term “loophole” herb.”
3 Actual Japanese name is “Doctor Dogusare”. To explain “dogusare,” gonna borrow the explanation from this post. The “do” is a prefix meaning “very,” and “gusare” comes from “腐れ”, which means “rotten.” In short, calling someone “dogusare” is a strong insult that labels the target as being deeply morally corrupt. Apparently is a dialect word used in a very limited part of Japan.
4 EIKEN is one of the most widely used English-language testing programs in Japan (kinda like TOEFL). According to the official website, Grade Pre-1 is “aimed at university students.” This is the second-highest level available (with the highest being Grade 1. Why the counting is 1, Pre-1, 2, Pre-2, 3, 4, 5 and not just 1-7 is beyond me.)
5 “Kieru no wa omae da! (消えるのはお前だ！) is a generic phrase that, because of its generic-ness, appears often in manga. Examples that quickly came up in search include One Piece and Fist of the Blue Sky. Not sure if it’s an actual meme or not.
6 Dragon Quest reference.