Philipe Nico



     It was nineteen hundred and ninety six. I had spent four solid years planning the take-over of Japan. Please realize that I had no qualified reason to enslave the people who shared their baths. I had no vindictive reason to battle the tear drenched natives who taught me Sayonara meant a long goodbye. It started as a whim.

     Yes, I might have looked to conquer Sweden. Ever since Gustav Swendel (the national Kendo champion) got his stick broke by a young girl—I saw the vulnerability. I saw that the Swedish exchange students could be led around by their groins, opted to make love in any diseased bathroom. They were not a challenge. Furthermore, I did not speak a word of Swedish. If all else failed, I could resort to the bastard mix of Japanese-English.

     On February four, nineteen hundred ninety six, I returned to Japan to conquer. The plane ticket was bought in a dubious travel box for a little less than five hundred dollars. Like all great conquerors, I was conscious of supply, anxious to see my idea marched to victory.

     The guards at Narita Airport did not know I was there to conquer. They asked me the usual questions about pornography and cigarettes. I was in stealth mode though. They really had no other option than to stamp my passport, direct me to register at the local office in three days. At the time I felt that the conquering of Japan could be completed in three days. I smiled in response and took to imagining the inquistive guard down on his knees. Soon he would have to register to me.

     It was late in the night and the janitors of road swept the streets with rolling brush tanks. Tokyo cleansed itself of possible plague while I followed two slender legs down a concourse. I enlisted the pretty girl and her skirt for directions in the most honorific of broken Japanese. All good invaders need comfort. “Lovu Hoteru wa doko desuka?” She answered in perfect English, “Love hotel? You missed the last train.” I could see that she wanted to be my sonderkomado. She was easier to steer than Mussolini with his jutting chest. Yes, she would make a fine assistant.

     She walked ten steps before me, constantly looking back to make sure her commander was not hindered. I gave her soap opera faces, pinching my eyes, all stations ready. She seemed constantly agitated by the police boxes that adorned every other city block. She pointed these out as we passed, “Do not make them come after you.” Yes, she was right. We must be sneaky.

     I took to following twenty paces behind her. The girl was my road tester, food taster; a brilliant aid who would do anything for me. She walked very quickly after the last police booth, knowing that we were in the clear. I was so impressed with her vigor.

     My aid rounded a side street. I paused to wonder why she failed to slow down and point to the commuter motel on the corner. The sign said three thousand yen for a small sliding cubicle. The commuter motels pulled out a second story tray bed (like a morgue), took your money, gave you a rest. It was the closest thing to death in the city.

     She understood me! To conquer this land, I would have to ration my money. I ran briskly with my trade tools packed in a suitcase behind, thum—p, thum-p, thumping. Her intense love for the mission had made her wander too far forward. I knew that she would be an able scout.

     Three hours later, I found my assistant (and scout) hunched to sleep inside a vinyl padded booth at Denny’s. “Sugoii!” I blasted an approval, sliding next to her in file. I ordered coffee for three hundred yen. She was so stirred with the day’s possibility that she could not sleep a wink again.


     “Joseii wa doko desuka?” The waitress only shrugged. The enemy would not say were my companion went. I woke with fear, ruffled clothes and a bill. I pocketed the receipt, knowing that my homeland would deduct the expense as a business necessity when I conquered Japan completely.

     This business about the missing assistant was quite perplexing. What did it mean? I envisioned that they took her to Monkey Island in Uraga Bay, beat her with bags of oranges, tortured her proper. Should I rescue my comrade?

     This was a very tough decision. Like Alexander before me, I knew that I should not go up the peninsula until I had conquered the city. “Never back track.” This was the one lesson that any retreating infantry would say just as he is shot in the spine. The Marines might have done anything to save their comrade but I was not a Marine, I was here to conquer, casualties would just have to take a number.

     “Sumimasen, hosteru wa doko desuka?” The waitress frowned. Even after I showed her the map, she seemed unable or unwilling to direct me to my headquarters. The International Hostel was well cloaked inside a western hotel. Only under the guise of international tourism and business could we keep our shoes on.

     I found base camp three hours after getting up. It was almost noon, the rest of the forces had left on their missions for the day. I read a note that said, “No showers after 11:00.” They were trying to trap me with my filth! I could not wash off my Yankee perspiration. It would take ten bowls of shark ramen to acclimate the body. The Yankee smells must be diluted.

     I walked past the clerk in the lobby, unwashed, hair capped by a Giants baseball cap. My first mission was to find a ramen shop, drink two liters of Kirin beer and practice my dexterity with the chopsticks. “Excuse me sir.” Though I pivoted magnificently, ready for an Aikido attack or perhaps a small band of police to rush me; he chose to assault with diplomacy. “How long do you stay?”

     Yes, the spy wanted my itinerary. I would not tell him though. Instead of simply ignoring, I told him to “keep the meter running.” He said he did not understand, wrinkled his eyes, a facial canvas missing hue. I snarled back that he would understand completely once I started working.


It was silly to look for a Ramen-ya by train. I couldn’t be bothered that the roads of Tokyo are laid out as a labyrinth. Ever since Edo changed its name to “Eastern Capital’, the Koreans, Chinese, Russians, and Americans visited by warship or bomb. I was decided to do my conquering with only the use of foot and mouth.

     The Japanese would laud me ten smiles past the itch of my infestation. I had heard of the statue to Admiral Perry that waits timeless, watchful before the harbor. I would be their national care-taker. Macarthur never got a statue. He should have taken more care. Macarthur never got a national holiday but Perry did. I was determined to be the third great influence on this historically isolated people. The third leader holds the charm-gun. I was destined to be their favorite invader.

     I walked around the district still called Shibuya. I took down notes about the wealth of buildings, parks, and bridges. The district was immaculate. The country maps would have to be relabeled “Sheba.” There was no use wasting extra syllables.

     On my right a man bent over by the weight of blankets and gear on his back, all dirtied and forsaken-- flanked by a street of many suits. There were many men carrying briefcases. I waited for someone to pucker their nose from the stink of a Yankee roast beef sandwich (my last meal in the states). They pretended not to notice as they walked by in swarms. Even children were too busy to point and scream, “GAIJIN,GAIJIN, GAIJIN!” Yes, the productive citizens had failed to notice the foreigner. I worried why none was pointing me out. Had they been forewarned to my coming?

     The man with blankets stopped his travels. He stood upright at last, the large bundle of necessities stayed fast. I looked at his pack waiting for everything he owned to fall off his back. It would not. He looked at the invader with the Giants baseball hat and scoffed. Then he sat down, took out a newspaper and began to read the sports section.

     I remained watching instead of finding some ramen. Perhaps we were both hungry. This made me worried to the odd man's intentions when he starred at me. He mulled over a page, put it down, fixed his eyes upon me, snarled, then turned to the next.

     Two elderly Japanese people to my left, one man, the other a lady, stood before a subway entrance. He was dressed in a black suit with glasses. She had opal beads around her neck with a shimmering dress that covered everything above her pumps. I guess they were near their eightieth birthdays. I watched the man take a long bow with his eyes to the pavement. The woman repeated. The homeless man glanced up at me from his paper--I swear he was salivating--and then he returned to his sports.

     The old man did not stop bowing. He repeated the salute. Each time the old woman followed. Each time he got lower and lower, his head nearing the sidewalk. Their age at last slowed for the excessive stomach strain, otherwise they might have continued on as two pistons. I tried to count the number of repetitions. They would not stop, not even after twenty.

     The bum stayed in his alley. There were hundred or thousands of people passing but none seemed to notice. I studied the bum’s alleyway. Yes, it did resemble a bunker of sorts. Maybe a spider layer. He could probably stay back there for six days out of the week, till the street janitors came sweeping. I knew then that I must conquer the homeless just as soon as I finished the middle and upper classes. It would be my greatest triumph. What had Perry and his stupid holiday ever done for them?

     The bum’s newspaper would have to go of course. There was no use giving people information if they were not apt to use it. My homeless in the New Japan would have to take an exam in theatre. If they failed we would force them to get a job.

     The strain on the old people near the subway entrance was becoming too much. Their mutual pride could not withstand the years. I smiled as they slowly eked out the last of their salutes, stiff with standing crunches. It annoyed me that they should be so committed while their new invader had not yet parlayed a shower. The homeless man caught my thoughts and then my glance. He realized that our mutual lack of hygeine made us kin.

     In a rush of impatience, the bum stepped toward me. I must admit I was terrified. His hundred pounds of gear spread out on both sides of his torso. Even with the hobbling steps he seemed forceful, a charging man-bear. I could not retreat! I am shamed that Alexander would have seen me even try, looking back and left for my own little alley. I desperately wanted a bunker.

     The homeless man-bear was just a few paces from me. He struggled forward with slow hobbles, I thought he would grab me, squat down, gobble me up like a roly-poly with fangs. I could smell his arm dirt and I knew he smelled my Yankee roast beef sweat as he paused in lunge for only a second. The long gray beard trailed his head in a sniff from left to right. He understood it must be my filth that reeked, not his, still the Hobulus came reaching out—I dare say I shut my eyes and hunched with upward palms just like a little girl. His gigantic homeless, newspaper reading eyes roamed me—I felt their shadow while I cringed—looking for the best attack. In that second before the leap I felt warm vinegar in my groin, cold freezing stiffness in my legs, heavy arms and the lightest head.

     “KITTE!” Two old ladies from the national guard took him by the arms. They did not even notice me, haranguing the man as they were, they walked him to the nearest foodbox. I could make out half their yells, they berated him for not eating. They scorned him for being such a street curiosity.

     In my first mission to find food, I had baited the homeless man to come out of his bunker. It was more than I could ever have expected.


     Two Japanese youths with spiked hair and bright yellow shirts stopped me to practice their English. “Hey man, you surf or cowboy?” I knew the young people would be easy to conquer. I smiled at them and offered a pack of Camel cigarettes.

     They bobbed their heads, took my cigarettes, lit up with two shiny Zippo lighters. “Cool. You cool man.” The one with bleached roots pointed to my Giants hat. “Baseball is good @#%$.”

     I looked over my recruits. They were smart boys, I could see. Only by wearing combat boots in their slipper frigid schools would the lads dare to show their allegiances. I took the bleached hair boy aside. “Are you wearing neku-tai in school?” He seemed ashamed to say they did. The revolution was going to be slow.

     The second boy had Bono sunglasses. He took these off and walked around me, appreciating my pants. “You have mo Levisu?” I told him that I did. I did not tell him where my command post was and how many pairs of Levi Straus were in my munitions. He would have to be tested first. The boys talked amongst themselves. They did not realize that their foreign leader understood half of their native tongue. I smiled in knowing that they both longed for my uniform. I knew that my jeans were expensive but what would they pay?

( Please remember that conquers need money, thus we must entertain whatever opportunities come our way. )

     “You sell the Levisu?” the bleach boy said at last. I smiled. He wanted my filth. He wanted the way I walked in my semi-baggy relaxed fit uniform. I could not decide if I should warn him of the urine stain. Perhaps Yankee urine spots would be an added bonus. He could parade the jeans in front of his friends, spouting “I have received the holy water of our savior!”

     I put my hand on the boy’s shoulder. He was tall. The fit might work.

     The bleach boy looked to the other with sunglasses. He was beaming that I gave him such affection. Yes, the invader must capture the hearts of the people.

     “Hai. Iiyoo.” We agreed upon a price. I took some polyester pants for myself, took the bleach boys phone number—I would certainly supply his friends. Then we all walked to a Ramen-ya, toasted with golden glassfuls of Kirin beer. They were honored to pay for the meal. I spent two hours fixing their grammar. We went to a bookstore and bought matching dictionaries. In parting, I told the new soldiers that the war would be long.

     They promised to smoke some weed and think about it.

philipe Nico

Philipe Nicolini. Enjoys writing about his rural upbringing in California's San Joaquin Valley. Once sold into educational slavery in Tokyo, now rinsing his days in Seattle; Nco works by night. In the night there is calm.

messageboard feedback

interview | website | email | to forum | BACK
© 1998-2003 philipe Nico / - all rights reserved
[ TOP ]