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Saturday, June 15, 2002

JAPAN LITE

The coming imperial hooligan regime


A couple of weeks before the beginning of the World Cup soccer tournament, I went into the local grocery store on my island. Yes, this tiny island has a grocery store -- with four aisles! (sorry, no salad bar). We don't need more than one store, because only 800 people live here on Shiraishi Island. Do you realize how many people that isn't? A population less than two 747s full of tourists headed for Disneyland. Even a school gymnasium holds more people than our island on an average day. At the checkout counter, Amano-san, the owner/cashier/stock boy/janitor, said: "How about those hooligans? Scary, eh?" I was taken aback. I walked home with my bags of groceries, wondering where that comment came from.

Once home, I saw that the monthly Shiraishi newsletter had arrived -- a one-page broadsheet that makes all news front-page news. This newsletter provides information to residents such as the monthly toilet pumping day, big trash day, or simply reminding us to wear seat belts should we decide to drive around the 7-km perimeter of the island.

Transportation is always a big topic. The Bikology Advice Organization advises residents not to ride their bicycles drunk, the Transportation Manner Guidance Association reminds us that our "pedaling manners can stop accidents" and the Japan Transportation Safety Education Spreading Association encourages "safety cycling."

The front page also features a police section, usually a very lonely corner of the page. You get the feeling the one appointed policeman on this island wishes something, anything, would happen. He probably prays every day: Please God, don't let me lose my job! Just one abduction or theft. No? OK, how about a peeping Tom? But every month brings the same disappointment: law and order.

But not for long. According to the June issue of the Shiraishi newsletter, the hooligans are coming!

There it was, a warning notice in the police corner about hooligans, pronounced "fuu-ri-gan," in Japanese, making it sound like a type of cancer: "During the W-cup soccer tournament fuu-ri-gans will be coming to Japan. Fuurigans can be found among regular fans and travelers, and occasionally people have been killed. Even though there are no World Cup games in our prefecture, it is possible that hooligans will come to this island. Therefore, if you see any suspicious activity by foreigners, please tell the police immediately."

I thought it absurd that a hometown newsletter was instilling terror in its citizens with such projections. After all, our island isn't even on most maps. And it struck me as pompous to presume that hooligans would even WANT to come here. But then I began to think that maybe they did have a point. Our island actually is in danger -- of something much bigger.

If the hooligans do come, and presuming they come on horses, if the hooligans outnumber the islanders, we could fall prey to the British Empire! Shiraishi Island would be the jewel in the crown of the queen's golden jubilee! Although I'd welcome high tea, The Observer and the royal yacht parked in the Shiraishi port, I fear we would all die early from clotted cream, fish and chips, and running from paparazzi.

Of course, the occasional outbreaks of hooliganism would interrupt the island's law and order, but the policeman would surely feel worthy.

Despite the possibility of death, flaming cars and occasional riots, I'm beginning to warm to the idea of living under British hooligan rule for one reason: We'd have one hell of a soccer team!

Contact Amy at amychavez2000@yahoo.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com


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