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A Japanese Parliament Member’s Car Hit Me in 1995 and I Was Bribed to Stay Quiet

An eye-opening experience

By Scott ChristensonPublished about a month ago 5 min read
Me on my last day (center) at Mitsubishi Bank’s Tokyo headquarters in 1995 — photo by author author

Six months after landing in Tokyo, having spent my life savings trying to start a new life, I finally landed a job. After living in poverty on $10 a day, I entered the world I always dreamed of. A position in the center of Japan’s economic engine, working within the headquarters of the country’s largest bank, Mitsubishi Bank. I used my I.T. skills to scour their databases for discrepancies and misbookings. I was called into meetings with the management to give reports on errors involving millions of dollars, then asked to leave when they discussed what to do about them.

ai artwork by author

During my lunch break — socially, I was a bit of an orphan in the very Japanese work environment—I would wander around the headquarters building. I discovered a dark room filled with massage chairs occupied by snoozing middle-aged salesmen, nursing hangovers from the previous night’s drinking. On another floor, a line of conference rooms. In one, a famous Van Gogh painting hung on the wall in an empty room. Surely it was worth tens of millions of dollars. I wanted to touch it, but I wouldn’t care. Later I was told, it had been repossessed from a bankrupt real estate developer, and Mitsubishi Bank didn’t know what to do with it.

Surrounded by this vast wealth, ironically, I had no money at all. New employees earned $25,000 a year. That was barely enough to rent a microscopic apartment and buy dinners from 7-11, in an expensive city like Tokyo.

To save time and money, I travelled to work on a 50cc scooter — the wheels of delivery drivers all over Asia — and parked it five blocks away from the office to avoid anyone seeing me.

Roppongi Cross--Google Street View

My daily route took me through Roppongi, the city’s nightlife district, in the 1990s, full of exclusive nightclubs and hostess bars.

On 8pm on a Thursday, with traffic at a standstill, I took advantage of the scooter’s ability to zip between lanes of traffic to keep moving. In an instant, a fear I had in the back of my mind, suddenly became real.

A car door opened.

Whoever was inside, was exiting the car to go to his destination in Roppongi.

I swerved, but not fast enough. The edge of the door struck my scooter and knocked me off balance, sending me crashing into the ground at 20 km/hr.

Toyota Crown -- Wikipedia

Laying stunned on the ground for what felt an eternity, I pulled myself up, and then in pain, I hauled my scooter to the side of the road to check if I had broken anything.

As I stood in a daze, a figure exited the car and approached. He had walked out of an unmarked black Toyota Crown, the car business executives used to shuttle between appointments. In a black suit and tie, the chauffeur stood before me, apologizing profusely.

We exchanged business cards. There was nothing else to do, unless we called the police, and that was never a good thing for a foreigner, so I said I was fine, and left.

A day later, I received a call.

Are you ok? he asked.

My wrist hurts, but I think I’m ok.

We would like to buy you a coffee and formally apologize for the accident.

I was surprised to receive this unsolicited phone call, but with my basic Japanese language skills, I took down the meeting time and location he suggested, and agreed to see him the next day.

From my wallet, I examined the business card he had given me the previous day. Using a Kanji dictionary, I translated it character by character: Driver for Japanese Parliament Member Suzuki.

A Taxing Woman - Wikipedia

At the time, I was fond of the film, Marusa no Onna, with its story about gangsters, politicians, corrupt real estate deals, and bags of cash being exchanged.

Why was the MP visiting Roppongi, I wondered? If he was apologizing to me, he must be guilty of something. An affair with a high-priced hostess? Sordid business dealings?

I pondered whether I was in the possession of important knowledge that I was not aware of. Cash for favors is how politics works, right? A briefcase of banknotes would change my life.

The next day, I entered a coffee shop in an expensive Akasaka hotel lobby. A man gestured at me. In Tokyo, I, a foreigner, stood out.

In the light of day, the driver appeared sturdier than I remembered. His thick shoulders bulged out from under his suit. He must also act as a security guard for the parliament member.

We exchanged formalities. The driver was solemn, and on the table in front of us was an expensive-looking gift bag holding something. My heart was pounding out of my chest thinking of all the possibilities.

As the driver asked about my job, and how long I’ve been in Tokyo, I mulled over my blackmail approach: Roppongi. Nightclub. Possible meetings with hostess girls. I didn’t have much to go with, except they had approached me. I contemplated throwing out a monetary figure, but it felt rude to say something uncouth in such a formal environment, and the hush money was already on the table in front of us.

We rapidly ran out of conversation topics, so the driver wrapped things up:

“I’m happy you are ok. We no longer need to mention this matter again.”

I caught his drift about not mentioning anything again, and looked him in the eye to show he can trust me to stay quiet, to keep up my side of the bargain.

I nodded respectfully, and said with as much dignity as I could muster, “I completely understand.”

As we stood up to leave, we bowed to each other in farewell — the driver making sure to bow lower than me in a show of deference. A bead of sweat dripped down his forehead — he was visibly nervous.

I picked the package on the table up and sauntered out of the hotel lobby.

No one must know about the bribe it contains. I buried it deep in my backpack and rushed home on the subway — I was taking a break from the scooter for obvious reasons.

When I arrived at my studio apartment in Harajuku — barely larger than the size of my bed, with a tiny unit bath — I closed the curtains, and carefully unwrapped the box inside. A gift which would change the course of my life.

I carefully peeled off the last layer of paper covering the beautiful package.

Inside was a box of cookies.


Having lived in Japan for ten years after the crash, I never found an answer as to why the Parliament Minister’s office went through all the effort to merely give me a box of cookies. Was that my opportunity to ask for more? Or a standard formality in Japanese culture? Perhaps someday I will find out.


About the Creator

Scott Christenson

Born and raised in Milwaukee WI, living in Hong Kong. Hoping to share some of my experiences w short story & non-fiction writing. Have a few shortlisted on Reedsy:

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Comments (6)

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  • Novel Allenabout a month ago

    It is entirely your fault, you should have done the American thing and moaned and groaned in pain. I wonder how it changed your life. Did you learn that you should think matters over before coming to a decision. Maybe he would have lost his job or......who knows. Don't listen to me...always do the right and honest thing ...maybe.

  • Fascinating story! Life is so interesting sometimes! Thanks for sharing Scott!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    I would have been bummed out they were cookies but would have been so excited the next minute because they were cookies! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 What kind were they? Were they good?

  • Sid Aaron Hirjiabout a month ago

    All that for a box of cookies. Good thing you didn’t break anything

  • Kageno Hoshinoabout a month ago

    Well I think the answer to your question probably is that Japanese people find happiness in small things(Not the greedy ones but mostly), so they thought you would be happy to take the box of cookies as a sorry. And it depends since this is what my family taught me ^ _ ^ ( Btw I'm Japanese)

  • D. J. Reddallabout a month ago

    A compelling tale, especially given its crumby conclusion. Were the cookies especially delicious? Did ingesting them have any effect on your recollection of the details of the collision?

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