¥15000 for Ice Cream

Saturday I was sitting with my student in the outdoor cafe of a Starbucks in Tokyo. It was a beautiful day…perhaps the last warm day of the year. We’ve been meeting every Saturday for over 3 years now so it’s less a teacher-student relationship than a friendship.  I usually don’t do much on Saturday afternoons, and he’s pretty high level, so an hour-long lesson can easily turn into a 3-4 hour chat (no extra charge of course) and often does. Saturday was one of those days.

After a couple of hours the conversation had begun to wind down. He asked me was I OK because I wasn’t being my usual talkative self.  He actually knows me better than most people in Japan.

“Oh, sorry, I’m a little distracted…Hey! Maybe you can help me,” I said.

“Who, me?”

“Yeah, you…I’m trying to think of something to write about, but…”

“For your blog?”


“Hmm….” he said, and started thinking. “Difficult. You’ve covered so much already.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

Meanwhile, at the curb a few feet away a BMW pulled up. Along the curb there was a green railing / fence, which was either there to deter people from crossing at any point aside from at the corner or because parking there was illegal, or both. It was an older BMW, maybe from the 90’s or early 2000s. I noticed the rims weren’t clean and the interior wasn’t leather, and that it hadn’t met a diaper lately-maybe ever. It hadn’t even seen a car wash in a while. And that struck me as unusual…I mean, if I had a BMW I’d clean it regularly and hand wax it with a diaper.

And, I realized that I rarely if ever see old cars, hoopties or junkers in Japan. Back home MOST cars were old, and junkers were everywhere. Late model cars stood out. Used, worn, beat-up cars were the norm.

“How about NY? I’d like to read about NY…why don’t you write…”

“Already did that, remember?” My student has been an avid reader of my blog since its inception a year ago. “I wrote that comparison between NY and Yokohama. And I also wrote about going home after having lived here and how that changed my feelings about NY and what not. Remember?

“That’s right, I remember…that was really good!”


There was a young couple in the BMW. He parked far enough from the rail that she could just open her door and slide out of the passenger side. She was cute and fashionable, and dressed like an erotic ballerina- a not so graceful Sugar Plum Fairy who shopped at Frederick’s of Hollywood or Victoria’s Secret and had traded in her ballerina flats for 2-inch pumps. She had long legs, a short tu-tu,  thigh-high dark stockings, and I’m pretty sure I peeped a garter belt as she got out.

“You know, you could write about how things in Japan have changed for black people since Barack Obama became president…”

I looked away from the BMW to my student’s face. “Have they?”

“Haven’t they?”

“I haven’t noticed any difference…” I said and turned back to the BMW just in time to find the girl staring at me. When she realized she was staring (it took a moment, she was mesmerized) she jerked her head away and looked up the street at something I couldn’t see from the cafe.

“Have they changed?” I joked.

“Yes we can,” he said, and laughed. “Someday, anyway. But I think Japanese people are at least more…er…interested in black people.”

“Hmmm,” I said. “Well, that’s something…”

The guy emerged from the driver’s side moments later. He was handsome. Looked like a freshman Salaryman or a University student soon to graduate. He was dressed casual in jeans, a collegiate hoodie, sneakers, fussy hair- moussed or gel’d- and expensive sunglasses. He took a quick look around, a less than quick look at me, then gestured to his girl to head up the street. They had to walk in the street because of the railing. He could have easily hurdled it but she couldn’t have without lifting her legs and putting her business all in the street. The closest opening in the fence to come onto the sidewalk was at the corner. They disappeared from view and I turned to my student.

“Maybe I could write about how things haven’t changed at all in Japan 1 year into the Obama administration,” I said.

“I don’t know…maybe,” my student sighed.

Just then, 2 traffic patrol guys walked up to the BMW. One stood in front and wrote into a pad. The other headed for the rear of the car where he took several pictures of the license plate.

I’d never seen a parking ticket given in such a way… “You see this?”

My student surveyed the scene. “Yeah, they’re giving that car a ticket…”

“I know, but damn. The driver and his girlfriend were just there. They just went that way. That’s fast. It’s like they were waiting for them to leave.”

“They probably were…”

“That’s just foul,” I snapped. “I mean, even in NY, a city perpetually in the goddamn red, if the cops see you about to park illegally, they’d warn you off. They’ve always warned me off…if I had known it was illegal to park here, hell, I would have warned them off!”

“There must be s a sign somewhere…”

We both looked around. No sign anywhere.

“But, they’ll give them a few minutes to come back. They’re just preparing,” my student said.

“Really?” and just as he was saying it, the two patrol guys stepped back over the rail and onto the sidewalk and huddled for a moment…still writing and discussing and observing the car.

“What, is this like a grace period?” I asked. All of this fascinated me.

“What’s a grace period?”

“It’s like when…” but just as I  began to explain, the two of them climbed back over the rail and the one that had been writing stuck the ticket first on the driver’s side windshield then removed it and replaced it on the passenger side windshield. Then they turned, marched to their truck, got in and drove off.

“That wasn’t five minutes…that was more like one minute.”

“Well 5 minutes, give or take a few minutes…”

“That’s so fucked up!” I said. “How much is a parking ticket usually?”

“About 15000 yen.”

“Wow! That’s steep!”

Just then the couple came back…apparently they had gone to Baskin Robbins / 31

PBA Card

Flavors up the block. They both had cups of ice cream. They got into the car without noticing the ticket on the windshield, or maybe they thought it was an advertisement or something. When the guy finally noticed the ticket on the windshield, he didn’t have much of a reaction, so I figured he was either rich, a cop, or son or brother of a cop and had the Japanese equivalent of a PBA card. PBA cards work like magic back home. You can get out of paying tickets easily…

He asked the girl, who had been eating her ice cream with this thing on the windshield in front of her and hadn’t even noticed it, to hand the thing to him.  The girl reached her hand out the window and peeled it off the windshield, handing it to him. Now came the natural reaction: he freaked out. I couldn’t read his lips, but when he took their ice cream cups and dropped them out of the window of the car, and took off, I knew what he must have been thinking: 15000 yen for ice cream! FUCK ME!



11 Responses to “¥15000 for Ice Cream”

  1. 1 tem
    December 20, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    You got a natural ability to take the mundane and make it seem exciting – great writing as always.

  2. December 20, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Threw the garbage in the street? 15000 yen was nowhere near enough for that douchebag.

  3. December 20, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Very good story

  4. December 21, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Wow and it’s only a tiny little cup too! Geez. That is pretty foul, but in a city with very little crime it seems the cops jump on anything they can get. That’s no excuse for assholerie of course, but I have the same kind of thing going on in my sleepy little suburb. Our PD has one of the highest pay rates in the county, yet I find myself and others being harassed by them for THE DUMBEST things. You are right about parking tickets here, but when it comes down to every other kind of mild offense even the PBA card doesn’t fly anymore. For instance-

    The other day I went to the store for a Dutch, and an officer was there drinking coffee. I admit I do look like Shaggy from Scooby-doo sometimes when I forget to shave, but this guy got in his car and followed me TO MY HOUSE! He gets out of the car and says “ok where’s the weed, I know you have it on you somewhere!” Not hello or how ya doin… I was very tempted to ask for his badge number for being on my property so I could report him, but I know I’d just be VERY screwed in the long run(it is a brotherhood after all). So long story short, he ended up searching me and my car in MY DRIVEWAY, and eventually gave up when he couldn’t find anything. Sonofabitch! But yeah no real point here, just an anectdote.

    Your last 4pt. series was great and shows how even on the other side of the world there are buck passers 😛 aside from many other things. As far as not knowing what to write about, I think you are right on the money with the observational pieces and sometimes there just aint shit going on so don’t sweat it… If you keep your eyes peeled I’m sure life will continue to inspire you! I just started a blog and man it’s complicated. WTF is a widget? lol anyways… I wanted to ask have you ever been to Chukagai? It seems like a crowded nuthouse but apparently they have excellent eats and wonderful people-watching there. Stay up Loco!

  5. 5 Cedric Domani
    December 21, 2009 at 11:36 am

    How does that N.W.A song go again…..?

    • December 21, 2009 at 11:43 am

      Fuck da police LOL

  6. December 21, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    great story i wish my readers were as smart as yours.

  7. December 22, 2009 at 4:24 am

    When I read the title, I thought you were going to introduce some sort of expensive ice cream from Japan but good story none the less.

  8. 9 Aka Gaijin
    December 25, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I got nailed in a similar way near DC. Was helping my friend move to a house in Arlington. Parked at at meter right in front of the new house, grabbed a box, and took it inside. I asked him for $.50 and headed out the door. When I got outside, there was a meter jackass sticking a ticket in my windshield. I told him I was inside for less than a minute, and he gave me that “Sorry!” with a big grin that only assholes can pull off.

    I called his supervisor later. First thing I said to her was “I will pay the ticket” and proceeded to ask what the grace period is before a ticket is issued. She just kept repeating “You have to pay the ticket.” My reply…

    “Earth to stupid cunt! Try listening next time somebody asks an honest question. I’m going to pay the fucking ticket. I just wanted to know why your staff issue tickets 30 seconds after a person parks.”

    …and hung up on her before she could reply.

  9. 10 Red Dog
    December 26, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Hey Loco
    how’s it going? It’s Red Dog from the Dirty Smoke. Just checking in after a break. Last time u were doing the USA piece.
    Anyway, up from Kansai for a break. Couldn’t fly out this year. So can u suggest any decents spots in Tokyo area. good music, good clientele. Or failing that just busy places where the girls are very friendly.

    I’m at Shinagawa. Let me know.

    Now back to the post.

    Peace 🙂

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