Max Danger revisited

Opinions - June 29th, 2002
Robert J. Collins

by Robert J. Collins

I began writing the Max Danger stories 20 years ago. They were published in each issue of Tokyo Weekender, which because it was a real-life weekly newspaper then, meant serious wrestling with deadlines every seven days instead of the current twice-a-month tussle. (How could I have done that?)

Two Max Danger books were eventually published in the mid-’80s by Charles E. Tuttle and down through the years they’ve sold well (thank you very much). I still get income from them.

The on-going reviews from readers, as reported in Amazon or the Barnes & Noble site, are still quite positive although now and then it’s observed that the stories are “showing their age” or have gotten “a little long of tooth.”

I would hope they’re show­ing their age—Max was out and around 20 years ago. A quick peek at the mirror confirms the fact that 20 years is a long time.

I must say, however, that the World Cup Soccer extravaganza, with thousands of first-time visi­tors pouring into Japan, reveals the continuing existence of cul­tural hang-ups and misunder­standings. Have people and institutions become more sophisticated during the last 20 years? Of course, still…

Consider the six or seven young Englishmen (the number varies depending upon which paper wrote about them) who hitchhiked to Sapporo from Tokyo because they only brought with them the equiva­lent of ¥5,000 per day for expenses. After begging rides in trucks and family cars, they arrive in Hokkaido late at night with no prospects for hotel accommodations within the lim­its of their budgets.

They ran into some World Cup organizers who took pity on them and placed a few of them for the night in a high school gymnasium. Because of the excitement of it all, participants in one of the match’s opening ceremonies were also staying there. Everyone—including the English visitors—stayed up all night… rehearsing (“Pure agony,” one of the Englishmen was reported to say the next day).

Meanwhile, the other mem­bers of the visiting group were put up in a businessman’s hotel, which was so efficient that the two men could not lie down at the same time. They spent the entire night taking turns in bed—an alarm going off every hour.

The final two members of the group were put up, no doubt at great expense to management, in a love hotel. (“A flop like you’ve never imagined in your wildest, mate.”) You can easily imagine the culturally conflict­ing attitudes on the parts of the donors and donees, even in this sophisticated day and age.

Think of the team from the Cameroons and their new friends up in some countryside village. The villagers had no real idea where the Cameroons were located, they were only vaguely aware of soccer as an interna­tional game, but there would have been “broken hearts” if those guys didn’t show up in their wandering bus. (“Not com­plicated people,” one of the ath­letes was reported to say. One wonders what the average village in the Cameroons is like.)

The search for “hooligan­ism” on the part of Japanese law enforcement personnel is becoming more and more fool­ish as time goes by. (Mind you, this column is written with con­siderable lead-time, and all hell could have broken out by the time this makes it to print.)

The riot cops are every­where. They’ve even managed to show up in Roppongi, and for a change, that area has been safer the last few weeks. It would be nice having the threat of hooli­ganism in Roppongi all year long.

The problem is the media. They’re hoping for something to happen. They’re geared up for it. And they’re going around asking people when the hooliganism will break out, rubbing their hands in anticipation.

Are there still miscommunications and cultural strikeouts going on? In my opinion, these things are still happening. All the time. Are the Max Danger sto­ries long in tooth? Probably. But not as much as you might think.