“Strange Tale Part 1 The Royal Host Incident” February 18, 2003 I would like to share a little bit of an incident I experienced in the second half of last year with those who are kind enough to read my words this month. Last month, I decided to share this story as a token of my gratitude for the many concerns expressed about my golf course fall accident and the encouraging messages I received thereafter. However, I will share only a little bit, as a sort of teaser. Near my house is the Royal Host Mure branch. I believe this restaurant has been around for quite some time. I moved to Mitaka City, Mure, just under thirty years ago. I remember having a storyboard meeting for one of my works at this Royal Host, and since then, it has been there all along. In any case, I have relied on this restaurant quite a lot. I can’t remember for sure, but when I’m working on storyboards at home, this is typically the place I use as a reception room. I arrange meetings at this Royal Host, drink coffee, check art boards and settings, eat chicken cutlet sometimes, respond to interviews, and occasionally order hamburgers or ginger pork. I refill my coffee multiple times. Especially in the past two or three years, as a significant number of my works have been digitized, like DVDs, the number of interviews has increased, and I think I was visiting this restaurant at least twice a week. During interviews, cassette tapes and small microphones are set up on the table, and despite trying not to make eye contact with the staff and other customers, sometimes a camera flash goes off. I think to myself, “I should choose a different restaurant next time,” but when I’m working on my storyboard at home, I end up arranging meetings at this restaurant. Anyway, despite trying not to make eye contact with the restaurant staff, at some point, they remembered my face, and I also unknowingly recognized who the veteran staff and the manager were. In particular, I started to exchange light eye greetings with the manager each time I visited. Still, I thought I would never initiate a conversation with this manager. After all, I was the one always causing trouble and was filled with feelings of guilt. However, I believe it was around the end of last summer. This strange incident began. I’ll continue this story at another time. Hehe. It’s because it’s a little too long. ==== “Finally, the first episode towards the resolution of the Royal Host Incident” March 23, 2003 I truly experienced a mysterious feeling. As I explained before, the Royal Host Mure branch is a 4-minute walk from my house, or a 5-minute drive. The car takes a bit longer because of warming up the engine, fastening the seat belt, and adjusting the volume of the MD. I wonder why I still end up driving, and someday, I think, I need to clarify this. Well, well, I really need to get to the main point… Actually, I’ve been building up to this and am now a little anxious about how to convey this interesting and mysterious feeling to you all. Even though the incident is trivial, and it’s too late to make any excuses… Well, it’s okay, because the fact is that I found it mysterious and it excited me for several months… And then, the day the incident began. For various reasons, I just wanted to eat a meal that day. It was some time in the afternoon. I just wanted to have my first meal of the day. My car was driving on Inokashira Street (from Shibuya towards Kichijoji), and I was looking for a family restaurant with parking. “I’m sure there was a Royal Host around Nishi-Eifuku…” I murmured to myself, but I knew that the Nishi-Eifuku branch had closed down quite a while ago. “Oh, right. There was one in Hamadayama too…” The Hamadayama branch was near the home of a director, Mr. M, and it was a favorite and memorable restaurant where I often met him. It was always empty, which allowed us to have long and deep conversations. But I knew that it had also disappeared without a trace during my absence. Anyway, I knew very well that Royal Host was at a considerable disadvantage in the family restaurant battle on Inokashira Street… I think I’m probably the only one driving around with a slightly sad feeling about this. Anyway, a few new barbecue restaurants have opened, but I can’t have barbecue from lunchtime… As I was thinking about this, my car had passed through Kanpachi and reached the point where if I turned right, I’d be in Nishi-Ogikubo, and if I turned left, I’d be heading towards my house. I usually turn left earlier, so I hadn’t driven on this part of Inokashira Street very much. And then, fate intervened. I found the Royal Host Miyamae branch. Yes, this story is about the Royal Host Mure branch and the Miyamae branch. So, I finally met the other protagonist. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time… Anyway, I felt as if I was being guided, and I parked my car in the parking lot of the Miyamae branch… The Miyamae branch is just over 1km from the Mure branch if measured in a straight line. Despite this, I didn’t know about this branch. Really. The store was in a blind spot of my “car route”. And so, I entered the store, and the mysterious incident began… Ah, unfortunately, this has gotten a little too long. Tomorrow, I have an important V-edition early in the morning… I’m sorry. I’ll continue this next time… === “Last Month’s Words (I’m sorry) ‘Finally, the Resolution of the Royal Host Incident’ May 6, 2003 And so, I entered the Miyamae store. That was the beginning of the incident. ‘Welcome. Ah, you prefer a smoking seat, right?’ The cheerful face of the manager from the Mure branch of Royal Host was there. ‘Ah… Yes…’ ‘Please, take any seat you like by the window…’ I sat down at a window seat as directed and lit a cigarette. More than thinking, my mind was filled with a strange, wonderful, and mystic scenery. I felt like my soul had left my body and was floating aimlessly in the air. Clearly, even though I recognized the face of the manager, whom I had never spoken to before, I could feel that he knew who I was. His words ‘Ah, you prefer a smoking seat…’ were filled with a warm and welcoming aura. Soon, the manager came to take my order, still with a smile on his face. Surprisingly, I, who rarely conversed casually with restaurant staff, began to talk. ‘Ah, I was surprised. You are the manager from the Mure branch…’ ‘I moved here this spring.’ ‘Ah, is that so…’ ‘I’m looking forward to serving you.’ I can’t remember what I ordered then, no matter how hard I try. I was wrapped in joy, as if I had gained a new friend in my area. I see, it was spring… While driving, I reflected on my vague sense of time. If he had moved from the Mure branch to the Miyamae branch in the spring, then it’s already the end of summer… That means I haven’t been to the Mure branch for about three months… Wait, just a week ago, I had a meeting with Mr. ○○ from Tezuka Pro… Ah, I remember now, I went to the restaurant, but didn’t see the manager. As I arrived at the parking lot, I was overcome with a strange anxiety. But… I felt like I saw the manager every time I went… Yes, I seem to remember the manager at the cash register during an interview a month ago… And then, for some time, I found myself in the midst of an exciting incident. I had several meetings and interviews at the Mure branch, and each time, the manager, who was supposed to have moved to the Miyamae branch, was running the store. We didn’t speak, but whenever our eyes met, he always nodded and I nodded back. My imagination was stimulated. I proudly brought up the topic to my close friends and colleagues many times. ‘You know, it’s amazing. I might know a very important person at Royal Host.’ Close friend: ‘………?’ ‘Because, he’s at the Mure branch during the day, and probably at the Miyamae branch at night. Oh wait, I met him at the Miyamae branch during the day, so sometimes he must work nights there instead, but he’s managing two stores.’ Close friend: ‘But, he told you he moved to the other store in the spring, right? Doesn’t that mean he moved?’ ‘That’s why, probably, officially he was appointed as the manager of the Miyamae branch, but he can’t stop caring about the Mure branch, which he’s been running for many years. Probably, there is a young manager or something, but he can’t leave it to them.’ Close friend: ‘Hmm…’ ‘And! The distance isn’t that far, so maybe he’s sticking with the Mure branch until the new manager is ready, twisted the arm of the president or executives at Royal Host headquarters, oh, no, he himself is working as a manager in the field, but he might also hold an executive title…’ Close friend: ‘………’” My mind was already full of this. My imagination took flight, one idea after another, saving me from the stomach-churning mundanity of being chased by Hamtaro scripts. During this time, I visited the Miyamae branch once at night, exchanged a nod with the manager without exchanging words… My confidence grew stronger and stronger. ‘So, it’s like Momochi Sandayu and Fujibayashi Nagato-no-kami.’ Close friend: ‘Huh??’ ‘Oh, you don’t know Tomoyoshi Murakami’s ninja tale?’ Close friend: ‘…!?’ ‘It was made into a movie by Daiei with Ichikawa Raizō as the lead. Yes, Yunosuke Ito played both roles.’ Close friend: ‘………’ ‘Let me explain the plot. It’s set in the Sengoku era when Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu were all mixing it up. There were two ninja groups in a certain mountain village. They were separated by one or two mountains, sometimes hired by Nobunaga, sometimes working for Ieyasu, and so on. The two ninja groups were usually antagonistic, but they essentially competed for performance to earn money… And the leaders of each of the two groups were Momochi Sandayu and Fujibayashi Nagato-no-kami. However, it turned out that they were the same person.’ Ignoring my close friend’s reaction, I continued my story. ‘Anyway, I thought it was incredible. I mean, the person managing two ninja groups separated by a mountain, the omnipresence of his dual role was amazing. After all, he would disguise himself from Nagato-no-kami to Sandayu or vice versa as needed, and sprint through those mountains. From group A to group B, then from B back to A. In A, he would praise B, in B, he would praise A… Anyway, he would compete with each other and earn substantial profits from both, which is like a basic business philosophy of capitalism or something like… ugliness… But… that manager, he’s not like that, he’s just looking after two stores from an angle of kindness or goodness of people… But when he goes from the Mure branch to the Miyamae branch, he might drive his car at an incredible speed on a narrow road. Well, I didn’t see it, and I don’t even know what car he drives… Hehehe…’ And so, I was captivated by the existence of a modern version of a ninja, a non-fiction one at that, and I was having a truly enjoyable time all by myself. The nice middle-aged manager would drive desperately from Mure to Miyamae, and from Miyamae back to Mure. No, it would be even more amazing if he was actually cycling. And then, after the new year, on a day when the snow was fluttering in Tokyo for the umpteenth time, this incident (my imaginary incident) came to a mundane and anticlimactic end. That day, I finished my Japanese-style hamburger meal set with rice and corn soup at the Mure branch, got a second cup of coffee at the drink bar, and returned to my seat when that manager came to my window-side seat to clear the dishes. The restaurant was sparsely populated that day, probably due to the snow. Feeling a little nervous, I couldn’t miss this opportunity and finally spoke to him, unaware that it would quickly lead to the final chapter of this incident… “It must be tough, going back and forth between this Mure store and the Miyamae store…” There was a slight pause before the manager responded. “Huh? What? (Another pause) If you’re done, may I clear your dishes?” As I saw his expression up close and heard his voice, I immediately realized it. He’s young…! He’s definitely not the “nice middle-aged man” I thought. Could it be…! —- A few days later, I decided to visit the Miyamae store. As expected, the manager was there. But upon closer look, the manager at Miyamae was indeed middle-aged. However, he seemed just a bit younger than the manager at Mure. I got a little nervous again, and I decided to ask him a question when I was paying. “Excuse me, I know this may sound strange and rude, but I have to ask…” “Yes, what would you like to know?” “Is the current manager at Mure your relative or sibling?” The manager at Miyamae kindly responded. “No, we are not related at all.” He gave a clear answer and with a kind smile, he added. “People in the company often say that we look alike.” And that was the end of my little adventure. However, the thrill of those days still lingers, and I thought to myself. There are two very similar looking managers at Royal Host. Let’s make good use of this fact. Yes, I’ll show these two to someone else, someone who will be a witness to this. That’s what I thought. I immediately called my friend M, who is a theater director. “Hey, I’ll treat you to a meal. Do you want to do a ‘ladder’ at Royal Host?” “What’s that?” I decided to take M, who knew nothing about this, to both the Miyamae and Mure stores, and let him fully experience the strange event I went through. I went to the Miyamae store first and waited for M there. But as soon as I entered, I felt something was off. There was no sign of the middle-aged manager’s friendly smile. Instead, a much younger man, dressed like a manager, seemed a bit tense as he directed the waitresses. I hurried to the cash register, where there was a photo of the manager on display. Looking at the photo, my adventure really came to a perfect end. The photo of the nice middle-aged man was no longer there. My Momochi Santaro and Fujibayashi Nagatomo… they had moved to a new place again. I felt rather sad as I called M. “I want to cancel the ‘ladder’…” “Huh??” “Anyway, that’s why. Sorry…” The manager at Mure is still the same. If our eyes meet, he still gives me a nod. I wonder where the manager at Miyamae has moved to? I would like to ask once, but probably, I no longer have the courage to do so… The End.