Nishi-Azabu has long been one of the poshest of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, yet this year it has been the scene of two meteoric crashes by stars of Japan’s most prized cultural activities. Asashoryu, the Mongolia sumo champion, met he his fate here in the wee morning hours last January when he was involved in an incident with a bar owner. The dust up soon resulted in his forced early retirement.
Well, sumo wrestlers are like that. Good thing kabuki actors are never involved in incidents like that. Now we have Ebizo, the prince of kabuki, who held a sudden press conference Tuesday evening to apologize and explain an early morning incident Nov. 25 in the same neighborhood.
Initial reports had it that Ebizo had been beaten so badly that you had to wonder if he had somehow met Manny Pacquaio. Hospitalized, his injuries would take six weeks to heal — black eye, a cracked cheekbone, knocked out teeth, and broken nose.
Ebizo claimed he had knelt down to aid a companion who had become overcome by drink and was suddenly attacked by an unknown assailant described as “a dark foreigner.” The man was later identified as a former low-level pro soccer player and a former member of a bosozoku gang.
What seemed to be a wanton, inexplicable attack, now appears less wanton and more explicable. While drinking with bosozoku is not a common activity of gentlemen, it is not a crime. Still, one had to wonder why Ebizo couldn’t find more refined companions. This was the first drop of blood in the water, setting off the media feeding frenzy that continues now.
Next was the question of real blood — on the outdoor stairway of the building. Police forensics discovered that all this blood wasn’t just Ebizo’s, but at least one, perhaps, two others, as well. Meanwhile, there were TV broadcasts of Ebizo relaxing, looking remarkably spry for a broken man, on the rooftop of his hospital. Then came reports that Ebizo had been hazing the leader of the group when the man was on the verge of the blind staggers; pulling his hair to lift his head and urging him to drink tequila from an ashtray. And, apparently, it was the group leader that went out on to the stairwell first, bleeding heavily from his nose, and that he was the fellow down on the outside stairs when the incident escalated.
Which brings us to the Tuesday press conference intended to end to all this speculation: In front of 660 reporters (660!) at the Takanawa Prince Hotel, Ebizo struck all the right poses – bowing in apology 17 times, holding one 45 seconds, according to one tally. He insisted that he hadn’t initiated the violence. He was contrite, apologizing for his bad manners – canceling a press conference the day before the incident with the excuse of ill health, and then going out that evening on the marathon bar crawl that ended so badly early the next morning.
Much of the media just didn’t buy it. Except for the redness in his left eye, the result of a broken blood vessel, which can be caused by trauma (i.e. a punch), or high blood pressure, he looked good. His nose looked fine. He didn’t smile, but his teeth or replacements, didn’t bother his speaking, and no remnants of bruising around the eye, which one would expect.
By this morning (Thursday), the media had come back for another round at the story. Ebizo insists that he had fled barefoot for his life. A reporter retraced Ebizo’s path from the building — up the slope and then onto side streets where Ebizo caught a taxi near Koto-dori. Walking, it took the reporter less than five minutes. According to the timeline, it took Ebizo 50 minutes and he has yet to explain it. A man running for his life might choose the most obvious escape — catching a taxi in front of the building on Roppongi-dori. It would take a minute or two at the most. If he felt pursued, he might run downhill to the Nishi-Azabu crossing, where Roppongi and Gaien-Nishi-dori intersect. It would be easy to find a cab there – even at 5 a.m on a Thursday.
Also, this morning TBS and other stations reported that the group leader was treated for a severe beating, according to his doctor, and that some of this was inflicted with an ashtray.
This drama harkens back a year ago and Tiger Woods’ late-night cruise, which was finally stopped by a tree. Anyone who has read even a few crime reports knows that there is often a lot more behind the initial story. It is likely that Ebizo had a hand in the creation of the brawl – how much is the key question now. If he did commit assault then his wallet will take a beating. He may have to pay reparations similar to what Asashoryu did (reportedly $100,000) and plus the cancelled kabuki performances, and the several TV ads featuring Ebizo that have been pulled, could bring the total cost to as much as $2.4 million.