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Friday, January 25, 2013

Photographing the Israeli Embassy Tokyo

イスラエル大使館 東京

Israeli Embassy Tokyo Japan
I once had a face-off with a policeman who was guarding the Israeli Embassy. I had pedaled up on my bike, taken out my camera, and started taking a shot or two of the embassy for the Embassies page of JapanVisitor when, from behind the barricade to the driveway of the embassy, he crossed his forearms in the “no go” way. I had already taken a couple so was ready to go, but he crossed the road and came up to me. He was a typical middle-aged cop who’d gotten a bit stout, but as he came closer I could see he was a bit of a mean sort, and the whites of his eyes were, somewhat eerily, yellowed like old paper or like specimen preserving fluid.

The first words out of his mouth were a threat: that if I took photos here my film would be confiscated and my camera smashed. I asked him outright “if that was a threat?”. (I got the word for threat slightly wrong, I realized later, saying idoshi instead of the correct odoshi. I must have sounded like a foreigner getting worked up at an English-speaking policeman about being threeetened!)

He went on about “that country” (Israel) having its rules. I responded that I was very much in this country, and that, as far as I knew, this country was ruled by law, and not-a by threeets! He said that they had secrets, and I asked what was secret about the entrance to an embassy that was clearly marked on every map.

He was eying me intently, but in something of that lazy, assured way of those who smoke cigars and get driven round in cars with blackened windows. But I was so dyed in the Holy Spirit of the Law that I was impervious, and rebuffed his assault with sparks of rightness.

He said he wasn’t threatening me, he was just letting me know that in the past things like cameras getting smashed had happened. I stood firm, eye fixed on his and repeating that stories of smashed cameras were quite a different matter from the law – not a letter of which I could see I had done violence to.

My staunch championing of poor blind justice had begun to work and I noticed the hint of a wavering in those jaundiced eyes. We were saved by the bell: the phone suddenly rang in his booth. He came out with the gist of it as he went off to get it, saying they got it in the neck from the embassy if people took photos.

I grunted consent and we parted in about as gentlemanly a way as we could on a burning hot mid-summer day, on suffocating asphalt, in front of block walls and a metal barricade.

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