A few late azalea blossoms clogged the southwest corner of the reflecting pool at the Diet’s North Garden, giving the gray slate basin a pink-and-purple tint. In the warm breeze, white tablecloths fluttered, and the half-filled champagne flutes chimed softly as the air brushed their rims. Iris blooms arrayed on the tables shifted in the wind, their divided stems turning this way and that as if captivated by the beautifully dressed crowd.
On three sides of the reflecting pool, officials and celebrities were taking their seats. The side closest to the imperial palace park, just across the road, had already filled: among them, the new National Diet president and his spouse; three members each of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors; the heads of Rakuten and Sony; Iwakichi Kayako, the director of Nippon Hoso Kyokai; and the heads of Tokyo’s police and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
Across from the Japanese tables, before the dark frame of the high-flung Kenseikinenkan Separation of Powers Clock Tower, a neatly dressed public relations officer from the Diet adjusted a microphone at a small platform. Micro speakers placed around the reflecting pool and in the garden sounded a sour note, quickly squelched. But the sound served its purpose, as Chinese officials and representatives from the ASEAN delegation and the US peacekeeping forces also took their seats, at opposite sides of the reflecting pool. Various security staff took up positions nearby.
No one stopped talking, though. The young public relations staffer was sweating through her dark jacket. Emma sympathized from behind the scratchy collar of her Tokyo police dress uniform. This government function had a very strict formal dress code, but Emma wouldn’t have felt right in her US military garb. She wasn’t here as a foreign peacekeeper—she was here as city police, as Miyako’s partner. After all they’d been through over the last few months, the fact that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department had offered Emma one of their uniforms to wear seemed like a gesture of great respect.
Emma continued scanning the crowd for anything out of the ordinary. Tensions had been high all week, following more protests against the new anti-foreign mischief law. On the way over, Miyako had made her partner listen to the broadcast with her. For Emma, Tokyo news lacked the intel she was used to getting from her US case officers, and she found the constant drone of “nothing too terrible has happened lately” frustrating. For Miyako, it seemed soothing. But now, at the governor’s public banquet, For All of Tokyo, as a kickoff to the Iris Festival, they were both on high alert. Even if no crimes occurred here today, the chances for diplomatic faux pas were great.
As the public relations officer shifted uncomfortably by the microphone, Emma watched her mentor and commander from when she’d been with the peacekeepers, Major Santiago Vargas, quietly begin clapping. A few moments later, others at different tables clapped too, all while looking to see what they were clapping for. The trick worked, and soon conversation waned and the assistant was able to be heard.
“The governor of Tokyo will say a few words in greeting before dinner,” she said, and left the platform, relief obvious on her face.
Governor Sakamoto Masahuru passed before the clock tower. “Today is an excellent day, within sight of the imperial palace, and near the central geodetic point for all of Japan, to welcome members of each section of Tokyo for a meal. Meals are a time of coming together, a time for nourishing community.”
Emma looked around as the governor spoke. Motion among the tables caught her eye, and Miyako’s, and Emma opened her mouth to check in with her partner across their shared radio link. But the movement was merely the catering staff placing the first small bowls of soup down, followed by plates of tempura vegetables and soy-sauce-brushed yakitori.
“Welcome, and may this meal symbolize a more unified and peaceful Tokyo,” the governor said, and then took his seat next to his wife and the head of the Diet.
“How is this supposed to represent unification if they’re all sitting on opposite sides?” Miyako subvocalized in Emma’s earpiece.
“It’s a start,” Emma whispered back. “Just getting everyone into the same space is an achievement.”
“As long as that’s what we want . . .” Miyako began to whisper.
“What?” Emma asked. But her partner didn’t reply.
The mood had been tense as each group arrived in the park; many of the Chinese had come in full military dress, or complementary fashions with flap pockets and tactical-style details, and that hadn’t helped. When the last omakase...