"My boyfriend is a jerk," shouts fellow student Kazumi Takashi. She, too, finds her blows fall a hair too short until Hareruya turns his back and lets her flail away for a full 10 seconds.
About a 10th of his customers are women. "Women and children have a lot of stress they need to release," the boxer says. "They're timid and don't really want to hit me, so sometimes I let them do it two at a time."
Bouncers and thugs
Then there are the bouncers, the thugs, the fellow boxers and the martial artists who have heard about Hareruya and want to test their talents or impress their friends. A man in a gray tank top and shorts with buzz-cut hair and a scar over his left eye steps up, glaring. Then come the sickening thuds of high-speed glove against rib and jaw. The customer, it turns out, is a low-ranking professional boxer.
Hareruya takes a break and strolls around the plaza singing a plaintive Japanese folk song. The line of customers grows longer. The boxer claims to have taken on more than 2,000 people, and he can draw 60 people a night. He has earned as much as $800 on good nights but says he averages about $200.
"I hate my boss," cries a 33-year-old real-estate assessor. He says he has a brown belt in karate and has done a little boxing but complains, "I couldn't get anywhere near him." He buys another round, and fails again, but then hugs Hareruya as if the boxer were a long-lost friend.
"The guy is great," he says. "Ordinary people would despair, but this guy always thinks positively. He's a rare person in Japan. "