An arm stuck out from the sidewalk and Hideaki pulled up his cab, let the customer in . . . and immediately sensed trouble.

The fellow who'd hailed him there in Shinjuku was one of the most peculiar that Hideaki, 50, had encountered in the months he'd been driving a cab -- since being laid off after years working at a carmaker subsidiary.

This character had a foul mouth, wore a jacket but no necktie and, in short, looked suspiciously like a gangster.