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Confessions of a Yakuza: A Life in Japan's Underworld [Paperback]

By Funichi Saga & John Bester (Translator)
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Item description for Confessions of a Yakuza: A Life in Japan's Underworld by Funichi Saga & John Bester...

This is the true story, as told to the doctor who looked after him just before he died, of the life of one of the last traditional yakuza in Japan. It wasn't a "good" life, in either sense of the word, but it was an adventurous one; and the tale he has to tell presents an honest and oddly attractive picture of an insider in that separate, unofficial world.
In his low, hoarse voice, he describes the random events that led the son of a prosperous country shopkeeper to become a member, and ultimately the leader, of a gang organizing illegal dice games in Tokyo's liveliest entertainment area. He talks about his first police raid, and the brutal interrogation and imprisonment that followed it. He remembers his first love affair, and the girl he ran away with, and the weeks they spent wandering about the countryside together. Briefly, and matter-of-factly, he describes how he cut off the little finger of his left hand as a ritual gesture of apology. He explains how the games were run and the profits spent; why the ties between members of "the brotherhood" were so important; and how he came to kill a man who worked for him.
What emerges is a contradictory personality: tough but not unsentimental; stubborn yet willing to take life more or less as it comes; impulsive but careful to observe the rules of the business he had joined.
And in the end, when his tale is finished, you feel you would probably have liked him if you'd met him in person. Fortunately, Dr. Saga's record of his long conversations with him provides a wonderful substitute for that meeting.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   264
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 4.5" Height: 7.25"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 15, 1995
Publisher   Kodansha International
ISBN  4770019483  
ISBN13  9784770019486  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > General
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Criminals
5Books > Subjects > History > Asia > Japan
6Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Crime & Criminals > Criminology
7Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > True Stories > True Crime

Reviews - What do customers think about Confessions of a Yakuza: A Life in Japan's Underworld?

Despite flaws, worth a read for sure  Jan 13, 2008
There is much to like about this book - it simply taking place in Japan, a culture so different than the United States, makes it interesting; another layer of interest is in the time frame, which begins in the early 1900s; and, of course, the most obvious twist of all is in its exploration of the organized crime syndicate, the Yakuza. It is important to have an account of the sort of life one would live under these circumstances in that far from the Hollywood presentation we've grown accustomed to, this tells the story very honestly and without much glamor. On the other hand, it is told in a retrospective, anecdotal fashion; as this is not a Yakuza boss's memoir but the story of a Yakuza boss's life as narrated to another, recorded on tape and transcribed to text, it loses much of the emotion and immediacy that it would have if told in the moment. Its being narrated to another presents us only with pieces of a larger picture, as well - Eiji's prison terms, military conscription and time spent as a night boatman, transporting people through the darkness, hidden from the eyes of the corrupt police force, for example, could have multiple chapters devoted to them, but instead we only get one or two of the most interesting anecdotes of each. The darker parts of the biography detailing murders and men selling their wives so as to keep up their gambling habits are disturbing but detached; one chapter ends with the sentence "It's pretty frightening, really, when you think about it...." which I think sums up the feeling pretty well - we shake our heads but do not feel truly disturbed, as we might if the story were presented in a different voice. Though the editor's note explains that he removed some of the more confusing and tedious parts, I doubt that this would alter the feeling that we are simply getting a few glimpses at a much larger picture. Another gripe is that some of the humor gets lost in translation, and when someone tries to make a joke, simply the way it is phrased ruins it. For example, the gambler Tsukada Saburo tells him, "Well, making things is just my line - I can even make babies with other men's wives! - and this was a cinch for me." I'm sure that you get the idea. But that is a small flaw, and the book as a whole, while not being entirely enveloping or emotionally gripping, is still very interesting and enjoyable, and worth a read for sure.
Great Insight  Mar 17, 2007
A great way to look into the yakuza world and not have Hollywood mucking it up. I recently did some research on the yakuza and out of all the books I read, this one was by far one of the best. Even though he's kind of recounting tales to this doctor, the story is still very involved and engrossing. A great read!
book review  Mar 17, 2007
it is a great book that combines history and the orginazied crime family that played a large part of many people's lives. It is an insider view of a world that very few knows exists.
Interesting...but for deeper reasons than I expected.  Jan 21, 2007
Somehow, I thought this would be some blood drenched melodrama, and along the way I would learn a thing or two about the Yakuza way.

But this book was far more subtle and deeply real. It is clear that in the old days, a good Yakuza boss keep a low profile and maintained good connections with his community. All of this is very subtly and carefully portrayed. Many times, it is his careful and diplomatic efforts that yield some of the best results.

And yet, his story is underscored by how he lived outside of society often times. On top of all this, it conveys a time in Japan long ago, and did so very graphically.

All in all, an very good book.
The Honorable Past.   Jan 2, 2007
It may sound odd that I use the word honor in the context of a gangster which is exactly what the yakuza were and are, but the man profiled here is completely old school in all its best connotations. Essentially, the background concerns a very old man about to die who tells his story to the random doctor who happens to examine him. The interviews are conducted over a series of weeks and they occur at the yakuza's home. To say that he lived in interesting times is definitely an understatement. Most of the action occurs before World War II, and, in those days, being a yakuza meant only running gambling houses. To do anything else was beneath them. One can see why the police were rather tolerant in regards to their general operations in light of this eventuality. The man described here eventually became the head of a local branch of the brotherhood, but the stories of his rise and his ever-so-complicated interactions with women were what most impressed this reviewer. This was a pretty fantastic read, and its value is all the greater should you be rather ignorant about Japan (as was the case with this reviewer).

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