Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Research Books (short) Reviews: Tokyo Vice, Down Under, Confessions of a Yakuza

Book: TOKYO VICE: an American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.
Author: Jake Adelstein.

I got myself this book because I found the Japan Subculture by chance, and I was intrigued by the insource it could offer for the Shiki series. Got it through ebay during the Iceland volcano thing back in April 2010, and it was a bit of an odyssey. The book is written in first person and Adelstain really makes a big effort to make you dislike him. He presents himself like… a bastard, in one word. In the first chapter he describes himself as someone who never achieved anything if not for luck and cheekiness, trying to present himself like someone with little to no morals who does not give a damn for anyone who is not Number One. It’s somewhat ironic that by now he has become a spokesperson about Human Rights in Japan.

The book itself is fascinating, and takes you to the darkest side of the maido kisa and hostess bars, along with prostitution parlours (I totally blame Okonogi Hisaki and Kazuki on this book) along with the most violent side of the yakuza, all narrated from a thoroughly both fascinated and fascinating point of view. Adelstain got seriously involved in his snooping around, which caused grief for him and the ones he knew.

In the end, Tokyo Vice is a fascinating read, even if you keep wanting to strangle the image Adelstain presents of himself, and my copy is full of post-its and references due to my aversion to underline books. It was a perfect choice for a first research choice.

Book: Down Under.
Author: Bill Bryson.

I was given this book part as a joke, part as research, part as a shameless pimping of Bryson by a friend. It gave me indeed a point to place Seishirou and Shojirou (and Kyuuwa and Junzo) in the big forgotten country. I have to admit that I enjoyed the book much more than I was expecting. Bryson travels around the big continent (mostly by car, adding up and almost unbelievable amount of kilometres while telling everything and nothing about what he sees. The descriptions are liberally sprinkled with anecdotes, both personal and historical, and merry tales of everything that could (and given the chance would) kill you, including, but not limited to, the heat, emptiness, snakes or box jellyfish.

His descriptions placed the Nagai twins in Tanunda, Barossa Valley. I guess you can say he did influence me somehow.

Book: Confessions of a Yakuza (a Life in Japan’s Underworld)
Author: Jun’ichi Saga, Translated by John Bester.

The book is a semi-auto-biography of an old-school yakuza, who told his story to his doctor, and the doctor wrote it down. It explains how a 1920s country kid became a mob boss, back when yakuza were mainly gamblers, how the organizations passed the war, and how they made their money before starting today’s kinds of business (loan sharking, etc.).

The book is rather fascinating, and I got little doubt it has been embellished at bits, since I don’t think a yakuza boss would be that refined when talking. I would have loved to read, first hand (at least almost) about the tattoo process, so I missed that part. Also, I wonder what parts, exactly, where cut in the translation.

I think that it is a great story, even if not the best-well written one, and I did not read it, but devoured it. It is a great history lesson of Japan’s underworld and the beginning of the yakuza society as it came to be.

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