Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Research Book Review: Yakuza Moon

Title: YAKUZA MOON – Memoirs of a gangster’s daughter (普及版 英文版 ヤクザ な 月)
Author: Shoko Tendo
Publisher: Kodansha International
Translation: Louise Heal
Pages: 197
ISBN: 978-4-7700-3042-9

Although this was one of the first yakuza books I bought, a couple of years ago already, I had not get around to reading it until now. I blame it on my zero capacity to sympathise with women, and Yakuza Moon is above everything the autobiography of a woman. The gangster’s daughter factor is secondary sometimes.

In her book, Tendo tells how she went from bullied kid to juvie delinquent and speed addict, how she kept falling in love with the wrong kind of men and paying high prices for every bad decision she made. Her father was a yakuza who fell into debt and went bankrupt, which of course caused one hell of trouble for her family. She accepted to be a salaryman’s mistress and a yakuza debt-collector’s lover, her sister fell in love with a gambling addict, her brother’s marriage was ruined because of the family connections.

It is interesting how at some point in the book she makes the connection “I was looking for my father in every man I dated”. From the insider’s point of view the reader travels through the sordid world of Japanese affection and consideration for women – at least four times she is offered to become a “kept woman”, some of them she accepted, some other times she refused. Tendo also describes how she got her full-body yakuza-like tattoo, and what it means for her – discovering her very own power and personality.

The book is not grand – and I for sure don’t share many of Tendo’s points of view -, but I think it has a tremendous human load. The narrative is direct, naked, and relates the ugly reality the way the author felt it – raw pain, self-denial… It is a chilly book at times, dealing with human nature first and yakuza nature second, but a good view of the dark hostess, criminal subculture and gender discrimination in Japan, from an insider’s point of view.

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