Confessions of a Yakuza
Junichi Saga is a doctor in a town near Tokyo. One winter’s day, an old man comes to his practice, asking for treatment, and a few weeks afterwards, the doctor is invited to Ijichi Eiji’s home, where he begins to tell about his life.
And what a life it was: born in the countryside in the early ears of the 20th century, he finds himself in Tokyo as a teenager and works at a coal-, later at a timber merchant. In 1924, the year after the great Kanto earthquake, Eiji gets to know a local yakuza boss who takes him into his rank and file, and from there, nothing is ever the same. We hear about the internal workings of the gambling places – the only business a respectable yakuza would do at that time – how the system of yakuza brotherhood works, and how to rise in their ranks. We also hear about Eiji’s three times in prison – twice innocently, once for murder – about his short stint in the army, and about his often unlucky dealings with women.
I picked this book up at an airport or other, probably because of the title promising a real-life crime mystery or something like that. The book is nothing like that. Not that Ijichi Eiji’s business was not criminal, but there were no big yakuza wars or standoffs with guns; instead, we hear about a life on the fringes of Japanese society in the first half of the 20th century. As such, I wouldn’t call the book “exciting”, but the story is interesting and worthy of being told.
Junichi Saga (born 1941) is a doctor in Tsuchiura, a little town northeast of Tokyo. He writes chiefly about the lives of his patients. Besides this biography of the head of a yakuza family, he has written a few other books, among them “Memories of Silk and Straw”, which was voted Best Book of the Year by the Foreign Press of Japan.
If you’re interested in the life of a Yakuza, get this book from amazon!