Watching the cherry blossoms burst forth and fade always makes me think of Japan. But my Japan is not a place of samurai, ninja and serene Zen temples. The Japan I think of is lit by neon rather than a rising sun. A place of tailored suits, leather jackets, discos and hostess bars, a place where the eternal human game of life and death, cops and robbers, is played with a unique style. Here are some favorite titles – fiction and non-fiction – about this Japanese underworld (and here they are in our library catalog).
Jake Adelstien did not intend to become a crime reporter for Yomiuri Shinbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers but this was Tokyo in the 90’s and he needed a job. Jake was soon rubbing elbows with police detectives and senior yakuza figures. Adelstein uses his status as an outsider supplemented with sometimes insane courage to take the reader deep inside the Japanese criminal world. Tokyo Vice, by Jake Adelstein.
Another outsider to penetrate the darker places of Japan was British journalist, Richard Lloyd Parry. His investigation following the disappearance of Lucie Blackman while she was working in a hostess bar takes the reader along a convoluted path stretching from London to Tokyo’s Roppongi district, from the oceanside cave where her body was found through the long and complex trial of her accused attacker. People Who Eat Darkness, by Richard Lloyd Perry.
Shoko Tendo was born inside this darker world. In her revealing and sometimes harrowing memoir she shows us the unadorned life of someone raised inside the yakuza. This is an unblinking look at the rare joys and frequent despairs of a criminal life where women are considered accessories or chattel, if they are considered at all. Ms. Tendo’s path leads through drugs, loan sharks and violence until she creates her own way out and in so doing transforms the traditional yakuza tattoo into a symbol of strength. Yakuza Moon, by Shoko Tendo.
Turning to fiction, Natsuo Kirino’s Out details the story of a group of women working the night shift in a Tokyo factory that produces bento lunches. An accidental murder soon has the group tangling with the yakuza and the police. However do not Continue reading “Crime: Evil under the Rising Sun.”