Toppamono: Outlaw. Radical. Suspect. My Life in Japan's Underworld Hardcover – Sep 30 2005
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About the Author
Miyazaki Manabu has spent a lifetime in conflict with authority. A social commentator of penetrating insights, he now lives in Tokyo.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And earlier, for that matter. Miyazaki's description of the milieu into which he was born is riveting. He was the son of a Kyoto gang boss and made his entrance back in the days when yakuza were mostly working men, tough and industrious. His father specialized in demolition and selling off whatever could be salvaged from the postwar ruins. To call the competition fierce is a serious understatement. It was as if the war was still being fought -- not the war against the Allies (interestingly, MacArthur and his army of occupation aren't even mentioned) but the endless skirmishing over limited resources which characterized so much of Japan's history. In the late 1940s they were scarcer than ever. The gangs staked out their own territory, and any incursion was a call to battle. Members would gather in the boss's house, dressed in black so the blood would not be visible if they were hurt, and turn the tatami over so they wouldn't slip. Armed with shotguns, bamboo spears, swords, and sticks of dynamite, they drank, and awaited the enemy's assault.
It was an unorthodox childhood, and not surprising that Miyazaki turned out as he did, with a propensity to rely on violence and intimidation. His story has a larger-than-life quality, from bankruptcy and massive debt to the dazzling glitter that was Tokyo in the 1980s. "Beneath society's peaceful façade there is always a storm blowing," he writes at the end of Toppa Mono. "It tosses people together and reeks of sweat and cosmetics, sometimes even of blood. I have lived all these years thinking it wasn't such a bad smell." He has passed on a strong whiff of it in this book.
To be honest I stopped reading half way in, I simply lost interest. If you're looking for yakuza-style memoirs, read 'Confessions Of A Yakuza'. Toppamono deviates too far from the gangster world that I was looking forward exploring.