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Toppamono: Outlaw. Radical. Suspect. My Life in Japan's Underworld [Hardcover]

Miyazaki Manabu , Robert Whiting

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Book Description

Sept. 30 2005
Shot, stabbed, and beaten, Miyazaki Manabu somehow emerged intact from his first fifty years to put his astonishing life story down on paper. Born the son of a yakuza boss in 1945, he grew up in a household of gang members and social misfits before his conversion to Marxism launched him into the violent world of 1960s student radicalism. After dropping out of university and spending a brief sojourn in South America, he became a reporter on a fast-rising weekly magazine. Called back home toKyoto to take over the family demolition business, he was plunged into a maelstrom of bankruptcy and debt, forcing him to raise funds however he could. Along the way, he became the chief suspect in one of Japan's most sensational criminal cases - - still unsolved - - before getting caught up in the crazy years of Japan's bubble economy, when land speculators tipped their favorite bar hostesses millions of yen and Dom Perignon flowed like water. More than just one man's incredible story, unflinchingly told, Toppamono is a sophisticated analysis of Japan's postwar half-century that will astound and enlighten. Devastatingly critical of banks and bureaucrats, questioning of Japan's understanding of democracy, and cogent on the role played by the yakuza in Japanese society, this underground best-seller, first published in 1996, will keep you enthralled until the very last page.

toppamono n: a person with a devil-may-care attitude, who pushes ahead regardless.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Kotan Publishing; Hardcover with Jacket edition (Sept. 30 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970171625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970171627
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 16.2 x 4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #220,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Miyazaki Manabu has spent a lifetime in conflict with authority. A social commentator of penetrating insights, he now lives in Tokyo.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The year of my birth was an ignominious one etched in big black characters in the annals of our nation's long history. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, often funny stream-of-conscious reminiscence: recommended! Nov. 24 2005
By Zendicant Penguin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is quite a good read which I can recommend to anybody who likes to read that genre which Japan produces so much of so well: The personal reminiscence. This particular one is penned by a chap who was able to make strides in two worlds, the so-called Underworld and the above-board one occupied by the likes of you and I. Author was born into a Kansai region Yakuza family of some means, albeit perhaps deplorable ones, which afforded him the opportunity to get an unusually good education despite his best efforts. This recounting is the fifty year trajectory of the man's life as he went from neighborhood tough to University-enrolled student activist (often of the most violent kind) to scandal rag newshound to General Manager of Yakuza-affiliated family construction (well, destruction, actually) business to Yakuza enforcer and point man to Bubble economics land speculater and enabler, to authorial spokesman for the Burakumin, traditional gangster and Third Country National minority. Although Mr. Miyazaki is not the most talented author, he is a wonderful raconteur with a gift for the nifty vignette that will often have you laughing or sympathizing with the subject of his little stories. The difficulty with this book is that there is a lot of information contained in it that has cultural taglines significant only to a Japanese of the author's era and while the Western authors tried to edit much of it out, there are large bits of the book that get bogged down in detail that make little sense to and hold less interest to the western audience. I am speaking directly to the authors years spent in protest whilst enrolled at Waseda University. I know from anecdotal experience that the student activism that occurred on Japanese campuses during the 1960's still has reverberations in Japanese contemporary culture, but much like the exploits of Weather Underground or the Berkeley Califorinia culture of the same era, this is historical ephemera that is hard-pressed to hold one's interest for long. Overall, this is definitely a worthwhile read, it would have been a spell-binding one if the author had chosen to go into more detail. H'mmm, and finally, this author does not entirely convince me that he is NOT the 'Fox-eyed Man' of the Morinaga scandal.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rollicking tale through 50 years of post-war Japan Feb. 16 2006
By Judge Mental - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Toppamono is a speedy, exciting and somewhat bumpy ride through the first 50 years of the author's life as yakuza scion, student subversive, criminal suspect, paparazzi reporter and eye-witness to the expansion and eventual bursting of Japan's bubble economy. Although neither an intellectual nor a gifted writer, Miyazaki tells a riveting tale of postwar Japan as it successfully pulls itself out of poverty only to devour itself with greed. Like his life, his writing style is unpretentious and choppy, and he frequently flits back and forth between personal observations, historical events and the nitty-gritty now. However, there is method to Manabu, as he concludes in the Epilogue. And this is where things go a little bit loopy. Toppamono, one must not forget, was written for a Japanese audience, whose weltanschauung differs considerably from that of Americans and that of Europeans. Throughout Toppamono, Miyazaki's sympathy for Japan's gangster class is never far from the surface, and he frequently hints at an expanded role in society for the yakuza. In the book's Epilogue, he fesses up, describing the ideal future as one where the chivalrous yakuza will join with its Korean and Chinese counterparts to punch a hole in global Western culture and recreate a brave new world; and as one in which the scar-faced will rightly return to their roles as community cops and enforcers of corporate and political purity. Cuckoo. Fortunately, his sentimentality can be put down to his yakuza roots, and the reader doesn't have to take Miyazaki's opinions too seriously to enjoy what is a rollicking story and an important piece in the literary jigsaw of post-war Japan.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Toppamono April 3 2006
By Michael Boxall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Toppamono is a Japanese phrase for someone who pushes ahead regardless. Miyazaki Manabu has been doing just that for the last sixty-one years -- regardless of the law, regardless of social convention, and now, alas, regardless of his readers' patience. Eighty-plus pages describing the student riots of the 1960s are used mostly to recount how the writer charged around Tokyo hitting people over the head with lumps of wood. Coming early in the 460-page book, this section presents a strong disincentive to finish it. But that's a pity, because there's some fascinating stuff later.

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.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Miyazaki Book's is a droll July 20 2009
By James FranKOOK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a really bad book if you ask me. I read half way through and I was extremely bored. All I kept seeing were several words repeated. I thought this book would give an insight to the Yakuza world and how it functions,etc. Like the foundations. This is nothing but a simple, lame recap of a guy who went through some semi-yakuza and other dealings. Some of the details, for like 150 pages are his high-school/university demonstrations. I mean, how boring is this!. The title is about his involvement in the underworld, yet half the book is merely about demonstrations, JCP, etc etc. If you want a fun read- read Confessions of a yakuza- that is excellently written, and the story will keep you entertained. I could not pick up Toppamono after the 150th page. It was just too boring, I felt like skipping pages. What a waste of a buy.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Becomes very dull quite quickly Dec 29 2008
By Benson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book starts off well with detailed insight on the author's upbringing in a small town yakuza family, but becomes very boring after the first third of the book. Unless you have a huge interest in the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) circa 1970 and student uprisings, you'll want to skip large sections of the 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.

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