Yakuza confessions

January 10, 2007

I will post my book to the first person to send me their address.


I’ve been reading about a few good books Inshore Britain and Scottish Sea Kayaking fifty great sea kayak voyages both blogged by Douglas Wilcox (here and here) and Caileen MacLeod posted a rather droll item about the books he’s reading too. It made me think though of the book I’ve just finished with great regret as it was good and all too easy to read.

Confessions of a Yakuza: A Life in Japan’s Underworld which is absolutely not what you would imagine it to be. It is in effect a historical, biographical story of a man from the age of 16 spanning abouyt 50 years from 1920. His life crosses a time of great change in Japan and his job is both not that interesting and not that large a part of the book. The other parts include life in rural Japan, mining in the mountains, surving the firestorm after the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923, his time a soldier in Anexed Korea, prison treatment and police brutality.

The last two were interesting for me. There is still a lot of bitterness towards Japan from former POWs (and Korean and Chinese civilians) over their mistreatment. The Japanese have never really apologised for anything that happened in the wars (and inter-war too). There is a very good account of civilian prisoners in my neighbouring prefecture of Fukushima here. It concludes that:

“As a guard told us on one occasion, the Japanese police treat their own people the same as we were treated, and he, therefore, couldn’t see that we had any possible grievance. “
This book describes some of the mistreatment and this rings very true. Perhaps the Japanese just didn’t see that their behaviour required an apology. It somehow enamours me to the Japanese, perhaps in a perverse, British since of fairplay way.

Anyway back to the point of this post: I bought this book on hogmany and finished it on new years day, its a quick read. I don’t know what to do with it now, it’s not worth carrying all the way back to the UK and there’s not much demand for 2nd hand books here. So I had the brainwave; if anyone wants to read this book (I recommended it) write a comment and email me your address. I will post it for free to the first person to do so.

read an excert of the book here
and an interesting controversy about Bob Dylan, this book, and plagarism here


I found a new relationship to kayaking:

“Probably a bored Taiwanese fisherman with nothing better to do than toss messages overboard,” says Yamamoto-san, a weathered, chain-smoking 40-something who runs his own sea kayak touring business, who I meet on my way back to Iriomote’s languid port of Ohara. “This kind of thing turns up now and again.”

He calls himself Papillon—French for “butterfly”—and his little finger is missing below the first knuckle, which usually implies some affiliation with the yakuza. I remind myself not to ask him where he keeps his petty cash.

here. Will need to look up this Papillon


4 Responses to “Yakuza confessions”

  1. Wenley Says:

    Hello Kieran,

    I like too the resilience of the Japanese character. The passion to perfect even the simplest of tasks, the morals based on shame, the formal good manners, and the almost childish sense that they bring to partying.

    I would like to read the book very much.

  2. Wenley
    Its all yours. Please mail me your address to
    kierangaffney at matsushima-h dot myswan dot ne dot jp
    (sorry its so long)

    Did you live in Japan? You know the gaijin thing and have obviously been drinking with some Japanese…

  3. Wenley Says:

    Hello Kieran,

    Thank you, Kieran. I’ll be happy to read it. Would you by any chance, be interested in Greek or military history? I just read a couple of fantastic books.

    Regarding Japan, I have never set a foot there, but I had once a very polite and petite, Japanese girlfriend from Kyoto, and it felt very much like travelling to Nippon.


  4. Wow that would be great. I’ll read anything… starved of books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: