Sunday, July 29, 2007

postheadericon Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster's Daughter by Shoko Tendo

Translated by Louise Heal

Hardcover 192 pages

Genre: Memoir/non-Fiction/Japan

Publishers : Kodansha Intl Jul, 2007
Price : $22.95

Distributers (Canada):Fitzhenry & Whiteside

I grew interested in this story after reading about it in the Guardian UK. Shoko Tendo is the daughter of a member of the Yakuza in Japan. According to Wikipedia, the Yakuza (ヤクザ or やくざ ) are members of traditional organized crime groups in Japan. Yakuza groups are referred to as the "Japanese mafia" with reference to Italian-Sicilian organized crime.

Shoko had a pampered childhood but when she was six her father was sent to jail and that event triggered his descent from a top ranking member of the Yakuza to a man hounded by debtors. His descent also meant troubling times for the home and family and when she was 12 years old Shoko, in a fit of rebellion, decided to follow in her older sister's footsteps to become a yanki. Yankis are usually a sub-culture of bored, disenchanted Japanese youth between the ages of 14-19 years. They love to ride fast bikes, sniff paint thinner and embrace a lifestyle of sex, drugs and violence.

Soon, running around sniffing paint thinners didn't do it for Shoko anymore and she graduated to hard drugs (speed) and would attach herself to men who would be willing to buy the drug for her. Many of the men she hooked up with just used and abused her but she put up with it because she needed the drug, also, going home to a house besieged with creditors made her very depressed.

Finally, in her late 20's after a botched suicide attempt Shoko decides to ask forgiveness of her parents (especially her mother) for putting them through all of us and settles down into a more normal lifestyle but not before she takes herself off to a tattoo parlour and gives herself
a tattoo that winds its way to her chest and across her back, culminating, on her left shoulder, in the face of Jigoku Dayu, a famous courtesan from the Muromachi era with breast exposed and a knife clenched between her teeth.

I was quite disappointed with the book. Shoko is not terribly different from any adolescent anywhere in the world who falls in with the wrong crowd and adopts the sex,drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle. As the daughter of a Yakuza I expected there to be more information on the Yakuza, their origins, how they operate, the culture, etc., instead, what you get is the story of a desperately unhappy girl who makes so many wrong decisions in the early chapters of her life. I guess some would argue that
much has been written about the male members of the yakuza fraternity already, the drink, the money, the women, the fast cars and the violence. Much less is known about the women in their lives, their wives, daughters and lovers. Tendo has been all three.

The book made me think about tattoos though and their significance. For some they are just body adornments done on a whim and sometimes regretted because of their permanency; for others, it is a religious ritual and they will, as mentioned on Chumma Chumma's blog have a prayer or a deity drawn for strength or spiritual well being ; some sport military tattoos that tell a story of the battalion, brigade or platoon they belong to; some use tattoos to indicate which street gang they belong to, but I am most interested in that group of people that use tattoos to commemorate milestones in their lives for they always have the best stories.

If you would like, feel free to chime in with favorite your tattoos or tattoo stories. Mine has to be the one of the woman who had "DO NOT RECUSITATE" drawn across her chest. Guess she was really serious about doctors not trying to prolong her life. Read about it at the BBC site here.

Finally here's a cool site mooched from Tanabata's wonderful blog

What is your Japanese name?

My japanese name is 長谷川 Hasegawa (long valley river) 千秋 Chiaki (very fine in autumn).

Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

Pictures of the author, Shoko Tendo
Wednesday, July 04, 2007

postheadericon Faces of India...part 2

Thank you so much, all of you, for your wonderful responses to the first set of's the next lot. Hope you enjoy them as much as my dad enjoyed taking them.
Ok, so this little boy doesn't look too happy to have his picture taken! BTW, the sale of old newspapers is a thriving business in India.

A clothing store on Bangalore's famous Commercial Street. Wait, those mannequins don't look Indian!

A Sari-Clad Janitor

A roadside temple on an overcast see a temple on almost every road in Bangalore
Temple roof detail
Ohhh, look at all those fresh vegetables!
A roadside butcher at Cox Town market. I have to wonder, is there an extra charge for the flies packed along with your leg of lamb?
Never been good at identifying fish, so if you want to give it a go, please do!
I am told the vigorous head massage is the best part!
A prize if you spot the cracked pot...