Toppamono: Outlaw, Radical, Suspect - My Life In Japan's Underworld (英語) ハードカバー – 2005/4/15
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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 to Kyoto 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.
I was born in 1945, the year of Japan's defeat in World War II. In 1995, exactly half a century later, I completed Toppamono. It was the year of Japan's second defeat, when the double blow of the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway rocked a nation beginning to feel the full impact of the bubble economy's collapse.
Much of my existence has been characterized by defeat; living with it has shaped my outlook and made me who I am. I feel closest to those who take defeat in their stride and just keep going, rather than to those who aspire to victory down a rational path. In life's losers I find a humanity lacking in the winners. It is this sentiment that lies at the heart of Toppamono.
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.