Megan Harlan
August 09, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Yakuza Diary: Doing Time in the Japanese Underworld

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Christopher Seymour
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it a B+

The yakuza, or Japanese Mafia, are a criminal breed far superior to their waning American counterparts. With an annual $50 billion income from ventures spanning the vice trades and stock market manipulation, the yakuza — who number 100,000 — are so entrenched in Japanese society that they seem an unspoken branch of government. And with their traditional full-torso tattoos emanating a ”hostile otherworldliness,” and penchant for perms, flashy clothes, clutch purses, and mortally competitive golf, they are a colorful bunch. Christopher Seymour, a longhaired, Japanese-fluent, Caucasian freelance writer, befriended and spent months trailing various yakuza — from gang heads to tremulous rookies. His accounts in Yakuza Diary: Doing Time in the Japanese Underworld are always vibrant if occasionally breathless, but his thoughtful insights into an increasingly self-possessed urban Japan balance out anything resembling cheap thrills. B+

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