The Last Yakuza tells the history of the yakuza like it’s never been told before.
Makoto Saigo is half-American and half-Japanese in small-town Japan with a set of talents limited to playing guitar and picking fights. With rock stardom off the table, he turns toward the only place where you can start from the bottom and move up through sheer merit, loyalty, and brute force — the yakuza.
Saigo, nicknamed Tsunami, quickly realises that even within the organisation, opinions are as varied as they come, and a clash of philosophies can quickly become deadly. One screw-up can cost you your life, or at least a finger.
The internal politics of the yakuza are dizzyingly complex, and between the ever-shifting web of alliances and the encroaching hand of the law that pushes them further and further underground, Saigo finds himself in the middle of a defining decades-long battle that will determine the future of the yakuza.
Written with the insight of an expert on Japanese organised crime and the compassion of a longtime friend, investigative journalist Jake Adelstein presents a sprawling biography of a yakuza, through postwar desperation, to bubble-era optimism, to the present. Including a cast of memorable yakuza bosses — Coach, the Buddha, and more — this is a story about the rise and fall of a man, a country, and a dishonest but sometimes honourable way of life on the brink of being lost.
‘Journalist Adelstein parlays decades of reporting on Japanese organised crime into a propulsive history of the yakuza. Drawing on interviews with both his yakuza and Japanese law enforcement contacts, he examines how yakuza groups obtained power … He’s especially good at tracing the yakuza’s political influence in Japan, explaining how they bribed and blackmailed legislators into opposing bills that would have curbed their influence. Painstakingly reported and paced like a thriller, this is a must read for anyone interested in organised crime.’
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‘[T]his is great reading for anyone interested in the history and fading lifestyle of Japan’s unique brand of mobsters. It’s a sweeping narrative of the yakuza on both a macro and personal level, helping the reader understand the whats, whos, and, most importantly, whys of organised crime in Japan … The days of the old world of Japanese organised crime are winding down, but The Last Yakuza proves how much there is to learn from the stories of Japan’s shadowy, fading underworld.’
Noah Oskow, Unseen Japan