Whiting's real-life protagonist, Nick Zapetti, arrived in Tokyo during the days of the postwar occupation and decided to stay. Jolted from a budding career in low-rent confidence games by a lingering bout of insolvency, Zapetti opened a restaurant on a whim. Against all odds, Nicola's Pizza became the Tokyo hotspot in the '50s for expatriates, ballplayers, entertainers, and politicians, and inevitably, the local mob. Zapetti's erstwhile adventures as a semi-honest restaurateur in a strange land frame the book's real story: the savage backstabbing and dirty dealing of Tokyo's business community, which overlaps so seamlessly with the yakuza at times that it's difficult to see where one entity ends and the other begins. Whiting expertly details the evolution of "the Great Transfer of Wealth," as he calls it (the shifting in funds from American to Japan), and explains why American foreign policy (and its fear of communism) may have unwittingly allowed it to happen. Whiting's writing is illuminating and engaging, and his conclusions belie the simplistic protectionist rhetoric heard from both sides of the fence.
As for Zapetti, he eventually became a Japanese citizen and took his wife's last name. In poor health and dogged by the financial ruin of his pizza empire, Zapetti turned rabidly anti-Japanese: "You ever see the movie Rio Bravo?" Whiting quotes Zapetti as asking one of his foreign customers one night. "You remember the scene where the leering cowboy throws the money into the spittoon ... and Dean Martin, who's the town drunk, crawls after it? That's Japan's fantasy image of us. They want us to beg like Dean Martin." --Tjames Madison --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This book is a hoot to read.
This book is an interesting and important companion piece to "serious" analyses of Japan and would be an excellent addition to undergraduate syllabi on modern Japan.
I would love to see what Whiting has to say about more recent Japanese politics - particularly about how clean / dirty Koizumi was.
Very knowlegable and interesting story of a unique, transitional time in history, and the meeting of two cultures.Published 23 days ago by james shea
I come to this book by researching on Kodama and his cooperation with Church of Rev. Moon so call family federation for the universal Piece . Read morePublished 4 months ago by Zdenek Hanzlik
Ran across this book on Japanese society New York, and had to read it. I was there off and on during the years of 1948 t0 1966. Read morePublished on November 20, 2012 by Robert McKenna
I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed the fact that this wasn't a boring read, and I didn't know what to expect next. Read morePublished on May 20, 2011 by etheromis
When I was college I read Ian Buruma's "Behind the Mask," a compelling and captivating sociological study of Japan. Read morePublished on October 24, 2010 by Jiang Xueqin
This writer's style is BORING. It's as well written as one of those "encyclopedia of serial killers" books you always see for a buck in the bargain bin, but minus the typos those... Read morePublished on August 9, 2010 by Lucas W. Spann
Tokyo Underworld is a bit of a mixed bag -- part biography, part history -- and therein lies both its strength and weakness. Read morePublished on March 29, 2010 by Giles Gammage
This is the Japan your mother would have warned you to stay away from if she had known it existed. Most westerners don't. Read morePublished on December 31, 2009 by Dale Miller
I thought the author's view of the events that unfolded in postwar japan were interesting and detailed enough to satisfy my curiosity.Published on October 12, 2009 by kbl