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Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan Paperback – September 26, 2000
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
It is an alternate, separate layer of reality, a shadowy universe of characters-gangsters, corrupt entrepreneurs, courtesans, seedy sports promoters, streetwise opportunists, intelligence agents, political fixers, and financial manipulators-who have perhaps done as much in their own right to influence U.S.-Japan affairs as their more refined and respected peers. Significantly, it has not always been easy to distinguish the latter from the former.
Drawing on police and press reports as well as personal interviews (Zappetti himself was interviewed extensively for this book between 1989 and his death in 1992 at age seventy-one), Robert Whiting, one of the few western journalists to live and write regularly in Japan, depicts an awesome cancer of corruption metastasizing behind the rigid veneer of Japanese society.Read more ›
This book will appeal particularly to people who live or have lived in Japan, but also to anyone who enjoys a lurid and seedy tale!
Corruption in Japan runs deep, and this book dives all the way to the bottom. Whiting has done a remarkable amount of research and has had amazing access to those people who really run Tokyo and by extension Japan, namely organized crime. Using a relocated New York Mafioso as his catalyst, Whiting exposes how deeply ingrained the Yakuza are, with influence extending as high as the Prime Minister's office and as far afield as the US and Indonesia.
Nicola Zapetti knew and worked with some of Japan's most powerful Yakuza, and in Japan, many argue that the Yakuza are the most powerful group of all. Yoshio Kodama, a pardoned Class-A war criminal, ultra-right wing politician and well-known Yakuza once referred to himself as "the worlds richest fascist." LDP kingmaker Shin Kanemaru was found with millions of dollars in cash, bearer bonds and gold boullion in his house, much of it bribes from the Yakuza.
New Prime Minister Koizumi has been labelled a "reformer" by the media in the West. Those who have read Whiting's book know enough to doubt both his sincerity and his chances of legitimate success at changing this system which is corrupt at its very core.
If you want to understand the Japan that they don't teach you about in Polical Science and Business classes, you need this book.
The amazon.com website is replete with scholarly studies of Japanese politics and economics. 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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting read which also highlights Japanese economic/political/judicial/criminal relations during the 50 year period from the end of WWII.Published 6 months ago by jb
Great Book for learning about the Yakuza in tokyo and the general underbelly of it. Great informing bookPublished 9 months ago by Jacob Azizi
Very knowlegable and interesting story of a unique, transitional time in history, and the meeting of two cultures.Published 20 months 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 24 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