Yakuza Moon is the shocking, yet intensely moving memoir of 37-yearold Shoko Tendo, who grew up the daughter of a yakuza boss. Tendo lived her life in luxury until the age of six, when her father was sent to prison, and her family fell into terrible debt. Bullied by classmates who called her "the yakuza girl," and terrorized at home by a father who became a drunken, violent monster after his release from prison, Tendo rebelled. A regular visitor to nightclubs at the age of 12, she soon became a drug addict and a member of a girl gang. By the age of 15 she found herself sentenced to eight months in a juvenile detention center.
Adulthood brought big bucks and glamour when Tendo started working as a bar hostess during Japan’s booming bubble economy of the nineteen- eighties. But among her many rich and loyal patrons there were also abusive clients, one of whom beat her so badly that her face was left permanently scarred. When her mother died, Tendo plunged into such a deep depression that she tried to commit suicide twice.
Tendo takes us through the bad times with warmth and candor, and gives a moving and inspiring account of how she overcame a lifetime of discrimination and hardship. Getting tattooed, from the base of her neck to the tips of her toes, with a design centered on a geisha with a dagger in her mouth, was an act that empowered her to start making changes in her life. She quit her job as a hostess. On her last day at the bar she looked up at the full moon, a sight she never forgot. The moon became a symbol of her struggle to become whole, and the title of the book she wrote as an epitaph for herself and her family.
Tendo, the daughter of a yakuza (mob) boss, grew up in 1970s and '80s Japan, living through the booms and busts of life on the wrong side of the law. Her first published work, Shoko uses unpracticed but appropriately blunt prose to memoir her exceedingly arduous life; readers will appreciate her restrained but powerful details, especially during some of the harsher scenes. From age 12 onwards, Shoko's life was enveloped in drug addiction, poverty, psychological and sexual abuse, miscarriage, attempted suicide and the deaths of many close family members, set against a backdrop of Japan's ultra-secretive yakuza society. Admiration and a detached style keep Tendo from exploring any resentment she might harbor toward her criminal father, which may prove off-putting for some, but feels entirely honest given the emotional trauma Tendo suffers, and is as revealing for what it includes as for what it doesn't. Emotionally complex and thoroughly heart-rending, this book is recommended for anyone searching for a more thorough and personal understanding of Japanese society, and its darker corners, than is offered by more popular Japanese imports (movies, comic books) featuring similar subject matter.