Diary of an Ex-yakuza Moll

yak lady

Back in May, my wife and I went to the Sanja Matsuri, a famous mikoshi festival. There were some yakuza there showing off their tattoos, and one of them was this woman. My wife somehow got curious about what kind of person married a yakuza, and when we got home, she started doing some googling on the subject. She came across a blog called “Kekkon ni Mukenai Hito” (A Person Who’s Unsuitable for Marriage). It had this entry about a woman who got entangled with a yak, and I thought it was quite interesting, so I translated it below:

If you’re an ordinary office lady, you probably don’t get pursued by yakuza too often. This happened quite a while ago. I started secretly working part-time after my regular job, and soon after that, a yakuza started pursuing me.

I used to be kind of daring, and I got desensitized to partying. Half because I wanted to party, and half because I felt sorry for him, I became a yakuza moll. I just thought he was lonely and I felt sorry for him, without thinking about it seriously. He was the shadow-president of the company I was working part-time at.

For me, it was just a way to kill time. I wasn’t demanding, I was reserved (because I don’t like to be a burden), and I wasn’t sexy, so he said I wasn’t the kind of woman he usually dated. He might say it was because I was not beautiful and was working at an office that wasn’t connected with the entertainment business.

The days went by, and one night I got a phone call. It was his subordinate/slave, Maeda-san. “The boss is making trouble in Motomachi. Please come and help.” …Why? That sort of thing started happening a lot, and it was at that time that I began to be troubled by it.

I started feeling that I was getting too involved, so I went to talk to the organized crime section of the police department, and found out a few things about his record. He was in their records, but was not an active gang member. For an ordinary citizen like me, whether he’s an active- or former-yakuza, he’ll always cause trouble.

In the yakuza’s house, they took care of everything for me, even down to my change of clothes, giving me a key to the house, a key to the car, and a lot of money.  All I had to do was get meals ready and accompany him when he went out. That consisted of going shopping, and visiting his companies. I wasn’t interested in brand-name goods, didn’t get excited, and didn’t give him advice. When he asked me with a curious face what I wanted, all I could think of was something like mixed juice from the supermarket in the department store basement. He took me to one of the host clubs he owned a bunch of times (to make me happier, I guess), but people like me who (secretly) don’t like people, don’t like the kind of people who become, and it wasn’t fun.

The rest of the time, I stayed at his place doing what I liked all the time. It wasn’t because I wanted to. I got in a situation where I had to stay in the house, because I was naive and got tangled up in his web. I felt that there was a mysterious pressure or force on me. After a while, I wasn’t allowed to go back to my own home at all.  I was living on my own, so my parents didn’t know it, but they yakuzas started forbidding me to go to work.

The yakuza did some investigating about me, and found out that I was having an affair, which really got under his skin. I was beaten, but I thought it was unreasonable, and I knew he didn’t beat me as hard as he could, so I wasn’t afraid and just listened to him calmly when he said he was going to kill my lover.

Even though I wasn’t allowed to go out, I tried not to show my dissatisfaction and waited for a chance to escape. There were a bunch of shady-looking guys by the main entrance of the company where I work. They called the switchboard of my company asking for me, so I asked the person who answers the phone to tell them I wasn’t working there anymore, causing an uproar within the company. I heard that it finally got so bad that some yakuza visited the company where my father worked a place he had been working at for a long time and where he had built up a lot of trust.

My father works in the field of law, so he introduced me to a lawyer who specializes in cases involving organized crime. We couldn’t reach an understanding, so we had to get the lawyer involved. A lot of people get the wrong idea and automatically believe that no one would get involved with a yakuza if there was no money in it for them as a mistress. That’s explicitly written in the contract I signed for an out-of-court settlement. It also says that on the condition that I return the car keys, house keys, and bankbook, he promises never to contact me again, completely severing our connection. Actually, though, he did contact me one time after that.

Did I change? When I reflect back on it with some perspective, there’s not really a line between a prostitute and a mistress, and the things that go on between people are petty and a nuisance. I really regret acting like such a child and making so much trouble for my parents, who had been living as responsible members of society. I don’t think that being a mistress or a prostitute is bad, or that one should ignore a person who’s lonely, but I do have to tread carefully. That’s what I think.

The original entry is at: http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/miumiu6363jp/235052.html. If you visit the original entry, you can also see the out-of-court settlement that the yakuza signed. The rest of the blog has entries about how unsuitable for marriage and motherhood she is, and descriptions of her former career as a prostitute (where she met her husband).

Chocolate Natto

chocolate natto

Mito’s meibutsu (famous local product) is natto, a goo made from rotten soy beans. It is, as they say, an acquired taste. I once ate it every day for three weeks, testing out my theory that a person can get used to any food. I gave up  because I just couldn’t get it down without gagging. This souvenir stand is trying to make it more palatable by adding chocolate to it.

By the way, I’m moving tomorrow, so there probably won’t be any posts until next weekend.

Sekigahara War World

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Photos courtesy of FunkyBuddha Experience

Sekigahara was probably the most important battle in the history of Japan. It was fought in Gifu Prefecture in a tiny village called Sekigahara, which is viewed today as the dividing point between eastern and western Japan. It was the Gettysburg of Japanese history.
On one side, were Ieyasu Tokugawa, a powerful feudal lord from the east and his allies, and on the other were the forces of Mitsunari Ishida, the most powerful man in western Japan. After the death of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the de facto shogun of Japan in 1598, Tokugawa conspired against Toyotomi’s young son, Hideyori, who was supported by Ishida. He created an alliance of feudal lords from the eastern prefectures, and moved against Ishida and the western army in 1600. After much manouvering, the two forces came together at Sekigahara, a village on the Nakasendo Highway, which joined Tokyo and Kyoto.
The battle was a terrible bloodbath in which the soldiers of a divided country slaughtered one another to decide the fate of the nation. More than 170,000 men fought at Sekigahara, and some 60,000 men were killed on the losing side. The Tokugawa alliance won the battle after several of the western generals turned traitor and fought on the their side. After the battle, the Tokugawa Shogunate took over Japan, ruling the country for the next 250 plus years.
On the actual battlefield, of course, there is a solemn monument, but some business person seems to have decided that that was not enough. They decided the area also needs a 30,000 square meter theme park with lifesize concrete statues of the battle, complete with recreations of hand-to-hand combat, beheadings, and ritual suicides.
As you wander the grounds enjoying the carnage, a song entitled “Ah, the Decisive Battle of Sekigahara” serenades you on an endless loop. There are 202 statues in all, including an image of Takeda Shingen (who died 25 years before the battle) holding a standard that says “No More Sekigaharas!”

sekigaharawarworld1

Photo courtesy of FunkyBuddha Experience

Links:
There are tons more photos at the wonderful FunkyBuddha Experience website, an incredible guide to bizarre places in Japan. Unfortunately, it’s all in Japanese, but even if you don’t understand what it says, just click through and look at the photos: http://www41.tok2.com/home/kanihei5/asano-sekigahara.html. The main page is at: http://www41.tok2.com/home/kanihei5/index.html
Another good place to see photos is this page full of pictures of two guys clowning around on the statues: http://underzero.net/html/tz/tz_432_1.htm
There’s a good historical description of the battle here: http://everything2.com/title/battle%2520of%2520Sekigahara
Official website: http://www.kanko-sekigahara.jp/kankou/ko-02.htm (Japanese only)

Getting there: 20 minutes walk from Sekigahara Station on the JR Tokaido Line.
Address: Gifu Perfectuere, Fuha^Gun, Sekigahara-Chou Ikedera
Tel. 0584-43-0302
Hours: (Apr.-Oct. 9AM-5PM, Nov.-Mar. 9:30-4:30
Admission: 700/400
Closed: 12/30-1/2

Money Washing Temple in Kamakura

moneywashing temple

The famous Zeniarai Benten Shrine in Kamakura. See the green trough-looking thing at the back of the cave? People believe that if you wash your money in the trough, it will double in value.

Courtesan Procession in Shinagawa

Embarrassing confession: until a few years ago, I thought a “courtesan” was a female courtier. Just on the off-chance that you’re confused like I was, a courtesan is a prostitute. The oiran were, like geisha, more than just prostitutes, though, and were renowned for their music, dancing, poetry, and calligraphy. They were farther toward the coital end of the sex-worker spectrum than geisha, and were the aristocracy of the pleasure quarters. There’s an interesting Wikipedia article about them at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oiran

oiran 9

oiran 01

Oiran were fashion trend-setters. The high-ranking ones wore these huge shoes and had a style of walking where they dragged their feet out sideways in a semi-circle. You can see it in this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNncpdEFOB0&feature=related. The shoes weigh 2.5 kgs.

oiran shoes 2

oiran kid

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oiran 4

oiran 5


The procession is held in Shinagawa and takes place every year on the first Saturday in June, and is part of a larger mikoshi festival. The procession starts at 6:30, not from the Shinagawa Bridge (as the Japan Times Festival Listings said, causing me to wait in the wrong place) but up the road farther toward Shinagawa Station. If you come to the bridge, keep going, cross the big road and turn left. I believe it’s here.

<http://www.google.co.jp/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=ja&geocode=&q=%E5%93%81%E5%B7%9D&sll=36.949892,136.40625&sspn=48.185068,71.806641&ie=UTF8&ll=35.618169,139.743416&spn=0.000366,0.000548&t=h&z=21&layer=c&cbll=35.618177,139.743523&panoid=O7bd7U4gXmwqG_AgjYBrRQ&cbp=12,4.65,,0,12.93>

Love Hotel Car Wash

free car wash

The love hotel business is a very competitive one, and they’re always trying to come up with new ways to attract customers. This love hotel in Osaka offers free carwashes to its patrons.Instead of the car moving through the car wash, the car wash moves back and forth over the car.

love-hotel-coverThere’s more information about   love hotels in my new book, Love Hotels: An Inside Look at Japan’s Sexual Playgrounds. I spent years visiting love hotels around Japan, interviewing love hotel designers, owners and staff, and wading through Japanese books on sex and love hotels to bring you this book.

It’s 182 pages of information about their history, the people who design and operate them, their place in Japanese society, crime, and much, much more. There’s also a love hotel guide with information on how to get to the best hotels in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.

For more information about love hotels, please visit my newly updated love hotel page at: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotels.html

To order or find out more about the book, please visit: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelbookintro.htm. There’s also a smaller guidebook, with just the hotel information for 500 yen: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelguide.html.

There are more love hotel-related posts
here.

Mito Tower and Botanical Garden

mitotower

Most visitors to Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture head to the famous garden Kairakuen and the Kodokan, an old school for samurai, but once you’ve seen them, there are a couple of other places worth checking out as well. One is the Mito Art Museum. It was built in 1989 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city’s municipalization and hosts concerts, art exhibits, and plays. You can ride up to the top for just 200 yen.

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Moving on the Cheap in Japan

Moving in Japan can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. From full-service movers where a team of professionals will pack and unpack every single item you own to Akabo’s customer-assisted moves for 10,000 yen or less, there are an incredible variety of options.
I’m moving in a couple of weeks, and last Saturday, we had four moving companies in to give us estimates (the joys of having a penny-pinching Osakan wife). We finally got a company to move all the stuff from our three bedroom apartment for just 40,000 yen (we are just moving to the next ward), which was quite shocking for me, because I thought it might be around 100,000 and I thought I’d share a little of what I learned.

1. Get multiple estimates. All of the companies came down in price when she mentioned that we were getting multiple estimates. She was careful not to tell them exactly how much the other companies had offered though, because if she mentioned a price, they might argue about how their service was better or included different things.

2. The cheapest times of the year to move are June (due to the rainy season and it being after the peak), October, and November. The most expensive times are March and April when everyone is moving because of company transfers, during summer vacation in July and August, and Golden Week.

3. Weekends are the most expensive, of course, but Fridays can also be expensive because some people move then so they can have the weekend to unpack. You can get discounts for moving on a Monday or Tuesday.

4. The absolute best way to get a deep, deep discount is to say, “I’ll move whenever you have a truck available.” A lot of companies want to keep their workers busy, so if there is a day when they don’t have any moves, they’ll move you for little or no profit just to keep their staff working. If you tell them a five day period that you can be available it’s a great way to save.

5. You can get a discount of 10,000 yen or more if you’re willing to move in the afternoon. A lot of moves finish around 2 or 3 PM, so if the company can get an extra move in during the day, they’ll lower the price a lot.

6. There are price-focused and service-focused companies. Of the big five, Kuroneko (Black Cat), Nittsu (Nippon Express), and Art (0-123) are service focused, and Arisan Ma-ku (Ant) and Sakai (Panda) are price-focused. The service-focused ones tried to sell us on things like having a guy come to wait for the gas man, and special hanger boxes so you don’t have to fold your clothes, and cost about 30 percent more. Um, no thanks.
The price focused ones are still highly professional, and are, of course, bonded and insured. If you’re getting multiple estimates, it’s better to have the quality-focused companies come first so you can compare prices more easily.

7. You can often get a 2000 yen or so discount if you’re willing to take used boxes.

8. Here are a couple of phrases that my wife used during the negotiations:
*Hasuu wa jama janai desu ka? – Wouldn’t it be easier to calculate if you rounded down the figure? This seems to be something all the companies expect and they all did it willingly, so we are moving for 40,000 rather than 42,000.
*Dekireba, 4-man endai ni shite hoshii na. (If possible, I’d like it to be under 50,000.)

9. Different companies charge for different things. We are moving into a highrise building, and two of the companies said they had to charge us extra because it would slow things down using the elevator. Sakai and Arisan Mark had flatter rates.

10. This is a good website for comparing moving companies: http://kuchiran.jp/life/moving.html (Japanese only).

This is what I’ll be seeing from my living room. Now a beautiful view, perhaps, but an interesting one.
river harp view

Here are a couple of  options we didn’t use but are great if you don’t have much stuff and are on a really tight budget:
Akabo – This is an extremely cheap option if you don’t have much stuff and are willing to help load the truck. I used them a couple of times when I first came to Japan, and it was usually just under 10,000 yen for a move inside the city.  The trucks are quite small, so you will probably only be able to fit a single person’s belongings in them. I always found the drivers to be very helpful and friendly, and was really pleased with the service.

Couriers – For people who are moving between cities, courier companies like Kuroneko Yamato (Black Cat) will send your stuff in a “tanshin pakku” (singles’ pack) for as little as 12,000 yen. For example, sending a two-cubic meter box that you could put the contents of a six-mat room into from Tokyo to Osaka would cost about 30,000 yen. http://www.008008.jp/service/tanshin.html