You can see the whole Earth from the Moon!

Shoko Tendo – Yakuza Daughter (Part TWO of THREE)







on growing

_.up in the

seamy world

_of Japanese


By David McNeill

___November 11th, 2007


_Shoko Tendo on growing up

_in the seamy world of Japanese

_gangsters – The Independent

_Part TWO of THREE


Plastic surgery has

helped reconstruct her face,

but her health is delicate and

she is recovering from another


Tendo worshipped her father,

an Armani-clad yakuza gangster,

and grew up in a world most

ordinary Japanese people

never see.

She recalls one incident

from her childhood,

when a young gangster

came to their door and tried

to hand his severed little finger

to her father –

a traditional method of

yakuza atonement.

“My mother tried

to shield my eyes,

but I could still see the blood

dripping from his hand.”

“My dad was furious

and split the guy’s head

open with an object in the hall.”

“He said,

‘Why did you cut your finger off?

You need it for work.'”



Throughout her childhood,

Tendo listened to romantic

stories about the yakuza code

of honour and its role in society.

It is a role she defends,

despite the mob’s involvement

in prostitution,


real-estate scams and

even murder.

“You can see what happens

when they are run out of a place

such as Kabukicho,”

she explains,

referring to Tokyo’s biggest

red-light district.

“Other foreign gangsters move

in and it becomes chaotic and


It is better to have

them keeping order.”

Tendo credits a

“life-changing decision”

to get a tattoo for giving her

the mental strength to pull out

of her death-dive of disastrous


“No more wimpy attitude,”

she writes about her first

visit to a tattoo parlour.

“It was time to start over.”



Her body is now a rippling,

inky canvas of dragons,


phoenixes and courtesans.

Tendo has never

regretted her tattoos,

despite having to keep almost

permanently covered up in a

country where they still retain

their lurid association with

the underworld.

But she struggles to explain

why they are so empowering,

or why she would deepen her

symbolic association with the

yakuza even as she cut

her physical ties.

“It’s difficult to put into words,”

she says.

“My father had a huge buddha

on his back and many of the

people who came to our house

had tattoos.”

“I knew that made them

different to ordinary people,

but also that the relationship

between them was stronger

than blood.”

“I guess I felt that this was

the world that I belonged to.

I felt at home there.”




she is the single mother

of a two-year-old daughter who

she is raising while writing the

follow-up to Yakuza Moon.

Her partner is a photographer

and a far cry from the volatile

men who almost ruined her life.

“He’s almost comically different:

very gentle and almost feminine.

He freaks out when he sees

my tattoos and tells me to

cover them when we’re out.”

The next book will be partly

about the differences in their


his being in an ordinary

middle-class home.

What would she do if her

daughter came home with

a gangster?

She smiles.

“If he was a real traditional

type with manners and honour,

I’d be OK,

but I’d draw the

line at chinpira.

I’d have to protect her.”



Shoko Tendo links in GREEN





No Responses to “Shoko Tendo – Yakuza Daughter (Part TWO of THREE)”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: