Published in: 2004
Edition read: E-book
Born to a wealthy and powerful yakuza boss, Shoko Tendo lived the early years of her life in luxury. However, when she was six, everything changed: her father was jailed, and the family fell into debt. Bullied by her classmates because of her father’s activities, and terrorized at home by her father, who became a drunken, violent monster after his release from prison, Tendo rebelled. As a teenager she became a drug addict and a member of a girl gang. At the age of 15 she spent eight months in a juvenile detention center after getting into a fight with another gang.
During Japan’s bubble economy of the eighties, Tendo worked as a bar hostess, attracting many rich and loyal customers, and earning money to help her family out of debt. But there were also abusive clients, one of whom beat her so badly that her face was left permanently scarred. Her mother died, plunging Tendo into a depression so deep that she tried to commit suicide.
Somehow, Tendo overcame these tough times. A turning point was getting a full-body tattoo with a design centered on a geisha with a dagger in her mouth, an act that empowered her to change her life. She quit her job as a hostess. On her last day at work, she looked up at the full moon, which 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.
This is not a well-written book, the author states this herself in the opening paragraphs. She is not a writer, she is not looking to make a living from this, she is simply just wanting to tell her story. And that she does, quite well, given she is not a writer. Her writing style jumps a bit, and sometimes she will throw in bits and pieces that don’t add anything to the story; or she will start on one thing, and then next sentence she is on some other subject with no explanation; but if you can overlook this and get into the story, it’s pretty good.
I originally wanted to read this book as I thought it might give me an insight to the Yakuza, which is always portrayed as bad-assed motorcycle riding sword wielding Japanese mobsters in movies- but are they really like that? However, this isn’t really a book about them, this is about someone who is linked to the Yakuza and how it has influenced them.
This was fascinating to read, and kept me entertained during a long car-ride down south for a stupid cousin’s wedding that I so did not want to attend. It was also quite short, which was nice given the length of other books I’ve been reading lately!
Yakuza Moon rating: 6.5/10
Would I re-read it? No, this is one of those books that you really only need to read once
Who would I recommend it to? For anyone interested in memoirs, Japanese culture, or Yakuza.