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Tokyo Underworld

The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan

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Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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"A fascinating look at some fascinating people who show how democracy advances hand in hand with crime in Japan."--Mario Puzo

In this unorthodox chronicle of the rise of Japan, Inc., Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa, gives us a fresh perspective on the economic miracle and near disaster that is modern Japan.

Through the eyes of Nick Zappetti, a former GI, former black marketer, failed professional wrestler, bungling diamond thief who turned himself into "the Mafia boss of Tokyo and the king of Rappongi," we meet the players and the losers in the high-stakes game of postwar finance, politics, and criminal corruption in which he thrived. Here's the story of the Imperial Hotel diamond robbers, who attempted (and may have accomplished) the biggest heist in Tokyo's history. Here is Rikidozan, the professional wrestler who almost single-handedly revived Japanese pride, but whose own ethnicity had to be kept secret. And here is the story of the intimate relationships shared by Japan's ruling party, its financial combines, its ruthless criminal gangs, the CIA, American Big Business, and perhaps at least one presidential relative. Here is the underside of postwar Japan, which is only now coming to light.
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"A fascinating look at some fascinating people who show how democracy advances hand in hand with crime in Japan."--Mario Puzo

In this unorthodox chronicle of the rise of Japan, Inc., Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa, gives us a fresh perspective on the economic miracle and near disaster that is modern Japan.

Through the eyes of Nick Zappetti, a former GI, former black marketer, failed professional wrestler, bungling diamond thief who turned himself into "the Mafia boss of Tokyo and the king of Rappongi," we meet the players and the losers in the high-stakes game of postwar finance, politics, and criminal corruption in which he thrived. Here's the story of the Imperial Hotel diamond robbers, who attempted (and may have accomplished) the biggest heist in Tokyo's history. Here is Rikidozan, the professional wrestler who almost single-handedly revived Japanese pride, but whose own ethnicity had to be kept secret. And here is the story of the intimate relationships shared by Japan's ruling party, its financial combines, its ruthless criminal gangs, the CIA, American Big Business, and perhaps at least one presidential relative. Here is the underside of postwar Japan, which is only now coming to light.
Product Details
Paperback (400 pages)
Published: September 26, 2000
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780375724893
Other books byRobert Whiting
  • The Meaning of Ichiro

    The Meaning of Ichiro
    The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation...
    Matsui... Nomo... Sasaki... Ichiro... the so-called American "National Pastime" has developed a decidedly Japanese flair. Indeed, in this year's All-Star game, two of the starting American League outfielders were from Japan. And for the third straight year, Ichiro - the fleet-footed Seattle Mariner - received more votes for the All-Star game than any other player in the game today. Some 15 years ago, in the bestseller "You Gotta Have Wa," Robert Whiting examined how former American major league ballplayers tried to cope with a different culture while playing pro ball in Japan. Now, Whiting reverses his field and reveals how select Japanese stars have come across the Pacific to play in the big leagues. Not only have they had to deal with the American way of life, but they have individually changed the game in dramatic fashion.

    Toppamono

    Toppamono
    Outlaw. Radical. Suspect. My Life in Japan's...
    Shot, stabbed, and beaten, Miyazaki Manabu somehow emerged intact from his first fifty years to put his astonishing life story down on paper. Born the son of a yakuza boss in 1945, he grew up in a household of gang members and social misfits before his conversion to Marxism launched him into the violent world of 1960s student radicalism. After dropping out of university and spending a brief sojourn in South America, he became a reporter on a fast-rising weekly magazine. Called back home to Kyoto to take over the family demolition business, he was plunged into a maelstrom of bankruptcy and debt, forcing him to raise funds however he could. Along the way, he became the chief suspect in one of Japan's most sensational criminal cases----still unsolved----before getting caught up in the crazy years of Japan's bubble economy, when land speculators tipped their favorite bar hostesses millions of yen and Dom Perignon flowed like water. More than just one man's incredible story, unflinchingly told, Toppamono is a sophisticated analysis of Japan's postwar half-century that will astound and enlighten. Devastatingly critical of banks and bureaucrats, questioning of Japan's understanding of democracy, and cogent on the role played by the yakuza in Japanese society, this underground best-seller, first published in 1996, will keep you enthralled until the very last page. toppamono n: a person with a devil-may-care attitude, who pushes ahead regardless.

    Tokyo Underworld

    Tokyo Underworld
    The fast times and hard life of an American...
    In 1945, as part of the Occupation forces sent to postwar Japan Nick Zappetti, a native of Italian East Harlem, entered a world as strange as any he had ever know, In postwar Tokyo, however, he realised there were certain opportunities. He had a failed stint as a professional wrestler, and participated in a fumbled (but famous) diamond heist. He was deported but managed to return with the assistance of the Mafia. Then Nick opened a pizza joint in what would be the centre of Tokyo's nightlife and became "the king of Roppongi and Mafia boss of Tokyo," and the intimate of some of Japan's most notorious underworld figures as well as many of its political and business leaders. Following Zappetti's rising and falling fortunes, and his love-hate relationship with his adopted country, Robert Whiting show us the sinister (and sometimes ridiculous) goings-on among Tokyo's traditional criminal gangs as they developed from local racketeers and gamblers into lynchpins of international finance, politics and corruption. Here is a fresh perspective on postwar Japan and how it went from being a defeated nation to an economic player, with a little help from some less than diplomatic friends.

    You Gotta Have Wa

    You Gotta Have Wa
    A hilarious, informative, and riveting account of Japanese baseball and the cultural clashes that ensued when Americans began playing there professionally. In Japan, baseball is a way of life. It is a philosophy. It is besuboru. Its most important element is wa—group harmony—embodied in the proverb "The nail that sticks up shall be hammered down." In this witty and incisive book, Robert Whiting gives us a close-up look at besuboru's teams, obsessive ritualism, and history, as seen through the eyes of American players who found the Japanese approach—rigorous pregame practices, the tolerance for tie games, injured pitchers encouraged to “pitch through the pain”—completely baffling. With vivid accounts of East meeting West, involving Babe Ruth, Ichiro Suzuki, Bobby Valentine, Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh, and many others, this lively and completely unique book is an utter gem and baseball classic.

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