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Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard…

Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in…

by Robert Whiting

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1064113,849 (3.67)3



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An exceptionally well informed, impassioned and detailed study of Japan's post war development, the rise of the yakuza, and the problems of being a gaijin in an alien culture, all told through the lens of the life story of an American gangster cum entrepreneur. A brilliant book, remarkably well organised, penetrating, sad, nostalgic, and witty. ( )
  flap_dragon | Jul 3, 2008 |
A interesting piece of journalistic expose & biography, Whiting uses the life of Nick Zappetti (former American occupation soldier, small time hood, & pizzeria proprieator) as a through-line in which to tell the large story of institutionalized corruption that has taken root in Japan since the end of WW2.
It's a fast, interesting read that while presenting no overall thesis concerning organized crime or institutional corruption in Japan is quite informative on these thru the illustration of several running themes. ( )
  stevenptrue | Jan 14, 2008 |
Autobiographical account of an expat American's life in Japan. An interesting look into Japan after its defeat after the war, but nothing you can't live without. ( )
  mopedronin | Oct 5, 2007 |
Grossly engaging book on the Japanese mafia, including both personal narratives and historical overviews. ( )
  neomarxisme | Feb 21, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375724893, Paperback)

In this compelling history of the rise of Japanese organized crime since the end of World War II, Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa (an excellent book on Japanese baseball), demonstrates that Americans have only themselves to blame for the omnipotence of the yakuza in Japanese politics and society and the rebirth of conquered Japan as one of the world's great financial giants.

Whiting's real-life protagonist, Nick Zapetti, arrived in Tokyo during the days of the postwar occupation and decided to stay. Jolted from a budding career in low-rent confidence games by a lingering bout of insolvency, Zapetti opened a restaurant on a whim. Against all odds, Nicola's Pizza became the Tokyo hotspot in the '50s for expatriates, ballplayers, entertainers, and politicians, and inevitably, the local mob. Zapetti's erstwhile adventures as a semi-honest restaurateur in a strange land frame the book's real story: the savage backstabbing and dirty dealing of Tokyo's business community, which overlaps so seamlessly with the yakuza at times that it's difficult to see where one entity ends and the other begins. Whiting expertly details the evolution of "the Great Transfer of Wealth," as he calls it (the shifting in funds from American to Japan), and explains why American foreign policy (and its fear of communism) may have unwittingly allowed it to happen. Whiting's writing is illuminating and engaging, and his conclusions belie the simplistic protectionist rhetoric heard from both sides of the fence.

As for Zapetti, he eventually became a Japanese citizen and took his wife's last name. In poor health and dogged by the financial ruin of his pizza empire, Zapetti turned rabidly anti-Japanese: "You ever see the movie Rio Bravo?" Whiting quotes Zapetti as asking one of his foreign customers one night. "You remember the scene where the leering cowboy throws the money into the spittoon ... and Dean Martin, who's the town drunk, crawls after it? That's Japan's fantasy image of us. They want us to beg like Dean Martin." --Tjames Madison

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:17 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 1945, as part of the Occupation forces sent to postwar Japan, New Yorker Nick Zappetti entered a world as strange as any he had ever known. In postwar Tokyo, however, he realised there were certain opportunities. With the assistance of the Mafia, he opened a pizza joint 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, Robert Whiting show us the sinister (and sometimes ridiculous) goings-on among Tokyo's criminal gangs as they developed from local racketeers and gamblers into lynchpins of international finance, politics and corruption.… (more)

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