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Murata’s turbulent adolescence finds him on the run from one felony assault-and-battery charge after another. At sixteen in Tokyo, he and four partners in crime mug other street gangs until their victims discover their whereabouts and set a trap from which Murata barely escapes. In Kobe, Murata is beaten beyond recognition by an army of street punks, only to find an Obama detective at his door the next day with a warrant for the battery charge. When the cop fails to identify him because of his facial injuries, Murata slips through his fingers, then blackmails him into dropping the charges. In Kyoto, Murata is tricked into joining a forced labor camp, from which he escapes, then returns to exact some very ballsy revenge.
Young Murata hates yakuza until he becomes the house guest and personal bodyguard of a high-ranking Kobe godfather. Upon agreeing to a trial apprenticeship in the syndicate, he is farmed out to the godfather who inspires him to want to become a yakuza—Noguchi. Months later, at a business dinner, Murata cuts off the top third of his little finger in a moving tribute of allegiance to Noguchi, who has been insulted by an associate.
What kind of person becomes a monk? At Hosshinji, an epileptic whose seizures had derailed his career in aluminum siding. A construction worker who becomes enlightened after only three weeks at the temple. A high school delinquent sent to Hosshinji after being caught stealing his female classmates’ soiled panties. A middle-aged alcoholic who runs amuck with a scythe in the temple and winds up in jail—with one of Murata’s men. And many, many more.
The histories of Murata’s top four lieutenants featured here help illustrate Murata’s charisma as a leader, as well as the often unusual ways yakuza godfathers handle the many aspects of a dirty job, including betrayal.
Murata returns from a sixteen-month jail sentence to find Noguchi has quit the syndicate. Urged by his former men, he starts his own family in Obama—a family very different from American mobs. After honoring requests from local authorities that include stopping a local high school prostitution ring and driving off a new yakuza family, the “honeymoon” ends when public officials and police officers show up in Murata’s gambling ledger. Murata is quickly convicted on a trumped-up charge, and is waiting to begin serving his sentence when he and I meet.
During the 1978 Osaka yakuza war, an overlord is targeted for termination by his own family for secret peace talks with the enemy. His only hope is a series of meetings with the council members who ordered the hit, but he cannot find a bodyguard because his eight lieutenants have gone into hiding. Murata is called in by a mutual acquaintance and accepts the job—knowing there’s no way out alive if it is a trap. Fortunately, there is no double-cross, and after two tension-packed weeks the hit is rescinded. The grateful overlord offers Murata the number two spot in his organization, which he refuses, while the eight lieutenants bring their severed pinky tips to the overlord in apology.