Goto Tadamasa's Conversion

Goto Tadamasa is quite infamous in Japan as a boss in the 40,000-strong 山口組 (Yamaguchi-gumi) yakuza syndicate, one of the world's largest organised crime outfits with links to North Korea and operations in many other parts of Asia and in the U.S. as well. He is well-known for his extreme use of violence and aggression that includes activities such as the bulldozing of businesses that fail to pay protection money and the brutal beatings of his victims before the eyes of their families.

In 2001 Goto-san worked as an FBI informant in return for travel to the U.S. where he skipped to the front of the organ-donor waiting list with 700+ members to receive a life-saving liver-transplant at UCLA Medical Centre. Although he reportedly provided information that is available to anyone with an internet connection or the ability to read newspapers, his actions obviously infuriated his superiors.

Last September, Goto Tadamasa made a public spectacle of himself when he threw an extravagant birthday celebration for himself in 静岡県 (Shizuoka) and invited five of Japan's most famous enka singers (細川たかし (Hosokawa Takashi), 小林 旭 (Kobayashi Akira), 松原のぶえ (Matsubara Nobue), 角川博 (Kadokawa Hiroshi) and 中条きよし (Nakajou Kiyoshi)) to participate in a golf tournament and lavish party. This, too, enraged his fellow clan-members and also resulted in the performers' expulsion from the NHK's annual oshougatsu celebration enka concert.

Four weeks ago marked a drastic change in life for the 66-year-old Wakagashira (boss). 08-April is a day that's honoured as the birthday of Buddha in Japan and on that day Goto Tadamasa was ordained as a Tendai Buddhist priest at 成願寺 (Jyoganji Temple) in 中野区 Nakano-ku (a district of Tokyo at the west edge of the city). It's a lifestyle change that's met with skepticism and criticism as well as with praise and understanding. Critics believe the move to be nothing more than an escape route away from the leaders of the Yamaguchi-gumi from which Goto-san has been outcast. Others are more sympathetic to his goals, and see him as a changed man who wishes to make amends for his life of evil and live the rest of his life in service to his fellow man. It's too soon to determine his true motives, of course.

What do YOU think?

Thanks to Jake Adelstein, former crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, for many of the details in this post.


Jake Adelstein said...

Nicely put together. Goto does not appear to be repentant and has been giving interviews to magazines where he blames his expulsion on the fact that he is a Japanese yakuza and the Yamaguchi-gumi "has been taken over by those damn Koreans."
That's quite a taboo to break, even for this guy. The yakuza in Japan are composed mostly of Korean-Japanese, Burakumin or Dowa which were the former outcaste class and regular ethnic Japanese. Everyone knows this but it's not something said in polite underworld society.
Goto seems to be trying to create a huge rift and step in as the "Japanese Yakuza godfather". He left Japan for Indonesia on the 18th of April and is now in Singapore, probably or allegedly laundering money. Possibly even working out a new liver/permenanent residency deal in exchange for information (and money) with another government.

Brother Wormgear said...

Very interesting-- so he is not even serving at the temple any longer! I find this story to be extremely fascinating and Mr. Goto is really over the top! Thank you so much for the breaking news update! I'm honoured that you took the time to visit and leave a comment. Thank you Mr. Adelstein!

rinko said...

sugoi ne sugoi ne Kuri chan!
Hmmm it seems like there is a huge difference between what we saw in the movie and this article.
We somehow have this nostalgic/naive/somewhat hopeful illusion of yakuza... because they are often portrayed as some kind of super heroes or something.
But in reality, yakuza is yakuza.
But if you are interested, read novels of Tomiko Miyao.
She's one of my favorite novelists. She's from Kochi Prefecrture (in Shikoku region), and was adapted by Yakuza family, I think. Her adopted father is called ZEGEN (女衒), whose job is buying girls to make them geishas. Lots of her novels are based on her own experiences and struggle, sadness, and strengths of these women. Here are my recommendation:
"The Life of Kiryuin Hanako 鬼龍院花子の生涯)

In this time period (the end of Taisho and beginning of Showa Era) Yakuza was still expected to have some NINKYO 任侠。
Maybe you can find better yakuza images you are looking for.