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Tokyo Underworld: The fast times and hard life of an American Gangster in Japan

Robert Whiting

6 Reviews

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True crime, Prose: non-fiction

An insider's view of Japan's underworld of organized crime.

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.

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Praise for Tokyo Underworld: The fast times and hard life of an American Gangster in Japan

  • Whiting provides fascinating snapshots of a Tokyo outsiders seldom see, a world the Japanese would prefer to keep behind the screen. - Time Magazine

  • This is an excellent book... An irreverent, subversive and entertaining yarn that enlightens readers about important aspects of Japanese history and the shadowy world of power. - The Japan Times

  • A fascinating look at some fascinating people who show how democracy advances hand in hand with crime in Japan.

  • An eye-opening exploration of the complex world of Japanese organised crime. - Seattle Times

  • A fun book about a wretched character. - New York Times Book Review

  • Reads like a James Bond thriller yet manages intelligently to illuminate the seamy side of Japan's postwar economic boom - Publisher's Weekly

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