Habakarinagara: An interview with Tadamasa Goto

Perhaps to promote his new book, Habakarinagara (憚りながら), Tadamasa Goto has been looking for some time in the limelight, apparently granting this interview on Yomiuri TV’s Takashin no Sokomade Itte Iinkai program.

Edit: YouTube appears to have taken down the videos. The link below for Part 1 should work, Part 2 seems to have been lost.
(Parts 1 and 2)
The interview runs as follows:

Why did you quit the Yamaguchi-gumi?

The time had come, and I took my chance.

Why won’t boryokudan crime groups go away?

Young Japanese men are attracted to the idea of having the kind of allies found in gangs. Guys that aren’t readily accepted by the rest of society–they see the attitude of gangsters and it motivates them.

How are boryokudan and the celebrity world connected?

(Goto chooses his words carefully here, asking if the question implied the connection still exists now.) When I first entered the Yamaguchi-gumi there was a pretty solid relationship but now there’s almost nothing. It was natural before; there were no walls.

How about the yakuza and Sokka Gakkai?

(Goto avoids the question then says he wants to leave it with the sentiments written in his book.)

How do you feel about society now?

I think politicians need to act with more responsibly and the knowledge that they hold the livelihoods of millions Japanese citizens in their hands. I liked Abe in the beginning, but he got soft and it all went downhill from there. There needs to be politicians with a stronger spirit.

Like who?

Shigeru Yoshida and Nobusuke Kishi were both great politicians. Even though thousands of people protested the U.S.-Japan security treaty, Kishi didn’t back down and pushed the issue.

What are your thoughts on national pride?

I think only about half of all Japanese have a sense of national pride. More politicians to exercise that sentiment. People of all ages should begin to realize that national pride comes from simple things–the way Japanese people are raised, being born Japanese–and that those ideas need to be expressed in words for a movement to really get started.

What about education?

There was a case of a Hokkaido Diet member who received money from a teachers’ union and eventually quit.(?) In his speech, he had said there’s no need for a national anthem or national flag in public schools. Despite that he was elected–I thought to myself, that’s crazy! To not have a flag or anthem in schools makes us just like the 51st state. Kids today need to realize that they have a culture, and that they should be proud of it as Japanese. There’s a book called Kokka no Hinkaku (国家の品格 – The character of country). It’s a simple book but a book that sells because people want to feel that pride.

The clip then ends with an economics journalist and a rep from publisher Takarajima-sha talking about Goto and how great the book is.

In the video Goto hardly says anything controversial, and some 2-Channelers have commented incredulously that the ex-yakuza head just looks like a typical old man. One thing certainly separates him from your typical middle-aged man, however: Check out the fingers on his left hand when he gestures.

Goto’s book is a best-seller in Japan but only weekly magazine Friday has really dealt with the more controversial subjects such as Goto’s admission of doing dirty work for Sokka Gakkai, Komeito and several LDP politicians in the past, including Itoyama Eitaro. The mainstream media has stayed away from the contents of the book and no politician has raised a fuss about the contents either.

Part of the reason may be that, in the past, the Goto-gumi–and now probably the Yamaguchi-gumi in the present–holds a lock on Burning Productions, Japan’s most powerful talent agency. Any major media outlet that discusses too much of Goto’s past risks losing access to Japan’s actors, singers, and other celebrities. It should be noted that part of Goto’s admiration for Nobusuke Kishi, stems from the fact that Kishi’s former secretary, Hoshi Hitoshi, helped arranged the deal with the FBI to get Goto a visa for his liver transplant in the United States.  Goto does mention what he terms this “unpleasant” Washington Post article in his book, but states that he can’t discuss it because it would cause too much trouble to people who helped him. He’s still under investigation by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department for the murder of a real estate dealer. This is one of the things that isn’t discussed in the media’s fawning interviews with the man.

Habakarinagara is a fascinating book in its own right and perhaps one of the best personal accounts of how yakuza and politicians work together. It gives great insight into the mindset of certain types of yakuza, as when Goto expresses joy rather than remorse at the way the film director Itami Juzo was attacked in 1992 by Goto-gumi members. Goto claims to have had nothing to do with the attack but was pleased when his underlings sliced up the director, noting that Itami more or less deserved it for making such an unpleasant movie about the yakuza.

The movie in question, Minbo: Or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion, is available internationally.  The “Minbo” in the title is short for minji kainyu boryoku (民事介入暴力), which can be translated as “Yakuza involvement in civil affairs.”  There are lawyers who specialize in dealing with yakuza problems in Japan of a civil nature, one more thing showing how omnipresent the problem is in the nation.

All the proceeds that Goto makes from Habakarinagara will be donated to charity, according to the publisher and the author.

Comments
17 Responses to “Habakarinagara: An interview with Tadamasa Goto”
  1. David Lima says:

    Thank you for posting that. Fantastic article and background information! Too bad youtube took away the video. I’m interested in reading Goto’s book but I don’t want him to profit from any purchase so I’ll look for it on ebay or some other private seller. I don’t believe Goto when he says he didn’t authorize the hit on the movie director and I also don’t believe Goto when he says the yakuza have almost no current connection with the entertainment industry but I’m sure there is some good information in his book.

    • I don’t believe much of what Goto says except when he’s talking about his relations to certain politicians or Sokka Gakkai. He says what suits his agenda. HIs book has some real value as a reference book and insight into the mind of the yakuza bosses.

  2. Alex says:

    An interesting video, though I was expecting Goto to look a bit more like a Buddhist monk than a member of a boy band! Speaking of entertainment , how deep are Yakuza connections to talent agencies? I know that the Johnny & Associates agency is pretty big, but like the above comment how much can we believe Goto in dismissing rumours of existing links between the two?

    • Goto is a consummate liar, as the deceased ex-prosecutor and lawyer, Igari Toshiro once said to me. Burning Production and Yoshimoto Kogyo, two of the largest talent agencies in Japan have yakuza ties and Burning Productions was listed as a yakuza front company in police materials leaked onto Wiki in 2007/2008.

  3. Piers says:

    Very interesting, thanks!
    (and cracking book by the way, shocking and moving. Funnily enough, it was recommended to me by my mother who heard extracts on the BBC. Let’s just say, I think the beeb must have selected its passages very carefully!! 🙂 ).

    I’m interested in the connections between mobsters and politicians. You mentioned Koizumi’s grandfather, and Kamei in your book.
    I heard from a friend that for example Tani Ryoko is from a yakuza family – her father is head of the Tamuragumi. I found some comments to this effect on the net. Is this true? (If so why didnt any reporter just ask her before she got elected? If not true, I apologise!).
    She was nominated by Ozawa. What are his connections, if any?

    Is there any chance you could put up a list of current, or recent, politicians with connections? It would be nice to hear from a reliable source to cut out the gossip!

    • I could comment more on the topic but these days I’m being prudent. I wrote an article called “The Last Yakuza” which talks about yakuza and politics in depth. It should be easy to find on the web. (I’d put in the link but my computer is buggy today.)

  4. Matthew says:

    Great stuff. Thanks a lot for putting this up!

  5. Piers says:

    thanks for the link. very interesting article.

  6. David Brown says:

    It is a measure of how far Japan has to travel to be a civilized society that a great artist like Juzo Itami was publicly murdered for the crime of satire, and his murderer continues to live in comfort and wealth. I have great love for many aspects of Japanese culture, not least of which is the brilliance of their filmmakers, but I will never travel to a country which allows the murderers of artists to thrive. I often defend the humanity and sensitivity of Japanese culture to bigoted acquaintances, but where this issue is concerned there is no defense. Itami’s unavenged murder is a permanent stain on the national character. I would also point out that, despite claims to the contrary in this article, I have been unable to find an English language version of “Minbo”. I presume this is the result of a campaign of suppression: another black eye for Japanese civilization. If anyone knows how to acquire a copy, please let me know.

    Tadamasa Goto is a piece of shit, and if I believed in the efficacy of prayer I would pray all day, every day that he ends his life in pain and humiliation.

    • David,
      Wow. Are you my alter-ego, because I totally agree with you. Yes, it strikes me as very odd that MINBO (The Gentle Japanese Art of Extortion) which is one of Itami’s best films has never been issued on DVD for the west. I think the studio is afraid to do it. It is available in Japanese with subtitles and you can order it off Amazon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it stocked in a store.

      Sometimes, I think maybe Tadamasa has turned over a new leaf and that if he had some sincere regret for what he’s done in his life, I’d wish him well. I don’t think that’s the case, unfortunately.

  7. KokuRyu says:

    MINBO has been available in VHS format in North America for quite some time, along with the rest of Itami’s catalogue.

    • Yes, but how many people have VHS players these days? I find it very odd they don’t issue it on DVD in the United States. It’s only available on DVD in Japan and its one of his best films.

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