Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation

( 2 )


This foray into the often violent subcultures of Japan dramatically debunks the Western perception of a seemingly controlled and orderly society.

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
BN.com price
(Save 21%)$14.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (76) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $1.99   
  • Used (67) from $1.99   
Speed Tribes: Days and Night's with Japan's Next Generation

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price


This foray into the often violent subcultures of Japan dramatically debunks the Western perception of a seemingly controlled and orderly society.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
A grippingly fresh portrait of an unseen country...As faces and stories accumulate like mosaic tiles, Japan's netherworld emerges with almost unbelievable vividness.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060926656
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,459,850
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Karl Taro Greenfeld

Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of six previous books, including the acclaimed memoir Boy Alone and the novel Triburbia. His fiction has appeared in Harper's Magazine, the Paris Review, Best American Short Stories, and the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a longtime writer for Time and Sports Illustrated, among many other publications, and his nonfiction has been collected in Best American Sports Writing, Best American Non-Required Reading, Best American Travel Writing, and Best Creative Nonfiction.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Mitsunori Izumi, twenty-nine, sat on an imitation leather chair in the Wakao Wrecking Crew offices, sipping Bron brand cough syrup from a brown bottle and trying not to stare at the big, square Hino Truck Company clock on the wall directly opposite him. He had caught a cold five days ago when he fell asleep in the front seat of his air-conditioned Nissan Sylvia while parked outside a Shimbashi mah-jongg parlor waiting for his kumi-cho (gang boss) to finish gambling and drinking. When Izumi awakened at seven that morning Kumi-cho had already gone; he hadn't even bothered to wake Izumi and dismiss him.

The cold became a bad cough and he read in the papers about something going around called the Korean Flu. He bought the codeine-laced cough syrup so he wouldn't have to give up smoking for even a day. And the codeine soothed his nerves.

The seventy-eight-year-old grandmother of the proprietor of the Wakao Wrecking Crew brought in a pot of green tea and a dish of sweet bean cakes. Izumi smiled up at her, his crooked teeth showing beneath thick lips and a twice-broken nose. Over his narrow, dark eyes his black hair was cut close to his scalp. He thanked the old lady profusely and nibbled one of the bean cakes out of politeness.

Outside the offices, an '87 Honda with a bashed-in front end made a crunching sound as Wakao let it drop from the tow winch. The small parking area around the office was crowded with battered, rusting auto hulks hauled there by Wakao or one of the tsukaiipa (errand boys). If no one claimed the wreck for two months it would be chopped and sold for parts.

Izumi, dressed in tan golf pants, a no-name polo shirt, and imitation Gucciloafers, took another slug of the cough syrup, shivering slightly as the heavy, brown fluid slid down his throat. He was waiting for an errand boy to come back with a rental car. One of his girlfriends had taken his BMW, another was driving his Nissan Sylvia up to Saitama to visit her mother. He couldn't rent a car himself because he had left his licenses and credit cards—all forgeries—in the Nissan. He had an important meeting across town with his kumi-cho and didn't want to be late.

He capped the cough syrup bottle and dug a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket. He lit one with his gold Dunhill lighter and snapped it shut with a click.

Wakao entered, wearing a dirty green jumpsuit.

"Where's the punk?" Izumi asked.

Wakao shrugged and lit a cigarette. "He'll be back," he said, exhaling.

Izumi looked up at the red-and-blue Hino clock. Four-thirty.

In another two hours, maybe three, he would be back in the trenches threatening to bust heads collecting money for his gumi—Yakuza gang. The thought of it all—or was it the codeine in the cough syrup?—nauseated him.

Tokyo, a metropolitan area with a population of over twenty-five million, is the richest market in the world for young entrepreneurs eager to interest the public in new consumer goods and equally rich for hustlers eager to bilk the public through games of chance, drugs, or extortion. Mitsunori Izumi is a rank-and-file soldier in the sixty-member Kobayashi-kai, an organized crime "family" directly under the Tsuguta-kumi, a two-thousand-member Yakuza syndicate, one of the nine reputed to control Tokyo rackets. Izumi runs three off-track betting operations called Nomu-kaypa (money-drinkers). His setup is little more than a few telephones and account books in three small Fukagawa apartments in Tokyo's old downtown. His income largely comes from his percentage of what the money-drinkers can imbibe. Izumi's three money-drinkers man the phones all day Monday through Sunday, taking bets on races at any of ten major racetracks scattered throughout Japan.

Izumi's accounts, like most Yakuza-run money-drinkers, are based on a point system. A gambler sets up an account via a face-to-face meeting with Izumi, often referred by higher-ups in the family. Izumi awards the gambler twenty points a day with which to wager. Each point has a different value, depending on the bettor. Some gamblers have *20,000 ($182) points, others *2,000 ($18) points. Only the bettor and Izumi know how much each point is worth. It's a polite way of setting limits—and of simultaneously making the bookmaking process smoother for insiders and inscrutable to authorities. Before each race, Izumi's three money-drinkers fax him lists of bettors and the points they have put down. (After faxing the bets, the money-drinkers burn the original slips. They use very delicate paper, much like toilet paper in consistency, so that it can be swallowed if the police start banging on the door.) Izumi then figures whether he can cover the bets himself or if he will need to lay some off through his kumi-cho at headquarters. For that service, among others, Izumi pays 20 percent of his earnings in tribute.

But money-drinkers and horse players comprise only a fraction of the Yakuza's $35 billion annual income.

The name Yakuza means eight-nine-three, a losing hand in an old card game. The traditional Yakuza businesses, besides gambling, are extortion, narcotics trafficking, prostitution, and protection. (Izumi also runs drugs for the family, small amounts of shabu—methamphetamine—and marijuana.) One of their well-known extortion rackets is the sokaiya; hoods buy one share of blue-chip stock and announce their intention to attend that company's annual shareholders meeting and ask embarrassing questions or create a disturbance. This tactic deliberately plays on the Japanese distaste for confrontation. Corporate boards will buy off sokaiya and even pay them protection money to ward off other sokaiya. According to a recent National Police Agency survey, nearly one-third of two thousand companies that responded admitted they still pay sokaiya annual amounts of up to *100 million ($910,000).

However, in recent years the Yakuza have taken their own seats on the boards of major corporations. During the time of the bubble economy, no one could resist the easy money to be made in real estate and stock market speculation and gang bosses became major shareholders in legitimate corporations. At the time of his death, Susumu Ishii, former chairman of the Inagawa-kai, one of Japan's leading crime syndicates, owned 2.9 million shares of Tokyu Corporation, 1.85 million shares of Nippon Steel, 1 million shares of Mitsui Kinzoku, and .5 million shares of Nomura Securities. Reportedly, he had his sights set on a takeover bid of the Tokyu Corporation, a major department store-railway conglomerate. The value of Ishii's shares was well into the billions of dollars.

"This is the ultimate type of intellectual violence practiced by the Yakuza," says a spokesman for the National Police Agency. "The money made illegally through traditional methods—gambling and protection—can now be legitimized through buying shares on the stock exchange."

Despite new laws intended to curb the Yakuza by declaring their very organizations, not just their criminal activities, illegal, organized crime continues to thrive in Japan. Japanese politicians have traditionally been reluctant to crack down on the Yakuza because of the clout they wield in running labor unions and delivering votes. A seat in the lower house of Japan's Diet, the primary legislative body in Japan, can be decided by a few thousand votes. And in those districts where the Yakuza are known to have a heavy interest, large numbers of suspicious, timely absentee ballots have swayed elections. In 1986, an unusual surge in the number of absentee ballots cast in the No. 1 district of Ehime Prefecture decided the fate of that election; 23,500 absentee ballots were cast, 18,000 more than in the previous election. Absentee ballots accounted for 10 percent of the total turnout. Says a former Dietman of the 1986 ballot, "Several thousand yen were paid to the gangsters for each vote. The strategy was very effective."

Yakuza connections with the uyoku, fanatic ultra-rightist fringe parties, are another instrument for exploiting and intimidating Japanese politicians. A U.S. Embassy official in Tokyo described the right-wing movements as "so intertwined with organized crime it's hard to take them seriously as political movements." Yet no member of the Liberal Democratic Party, Japan's powerful conservative party, would deliberately risk alienating the uyoku. Even Shin Kanemaru, a conservative politician with a long history of anti-Communist rhetoric and legislation, was stabbed by a right-wing fanatic who was irate after Kanemaru's talk of normalizing ties with North Korea. Even more ominous was the 1989 shooting of Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima by Seiki Juku, a right-wing organization with Yakuza ties. That group had said they found Motoshima's criticism of the emperor as "a grave problem. He had to be stopped."

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2012

    Traing hollow

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2003

    excellent look into the japanese youth culture of the late 80's and early 90's

    reminiscent of articles found in the tokyo journal during that time frame. those who appreciate japanese culture will surely enjoy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)