For March 29th- Ran

Year of Films

An incident that keeps managing to repeat itself is that I seem to never read the run times for movies that I set on my schedule.  For example, I realized halfway into Ran that the movie was 2 hours and 42 minutes long.  This was not a well-received actualization, but I knew that I had to finish the film.

As far as epic-style films go, I have seen several. Most were headed by Westerners, with Western-based production companies.  Not many were hybrid efforts between European financing and Asian talent, telling a story with local flair, even if it heavily references a Shakespearean play.

Ran is King Lear in late feudal Japan.

Story/Writing: 1.5/2

As I mentioned, it is a little long.  But the story is truly epic, and the end is definitely worth every minute of watching.

Acting: 2/2

The characters are varied and all very dimensional.  To watch them…

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Japanese Full Body Tattoos – Horimono

An elememt of the Yakuza which they are probably best known for is the full body tattoo or Horimono.  This full body tattoo is unique in that it stops at a point where it can be seen when wearing clothes.  The tats stop on the wrist and ankle so one can keep them hidden.  The Yakuza are not getting tattoos to draw attention to themselves, quite the opposite, they get them to separate themselves from society.   I am attaching two clips from National Geographic which further explain the Horimono.

Outrage 2 can’t wait…

Diverse Japan

Outrage sequel will also star director/writer/editor Kitano.

The cast and release date for actor-director Takeshi Kitano’s sequel to successful yakuza drama Outrage were announced today.

Entitled Outrage Beyond, the lineup of new faces will be led by veteran film actor Toshiyuki Nishida. He is joined by Yutaka Matsushige, Katsunori Takahashi, Hirofumi Arai, Shiomi Sansei, Akira Nakao and

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Yakuza Moon

Shoko Tendo is a survivor, and this book is her tale of surviving years of domestic violence.  It’s definitely not for the weak hearted.  Having said that she relays a tale of abuse, which is narrated in a voice that speaks in the voice of the battered who found redemption in her inner strength.   As a survivor of childhood abuse she spends her life looking for love, and accepting fleeting affection paid for in blood and violence.

Ms. Tendo was involved with Yakuza, from her father to numerous other relations.  Her experience with the gangsters from her father who beat her after coming home in a drunken state.  Than she had a series of unfortunate relationships with Yakuza, where she was their mistress.   She was treated horribly by them.  The other men she was involved with took advantage of her as well.  So almost universally almost all the men she was involved with were negative.  There was one relationship she has with a Yakuza who does care for her and treat her with respect.   Her pattern with men is reflective of survivors of abuse, where they have low self-esteem and poor boundaries in her relationships.

The Yakuza world that is portrayed by in this book is illuminating.  The gangsters in this book are largely see their careers end in debt.  Her father for example is a high roller, who enjoys flashing cash.  Tendo than describes how they get in to bad money-making schemes, that ultimately fail.  Than their debts make them have to “quit” the Yakuza.  Than they become persons non gratis, and they become victims of their old acquaintances.   This cycle is repeated by a few of the Yakuza she knew.

This book is ultimately triumphant, as she recognizes her resilience, and she decides that enough is enough.  That catharsis makes this book worth it.  I was very moved by her journey, I recommend this book for anyone who wants to get a picture of life for women in the Yakuza world.

Cheezy Samurais…

Lackluster Video

The Magic Serpent AKA Battle of the Dragons AKA Ninja Apocalypse AKA Froggo and Droggo combines two mainstays of Japanese cinema I’d always hoped to see mishmashed together: giant Godzilla-esque monsters and ninja wizards in feudal Japan. Some kids dream of becoming professional athletes, others dream of walking on the Moon. I dreamed of one day seeing a ninja wizard fight a giant city-crushing dragon. And the kids at school said I was crazy! But guess whose dream actually came true? It’s all about setting realistic goals, kids.

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Yakuza Clans: Sumiyoshi-Kai

The Sumiyoshi-Kai is the second largest Yakuza group in Japan with an estimated 10,000 members.  The structure of this group is much looser federation than their larger Rival the Yamaguchi-gumi.  This group is made up of 177 clans. The Kumicho is Shingeo Nishiguchi, while being supreme leader, he share leadership with others.

This group is involved in gambling, extortion, human traficking, finacial market manipulating, land swindles among other things. This group has had open warfare with its larger rival in recent years.  Its passt Kumicho was killed by the Yamaguchi-Gumi.

The Sumiyoshi-kai were involved in assisting the victims of the 2011 disasters.  They opened their offices, one leader even opened his office to giajin which is surprising.  This behavior was down played by the state, it didn’t want the general public to know the Yakuza were better prepared to respond to the needs of the people than they were.

Tattoed Outlaws 3

When the Yakuza get tattoos, they do it as a right of passage into an underground world.  The Yakuza tradition has been to have full body tattoos, the tattoos though are only to be in places where they can be hidden.  Their tattoos are not for the company man, they are for them.  The tattoos are used to keep them out of public baths, they are definitely a cause fo stigma.

When I got my first tattoo I was 21, and in the army, I did come from the punk rock scene in which tattoos were acceptable.  We got our tattoos as a way to separate ourselves from the general public, from the yuppie world.  They were not common and they did cause people to look at us.  There was stigma, we welcomed it as we saw ourselves as outlaws in our way.

Rarely does one think about the future when they get a tattoo.  What will it be like when we are 60, and that sharp image is now a blue blob.  That beautiful lady now looks like a witch or something else.  I certainly don’t recall anybody saying when I get this tattoo its going to look great when I get old.  Why is that I wonder? Short sighted thinking? Recklessness?  I saw my ink as being a bad of honor, strangely.   Has that changed? Do I regret my tattoos? Do I regret getting them? Not at all, are there ones I don’t like? Well, I can say I had one on my chest, which I got after my first divorce.  It said.”Prisoner of Love.”  Now it had two meanings for me at the time, 1. It was meant to reflect the feelings of a man divorced man who has to maintain a relationship with an ex-wife due to there being a small child. 2. I was really into this cow punk bluesy shit which inspired me to get that at the last-minute. It was funny the tattoo artist at the time asked me if I was sure about that.  I eventually covered those words up with a crows wing.  People always ask me what about when you get old? I laugh and I tell them, your tattoos age with the person.  They gain character and they morph.  Having said that they grow on you literally.  I also have no tattoo which I can’t cover up, I may feel different if I got a tattoo in a place that can’t be covered.

The Yakuza, when they are done and retire from the life, generally face a dilemma, that they are truly outcasts.  Many Yakuza reflect on what has become of their lives.  They find themselves in some cases discarded, permanently marked by losing a digit from their finger, and they are tatted up.  They are unable to hide from their past…