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  • Writer's picturegordonjcampbell

A character based on a Yakuza who sold his skin

The characters in The Courier are influenced by a composite of people I’ve met or read about throughout my life with one exception. The villain named Minoru Sato strongly resembles a man met by chance.

Several years ago I watched a football game in Tokyo played between the Hitachi Hurricanes and a team sponsored by Nomura Securities. Larry Donovan coached Hitachi and is my good friend and mentor and we were gratified when the Hurricanes won the game.

We elected to visit an izakaya in the Tokyo district of Ochanomizu to celebrate the playoff victory. (An izakaya is a Japanese pub commonly serving foods such as sashimi, fried fish, yakitori and other Japanese food designed to pair well with beer and sake.)

While enjoying a cold Asahi draft and some deep fried squid, the coach noticed a Japanese man sitting by himself. He was wearing sunglasses and an indigo blue summer kimono, and the coach sent over a beer as a friendly gesture.

The man turned out to be the owner of the establishment and was overwhelmed by the act as it was the first time anyone had bought him a beer. He joined us at the table and told us his story. It was a good one.

The new acquaintance ran the restaurant but did other work as a member of a Yakuza crime family. He was proud of the tattoos covering his entire body and gave us a calendar featuring himself and other yakuza brothers. The restaurant owner claimed to have sold futures on his skin and after his demise would lose his graphic cover to another yakuza who’d frame it for presentation at his home. It was a concept unimagined by either the coach or myself and the experience was remarkable and unforgettable.

While looking over photographs in an album, (this story took place a few years ago) I came across a picture of the coach receiving the calendar from the restaurant owner. Posting it with this blog article might bring unwanted attention, and I decided to favor the proven concept of discretion remaining the better part of valor.

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