Told to Junichi Saga
Kodansha International, Tokyo, New York, 1991, 253pp, $10
A life in the Japanese underworld.
t was a winter's day, several years ago, an elderly man, tall and
solid-shouldered, turned up at my clinic in Tsuchiura, a town about an hour
away from Tokyo by train. His face was a good deal larger than the
average person's, with a forehead deeply lined with dark creases, thick
purplish lips, and a muddy, yellowish tinge to the eyeballs: the kind of face
that at first glance set him apart from most people.
But he smiled slightly and said,
"I'm seventy-three, doctor. I've done pretty much as I pleased all my life, and I don't expect to be cured at this stage."
The inside of his mouth was black with nicotine, so that it was like peering into a small cave. His voice was low and hoarse.
"I was a bit wild when I was young, I'm afraid, and now my body refuses to do as I say any more. So I decided to hand the gambling place over to one of my younger men and retire here to the country. You know the massage woman who lives below the embankment? I had her give me a rubdown two or three times; quite a hand at it, she is. She was the one who recommended me to come to you."