Simply magical. Not every day a book inspires you with so much courage and strength to face the difficulties of your life.

The book I’m referring to is Yakuza Moon, which was written to reflect the life story of author Shoko Tendo. Born in 1968 into a family headed by a Japanese yakuza or gangster dad, she went through arduous upbringing after falling into bad company at a tender age. Descendants of medieval gamers and outlaws, the yakuza were long portrayed as latter-day samurai, bound by traditions of honor and duty while living extravagant lives. Dad was the leader of the gang linked to Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group, leading a “classic” yakuza life filled with Italian suits and imported fast cars.

To be fair, Dad never really talked about his yakuza business while at home and raised Tendo to have impeccable manners.

But surrounded by bad influences, Tendo suspended her early school education, transformed into a teenage yankee or gangster, and lost her virginity to her first boyfriend when she was just in high school. And as if life weren’t hard enough, she got addicted to snorting thinners and “speed” or marijuana, and ended up in a reformatory after getting caught up in a gang fight.

Eight months later, she was released only to learn that Dad became seriously ill with tuberculosis. His family was in total disaster, cowering from the daily visits of rowdy debtors amid mounting debts. In a state of numbness and denial, she continued her usual dose of drugs, mingling with bad company, suffered multiple incidents of rape, and had sordid and informal sex in “love hotels.”

In short, she had become a total maverick drifting aimlessly overnight and, look closely, she was barely eighteen at the time. It was the kind of growing pains that would make any reader cry.

Tendo’s life took a different perspective at age twenty-one when an old acquaintance took her to a tattoo shop. Although she was exposed to irezumi or full body tattoos throughout her life, it was the first time that she had felt so deeply interested in skin art. Transfixed and true to character, she impulsively decided to get tattooed from the base of her neck to the tips of her toes, with a design centered on a geisha with a dagger in her mouth. And on each of his arms there was a tattoo of dragons.

Interestingly, since getting the tattoos, his attitude completely changed and took on a whole new meaning. Such was the emotional power and influence of tattoos that they can turn a person devastated by a harsh education overnight. Empowerment literally came when she got a tattoo herself.

Then, on her twenty-second birthday, she married a yakuza member who had to cut her left little finger to prepare for her marriage and leave her gang. However, the happy occasion had a bittersweet aftertaste for her, as she had been raped by her possessive and mentally unstable ex-boyfriend the day before.

Soon after, she was forced to abort her first child as she and her husband were simply too poor to be able to raise one. The reality was extremely harsh for both of them.

But the cruelties of life did not end there. Two days after receiving her first salary as a married woman, her mother suffered a massive stroke and died shortly after, without recovering. Depressed blow after blow in life, she gave in and attempted suicide using sleeping pills. Fortunately, she was rescued by hospital staff only to receive the news that her dad was dying of stomach cancer. God help her!

The loss of both parents finally brought Tendo back to consciousness. Determined to put her sordid past behind her, she launched her life into work, marked by opening her first savings account at age thirty. In fact, she eventually managed to save enough to buy her parents worthy burial plots.

Now in his mid-thirties, Tendo is completely free of his troubled past and leads a happy life with his little daughter, something Tendo had resigned himself to not having for a long time. Her life story has taught us to fully appreciate and treasure our loved ones.. Compared to what she went through, most of the problems we face are simply too insignificant. Remember: no conflict is too much to resolve, quickly. Unfortunately, the tattoos on her will remain, a clear and vivid reminder of her wild days. I wish him well.

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