The tattoo on Shoko Tendo’s back reaches all the way down both her legs, right to her ankles. It wasn’t always like that: when she had been embroiled in the yakuza lifestyle, it had only covered her back. Only after she left that world did she extend the inkwork that most people would have gone to no small lengths to hide. Here it is, she seemed to be saying. Take me as I really am.
Yakuza Moon is the sort of autobiography that no woman should ever have to write. Not simply because the yakuza is a male world, where women are accessories at best and chattel at worst, but because Tendo was born too close to that world to say no to it from the beginning. The damage that was inflicted on her became damage she in turn inflicted on herself. If half of what’s in the book is true, she is seven kinds of lucky to have escaped all of that — and many more kinds of strong, too. The book is also evidence of how most people’s greatest strengths are invisible to them, because they embody them naturally and don’t seek them out. She may not have felt strong, but she was. Read more