“It was someone right around here. It was Sato, just down the street. He wanted to marry a woman. You know the circular train platforms where they turn a train around? They used to repair trains there, it usually took a couple days, but sometimes it would take a week. Well, there was one of those in the nearby town. It looked like the sun, there were so many tracks coming out of it. Those trains would go back to Osaka. Well, the woman was the daughter of one of the managers there.
Around Tennoji, he was the manager near Tennoji. It was a good job, so he had enough money, if you look into it a bit. Anyway, his daughter and Sato-san got serious, but it turned out that he was involved with the XXX yakuza group in Osaka. He started as a chimpira (local area gangbanger), and went up from there. Well, the father obviously opposed it, but they loved each other, and eventually Sato told him that, if he didn’t allow his daughter to marry him, Sato would kill her. It’s a crazy thing to say, but…
Anyway, we took Sato to a religious centre, so he could get away for a while. Nobody know he was in trouble. I asked Sato, ‘Are you serious about marrying her? If you’re serious I’ll help you.’ He said, ‘I’ll have her, and if I can’t have her, I’ll kill her.’ It sounded serious, and I didn’t want him to become a criminal, so I told him to quit the yakuza, so her father would accept the marriage. He said he couldn’t quit, that he promised his brothers he’d be in forever. I told him that if he couldn’t quit the yakuza, he’d have to give up the daughter. Well, he wouldn’t give up on it, so I decided the only way was to take him to Osaka, to tell the boss that he wanted to quit. We arrived and met with a chimpira group in the boss’s house, and asked to let him wash his hands of the gang. I didn’t know much about the yakuza system, so I just said it. I told them they probably have some rules about this kind of thing, but I don’t really know anything about it, and if they just told me what they needed, we could do it.
Well, the chimpira told me that we could settle it with ‘enko’, which means losing the three lower fingers off one of my hands.
‘If you cut those off I’ll see how serious you are.’, he told me.
‘Anyway, who the hell are you?’, another chimpira asked me.
‘You’re a tiny little guy.’
‘I’m nobody.’, I said. ‘But I’m a religious guy, and I believe in god. That’s why I came here, and I’m not afraid to ask.’
‘There’s no such thing as God or Buddha’, one of the chimpiras told me. ‘There’s only money. We’ll solve this with money, or we’ll solve it with enko!’, he yelled at me.
‘Let’s just do the enko!’ another one yelled.
I told him, ‘I don’t have any money, so you better cut my fingers off.’
I guess he was surprised; he said, ‘You’re a small guy but you say pretty big things.’
They started mixing up some white paste. I asked him what it was for. He said, ‘It’s for the bleeding, so you don’t die. Shut up!’, and he kept mixing it. The one who told me that wasn’t the boss, it was a higher-up chimpira who decided on his own to cut off my fingers. Chimpiras are the scariest ones in the yakuza. The godfathers aren’t so wild. The chimpira said, ‘Oy, Sato, you brought this little guy, but did you think that was going to solve your problem? You don’t have any money, you don’t have anything. We’re going to take your pinkie, and this tiny guy’s enko, that’ll take care of it.’ They were bringing a platform and a sword, and finished preparing the paste. This is the end of my normal life, I thought, since everyone could see that I was involved, because of the missing fingers. Once you look like that, everyone assumes you’re dangerous. Anyway, having one wing clipped might not be so bad, but what if I die of shock? I told them, I wanted to make a call before this happened. The chimpira yelled, ‘You made your decision, are you trying to run away from it now?’ Well, I guess I wasn’t going to be making that call.
I said, ‘OK, let’s get on with it!’
‘Oy, Sato!’, I said, ‘When you get out of this family, you can marry your girl, so you better go through with this too. I already told your father that I was going to try to get you out, and asked for his blessing, so get ready. If you come this far, and then back out, you’ve failed as a man. Get rid of that finger!’
I asked the chimpira, ‘I’m not going to die if I use this paste, right?’
He said, ‘No, you’re not going to die. We’ll take you to the hospital and you’ll be fine in a couple days, but after that you better get out of Osaka.’
Just then the godfather came out.
‘I heard you say some interesting things.’, he said to me. Then to Sato, he said, ‘From today, I’m taking your name off our list.’
They had the block out, and were deciding whose hand to cut first, so I had no idea we’d get off just like that. The chimpiras were getting more and more excited for it; here’s a little guy who just knocks on their door, and asks a favour, so of course they wanted something in return. But the godfather knew that if he cut us, when we were just coming to talk, that his reputation would be harmed.
‘You’re going to marry a beautiful woman, right?’ the godfather said. ‘So just get out of here. You’re not in this family anymore.’ I tried to say thank you, but he cut me off. ‘This conversation’s over, so quit talking, and get out of my house!’, and they literally pushed us out the door.
Three days later at our local shrine, we had the wedding. This all really happened! It was a great wedding at the shrine. The bride’s father never liked Sato, but he had made him the promise, and had to go through with it. He was rich, and wanted to throw his daughter a big wedding, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. And for a while, the new bride had to work at a food stand after she got married. She got blisters on her hands, that beautiful princess. But her husband had been a yakuza, and had to get back into the real world (yakuza don’t work), so her father told her to go to work with her husband. He gave them some money, and they opened that stand where they worked for two or three years.” Story mixed with another one, the first I collected was too dangerous for the men I interviewed.