Gamblers, Fraudsters, Dreamers & Spies: The Outsiders Who Shaped Modern Japan

Tuttle. May 2024. 384p. ISBN 9784805317983. pap. $18.99. HIST
After Japan was occupied by U.S. forces in the post–World War II period, it was inundated with foreign opportunists looking to exploit financial possibilities, no matter the ethical or legal parameters. Whiting (Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan), a U.S. expat living in Japan, relates several stories of how several people from other countries have achieved notoriety for their attempts to make their mark in Japan. (The author himself first arrived in Japan in the early 1960s as a member of the U.S. Air Force.) His book’s lively cast of characters includes American spies looking to counter potential communist threats; American, Korean, and Chinese casino and brothel owners; American lawyers who helped draft new laws; freethinking baseball managers; religious zealots from Korea; and more. One story that stands out in the book is about Sadaharu Oh—the former pro baseball player with the most career home runs in the world—who, born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Chinese father, never received the adoration that his accomplishments merited because of racial prejudices.
VERDICT A brilliant, insightful look into the panoply of outsiders who contributed to the making of Japanese history in the modern age.
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