Yurei in the Yakuza: Part 1

Yurei in the Yakuza

  • TITLE: Yurei in the Yakuza
  • CATEGORY: Drama, WIP
  • SUMMARY: Snapshots of Ghost’s life from his birth on February 10, 1965 to his freedom from the Matrix on August 8, 1988.
  • AUTHOR’S OPENING NOTES: Created 28 June 2004. Based on concepts by Larry & Andy Wachowski.
  • PARTS:

Part 1


Do not fear what you are about to suffer.
Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison,
so that you will be tested,
and you will have tribulation for ten days.
Be faithful until death,
and I will give you the crown of life.

— Revelation 2:10, New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Wednesday, February 10

“Isn’t he beautiful?” Suzie Song Masamune wept quietly yet happily as she cradled her tiny new son in her loving arms. She kissed him gently, nuzzled him nose to nose, then added in her funny baby voice, “You’re beautiful, aren’t you, little Yurei.”

In his subdued Hawaiian-styled shirt, Yoshio Masumune gazed proudly at his first-born son. Despite his heavy accent, he repeated softly in his best English, “Ritter Yurei.” Little Yurei Masamune.

“Come on,” Suzie laughed through her tears, “Don’t be afraid.” She offered the small bundle to her hesitant husband.

“Me? Afraid?” Yoshio bent lower to grasp the light-blue bundle, and with several shifts and shuffles, he curled his bare right arm comfortably under his son. Straightening, he instantly recognized his wife’s warm reflection in his son’s round face. “You see, Yurei? I am not afraid…”

Suzie smiled wearily yet contentedly at the two most important loves in her life. Behind them, the open window blinds revealed the distant darkness of the very early morning.

With an unsevered finger, the father pulled back the blanket from his son’s dribbling lips.

“And you wirr not be afraid. I wirr teach you. I wirr teach you to be as strong as your mother.”

With a grin, Yoshio glanced at his wondrous wife Suzie. It was a glance as magical and profound as the moonlight of a brand new day.

Wednesday, February 17

“Rock a bye baby, on the tree top…”

The following week, when Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital finally deemed her strong enough, Suzie was discharged. As the nurse pushed her wheelchair from her room through the corridors to the main lobby, the young Chino-American mother sang tenderly to her little baby under the guarding eyes of her crisply-dressed Japanese husband and his loyal aide.

“When the wind blows, the cradle will rock…”

As the aide opened the curbside passenger door of the white Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine to let the new nanny climb out and briefly hold the child, the husband gently helped his wife out of the wheelchair and into the rear seat of the luxury car. After the nanny carefully transferred the baby into his mother’s arms, she returned to her in-built fold-out chair between the front and rear seats. Once the father shut the reverse-hinged door, he circled to the other side, entered the car, and let the driver shut the other reverse-hinged door. Finally, both driver and aide climbed into the front seat and shut their respective doors.

“Capri,” Yoshio instructed the driver.

“When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall…”

As the white limousine rolled east on Charleston Boulevard towards the Vegas Strip, making its way to the sparkling Flamingo Capri resort less than fifteen minutes away, the low morning sun cast an orange-yellow glow on the flat desert panorama.

“And down will come baby, cradle and all.”

Sunday, August 8

Light and colours are busy at hand everywhere, when the eye is but open…

Overlooking the spectacular 80-by-500-foot artificial lake from her second-story sun deck, Suzie Masamune relaxed in her fold-out recliner, dressed elegantly in her white summer dress, wide straw hat, and cat’s-eye sunglasses. Immersed in her 1961 paperback edition of The Empiricists: Locke, Berkeley, Hume, she let the profound words from the past flow into her perception.

… sounds and some tangible qualities fail not to solicit their proper senses, and force an entrance to the mind…

After KRAM broadcasted its station identification over her whispering little Sony 2R-22 transistor radio, she immediately recognized one of her favorite tunes from last year. Sweeping aside the soft dark bangs of her low spitcurl beehive, she laid the book in her lap and sighed contentedly as the melody drizzled over her.

It’s been a hard day’s night,
And I’ve been working like a dog.
It’s been a hard day’s night,
I should be sleeping like a log.

But when I get home to you,
I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright…

Over the last six months, Suzie witnessed her beloved Yoshio rise higher and understandably more distant in his less-than-legitimate business enterprises, while her precious Yurei grew larger and stronger and remarkably faster than most of the other infants Aki had cared for in her many long years as a nanny.

You know I work all day,
To get you money to buy you things.
And it’s worth it just to hear you say,
You’re going to give me everything.

So why on earth should I moan,
‘Cause when I get you alone
You know I feel okay…

Even before her engagement to Yoshio Masamune, she accepted the knowledge that his primary commitment to his yakuza clan, the Hirayoshi-gumi, superseded all other responsibilities and obligations including those to his future wife and children. But she also knew that he very much loved her, as much as she loved him. Everything he sacrificed and fought and earned and gained, he did so not only as a wakashu child-underling honoring his oyabun father-leader, but also inversely as a father providing for his family. For his Suzie and Yurei.

But when I get home to you,
I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright.

You know I feel alright.
You know I feel alright…

As the song faded and gave way to another tune, Suzie reopened her enchanting slender eyes, sighed in the sunlight once more and returned to her paperback. Rereading the last few lines, she quickly picked up where she left off.

… but yet, I think, it will be granted easily, that if a child were kept in a place where he never saw any other but black and white till he were a man…

She suddenly imagined her little Yurei growing into a man. Possibly like his father, dressed in the slick and flashy “Rat Pack” style of Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Possibly like his mother, educated in the history and philosophy of art and music and thought, from the works of Claude Monet to Sergei Rachmaninov to John Locke. But nevertheless, she always imagined him as a proud Asian-American man with the smooth round facial features of his mother and the sparse facial hair of his father.

… he would have no more ideas of scarlet or green, than he that from his childhood never tasted an oyster, or a pineapple, has of particular relishes.

Crinkling her brow, Suzie reflected upon that last line and wondered, as she always did, whether such an imprisoned man could evolve beyond the sum of his empirical black-and-white experiences and imagine the theoretical scarlet-and-green unknown.

Zip. Zip.

She turned to the strange scratching movement in her peripheral vision.

“Yurei!” From within the family suite, the nanny scolded in her slight accent. “Stop that! Come here!”

Already crawling and sitting on his own, the infant in diapers seemed mesmerized by the thin metallic grid that impeded his path to the bright sunlit deck. Already sprouting a half-dozen baby teeth, he grinned as he swatted at the screen with his tiny hand, causing an odd zipping sound.

Zip. Zip.

With the same overflowing affection and fulfillment, Suzie smiled as warmly as she had when she cradled him in her loving arms for the very first time. Once more, she laid the book in her lap.

“Ray,” she waved to him, calling him in her funny baby voice. “Ray-Ray. Yoo-hoo, over here.”

Yurei blinked momentarily in the direction of his mother before returning to the screen. “Bah-bah.”


“Ray-Ray. Hi there. It’s your mama.” She set the black-tassled bookmark in her paperback and in turn, set the paperback beside her radio on the low patio table.

“Bah. Bah-bah.”

“That’s right. Your mah-mah.” Rising gracefully from her recliner, she stepped over to the screen door and crouched down before her little son.


“Do you want to get out?” she tapped at the grid in front of his round face. “Do you want your mah-mah?”



The nanny marched crisply toward the baby. “Yurei. Behave.”

“Oh, it’s okay, Aki.”

“You sure, Mrs. Masamune?”

“I’m fine.”

“As you wish.” The nanny bowed respectfully and returned to her other duties.

Keeping her crouched position, Suzie carefully slid the screen door aside.

Captivated by the disappearing grid, Yurei blinked in the direction of his mother’s hand as she pushed the screen away.

“Come to mah-mah,” Suzie smiled, offering her open arms and outstretched hands.

With a high-pitched giggle, Yurei revealed his half-dozen teeth once more and crawled frantically to his waiting and welcoming mother, an angelic figure in glowing and flowing white.

“There you go, my little Ray-Ray.”

The infant giggled as his mama lifted him up into the sunlight. She giggled back.

“Always causing trouble, aren’t you?”

End of Part 1

Part 2: To be continued…


  • February 10, 1965: Tons of research to find the best date of birth. Three main factors:
    • (a) In the Zodiac, the Water Carrier Aquarius, is born January 21 to February 19: “Aquarians basically possess strong and attractive personalities. They fall into two principle types: the first is shy, sensitive, gentle and patient… Both types are humane, frank, serious minded, genial, refined, sometimes ethereal, and idealistic, though this last quality is tempered with a sensible practicality. They are quick, active and persevering without being self-assertive, and express themselves with reason, moderation and sometimes, a dry humor… Both types need to retire from the world at times and to become temporary loners. They appreciate opportunities for meditation or, if they are religious, of retreats. Even in company they are fiercely independent, refusing to follow the crowd. They dislike interference by others, however helpfully intended, and will accept it only on their own terms. Normally they have good taste in drama, music and art, and are also gifted in the arts, especially drama.
    • (b) In the Chinese Zodiac, 1965 is the year of the Snake: “People born during the Year of the Snake are said to be endowed with wisdom and with deep philosophical understanding. They are born thinkers who excel in finding solutions to complex problems… Snakes are wise, philosophical, calm, and understanding… Subtle, secretive, elusive and enigmatic, there is an element of the mysterious that surrounds the Snake personality. Perhaps this is due to their intuitive faculties, or perhaps it is a consequence of their strong inner spirituality which can manifest itself in an interest in religion, mysticism or the occult… A Snake can be counted on to carry a project through to the end… The Snake will fight and plod for anything they believe in and allow nothing to stand in his or her way. At ease in all circumstances and possessing uncommon self-discipline, the Snake achieves great heights and honors in his or her career, enjoying the well deserved respect of an admiring entourage.”
    • (c) Finally, in Revelation 2:10 of the NAS Bible, there is an appropriate passage on suffering and faith: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
  • Yurei and the early morning: Based on the following:
    • (a) In Japanese, yurei literally means “dim/hazy/faint spirit.” These are spirits of the dead who remain among the living for a specific purpose, usually to seek vengeance, and generally appear between 2 and 3 AM. Yurei are the ghosts of those who at the moment of death were deprived of the time to repose themselves. Since tranquility is necessary to achieve the spiritual calm required for the attainment of Buddhahood, the most common cause of becoming a yurei is sudden death by murder, slaying in battle, or rash suicide.
    • (b) The term yurei is composed of two ideograms. The first, ‘yu’, means a gloomy atmosphere combined with a profound feeling. As well as being secretive and mysterious, it also includes a notion of elegance and delicacy. In a broad sense, ‘yu’ describes the world of the deceased. The second character, ‘rei’ is considered to be a spiritual substance said to possess and master the body from both inside and out. It is a strange force which can neither be seen or explained, nor its force evaluated; it holds notions of nobleness and sacredness — characteristics which inspire deep respect among the Japanese people.
  • Suzie Song: The name ‘Suzie’ is based on the famous scholar Zhuxi, while ‘Song’ is taken from the Song Dynasty as follows:
    • (a) Many Chinese believe ghosts, yet many don’t. They often say, “If you believe it, there will be, but if you don’t, there will not.” There is a story about this saying. Zhuxi was a famous scholar in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). He believed there were no ghosts in the world, so he decided to write an essay “No Ghost.” It was said he was a great sage so even ghosts were afraid of him. If he said ‘no ghosts,’ then ghosts could no longer exist. When ghosts knew he was writing the essay, they gathered together to discuss this and decided to send the smartest ghost to entreat him abandon the writing. Ultimately, they came to an agreement resulting in the saying: “If you believe it, there will be, but if you don’t, there will not.”
  • Yakuza, Yoshio, and Yubizume: Based on the following:
    • (a) Simply put, the yakuza are the Japanese Mafia. Like the Mafia, the yakuza power structure is a pyramid with a patriarch on top and loyal underlings of various rank below him. The guiding principle of the yakuza structure is the oyabun-kobun relationship. Oyabun literally means “father role”; kobun means “child role.” When a man is accepted into the yakuza, he must accept this relationship. He must promise unquestioning loyalty and obedience to his boss. The oyabun, like any good father, is obliged to provide protection and good counsel to his children. However, as the old Japanese saying states, “If your boss says the passing crow is white, then you must agree.” As the yakuza put it, a kobun must be willing to be a teppodama (bullet) for his oyabun.
    • (b) The levels of management within the yakuza structure are much more complex than those of the Mafia. Immediately under the kumicho (supreme boss) are the saiko-komon (senior adviser) and the so-honbucho (headquarters chief). The wakagashira (number-two man) is a regional boss responsible for governing many gangs; he is assisted by the fuku-honbucho, who is responsible for several gangs of his own. A lesser regional boss is a shateigashira (number-three man), and he commonly has a shateigashira-hosa to assist him. A typical yakuza crime family will also have dozens of shatei (younger brothers) and many wakashu (junior leaders).
    • (c) The name ‘Yoshio’ is taken from Yoshio Kodama. In the years following World War II, yakuza membership increased dramatically to 184,000 members divided into 5,200 gangs throughout the country, making it larger than the Japanese army at the time. Inevitably these gangs encroached on one another’s territories, which resulted in bitter and bloody gang wars. The man who brought peace to the warring factions and unified the yakuza was their first 20th-century godfather, Yoshio Kodama. Kodama’s gift was his ability to balance his affiliations to both right-wing political groups and criminal gangs, using each to keep the other in check.
    • (d) If a yakuza member displeases or severely disappoints his boss, the punishment is often yubizume, the amputation of the last joint of the little finger. A second offense will require the severing of the second joint of that finger, and additional offenses might require moving on to the next finger. A man knows that he must commit yubizume when his immediate superior gives him a knife and a string to staunch the bleeding. Words are not necessary. The origin of this practice dates back to the days of the samurai. Removing part of the smallest finger weakens the hand for holding the sword. When a katana (the samurai long sword) is gripped properly, the pinkie is the strongest finger.
    • (e) Today, the yakuza have made their presence felt in the United States principally in Hawaii, but also in California, Nevada and even New York. Like most American organized-crime groups, the yakuza love Las Vegas, where gambling — both legal and illegal — is everywhere. Showgirls and hookers are also plentiful in Vegas, and the yakuza are instrumental in steering Asian tourists to establishments owned by Americans who pay substantial “finder’s fees.”
  • Masamune: Taken from the following:
    • (a) ‘Masa’ means right, and ‘Mune’ is part of the Chinese character meaning religion. What the word ‘Masamune’ means is the right religion, or the Lotus Sutra.
    • (b) Moreover, Masamune was probably the most famous Japanese swordsmith ever produced. Although the time/place of his birth/death are unknown, it is certain that he lived near Jufukuji in the late Kamakura Period (1185-1333). His swords were believed to have spiritual attributes to them, and some stories say only those with a pure soul could wield them. The word ‘Masamune’ instantly reminds the Japanese of samurai swords, which were not only important weapons for them but also art forms made of iron. Swords were in fact regarded as the soul of samurai, outweighing its usefulness.
  • Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital:
    • Located on West Charleston Boulevard, Las Vegas, this hospital has been serving Southern Nevadans since 1931, when a dirt road was the only way to reach the 20-bed hospital and its one doctor and nurse. In 1940, the hospital was renamed Clark County General Hospital, and in the early 1950s, it was renamed Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital. By the mid-1960s, Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital had a new $1.6 million 3-story circular wing and a $590,000 outpatient building. In 1968, the Lions Clubs of Clark County funded a burn-care unit, and in 1978, a $4.5 million 6-story medical education center was built on the hospital campus. In 1979, construction on a 7-story patient tower was completed with the addition of a new obstetrics unit and an enlarged burn care unit. In February 1986, the hospital was renamed University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. To this day, it continues to serve Southern Nevadans not only as an advanced medical center, but as the state-designated Level I Trauma Center and the state’s premier teaching hospital.
  • Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine:
    • Launched in 1959, the Phantom V was the largest-ever Rolls-Royce in the Rolls-Royce hierarchy. With its newly developed V8 engine, 4-speed automatic gearbox, and a weight of nearly 3 tons, a final drive of particularly low gear permitted unfussy progress at a speed only slightly above walking pace. This was provided for use during, for example, ceremonial occasions. The Phantom V was designed purely as a “State” limousine, aimed at Royalty, Heads-of-State and the very rich. Early cars have single headlamps, later cars had the Cloud III style twin headlamps. Options included cocktail cabinets, TV, separate front and rear A/C and even early telephone systems. Most of the cars have an electric glass partition and fold-out extra seats. Production ended in 1968 when the model was replaced with the similar Phantom VI.
  • Flamingo Capri resort: Based on the following:
    • (a) On May 17, 1959, an announcement was made that construction had started on the Flamingo Capri, a lavish $2-million ultra-modern motel that would be completed by August 15, 1959 and have many innovations never before used on the Vegas Strip. Three buildings — one with 104 rooms, the second with 36 rooms, and the last with 40 rooms — would comprise the 180-room 2-story motel, accompanied by a 80-foot-wide 500-foot-long artificial lake. Each room had its own sun deck overlooking the lake, while a cantilevered pool-and-deck area extended one-half the length of the lake. The resort-motel contained studio apartments, family suites, and apartments with kitchens — singles or doubles. According to an undated brochure: “Surrounded by its own Venetian canal, spacious sun deck and sunken patio gardens, the Flamingo Capri truly emanates a continental atmosphere. The sun-drenched pool terrace is transformed into a nighttime wonderland with glittering torch lights and dancing colored fountains.” During the early-to-mid-1970s, the resort expanded and gaming was introduced. On November 1, 1979, the beautiful resort dropped the name Flamingo Capri, and came into its own as the Imperial Palace.
    • (b) On November 1, 1979, the Imperial Palace opened with a distinctly Oriental theme. Accompanying the Shangri-la pool, the building was constructed to resemble an Asian pagoda or temple. Influenced by Japanese temple architecture, the architect specified traditional blue tile imported from Japan for the roof. The Oriental theme was carried out inside as well, influencing everything from decor to food service and employee uniforms. In the casino, carved dragons and giant wind-chime chandeliers compete with gaming tables for the visitors attention.
  • The Empiricists:
    • Suzie is reading from the actual paperback edition, published by Anchor in 1961. The lines are from John Locke’s “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (1690), Book II, Chapter I, Part 6.
  • Radio station KRAM:
    • One of the Las Vegas radio stations of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. I particularly liked the RAM portion since it is the computer acronym for ‘Random Access Memory.’
  • Sony 2R-22 transistor radio:
    • One fairly common transistor radio of the 1960s, the 1965 Sony 2R-22 used chrome-painted highlights which quickly wore off. A tiny set with a nice dial, it was definitely representative of the miniaturization of Japanese components.
  • A Hard Day’s Night:
    • A Hard Day’s Night was The Beatles’ third album, released in 1964 as the soundtrack to their first film of the same name. The United States version of the album was released on June 26, 1964. All of its songs were composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The title of the album (and film) was the accidental creation of drummer Ringo Starr. The band had begun filming the motion picture while it was still without a title. After one particularly rough day of shooting, Starr emerged from the studio (thinking it was still daytime) and said “It’s been a hard day…” (noticing that it was now dark outside) “…’s night.”
  • Aki the nanny: Taken from the following:
    • (a) Aki is the first name of character Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na) in the computer-animated movie “Final Fantasy – The Spirits Within” by Square USA, the same company that produced “The Animatrix: Final Flight of the Osiris.”
    • (b) In Japanese, ‘aki’ is a girl’s name which means ‘autumn’ or ‘born in autumn’.
  • “Rat Pack,” Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin:
    • Back in the old days, Humphrey Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall, along with their friends including a young Frank Sinatra, spent their weekend evenings socializing around town at all the “in” places and hot spots. They affectionately called their group “The Rat Pack of Holmby Hills” where Holmby Hills was an exclusive area in Los Angeles. When Bogart passed on, Sinatra missed the fun of being with his friends, and slowly started his own group to continue the tradition. Partying with best friends Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and others, this new group became known as “The Clan”. But approaching the mid-1960s, Frank’s “Clan” was no longer an appropriate name to utilize. So they slowly steered away from “The Clan” and took on Bogart’s old gang name: “The Rat Pack.” The group continued their love for fun, from the stage in Las Vegas to the movies and recordings. Their best remembered motion picture was “Ocean’s Eleven” in 1960.
  • Monet, Rachmaninov, and Locke: As follows:
    • (a) Claude Monet (1840-1926) was a French painter who founded the Impressionist movement with Renoir.
    • (b) Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor; his most important and enjoyable pieces are his four Piano Concertos.
    • (c) John Locke (1632-1704) was an English Enlightenment philosopher whose notions of government with the consent of the governed and the natural rights of man (life, liberty, and property) had an enormous influence on colonial Americans, allowing them to justify revolution and shape a new government. Locke was one of the “British Empiricists,” which also included David Hume and George Berkeley. Empiricism is the school of epistemology (in philosophy or psychology) that all knowledge is the result of our experiences.
  • More Notes: As follows:
    • (a) The Japanese name ‘Yurei,’ the Rolls-Royce Phantom V, and the movie “Final Fantasy – The Spirits Within” are all translations or references to ghosts.
    • (b) Yurei Masamune’s dual Japanese/Chinese nationality reflects his dual nature as a “Zen Buddhist assassin.” His Chinese mother represents his brighter philosophical aspect while his Japanese father represents his darker warrior aspect.
    • (c) The screen door symbolizes Yurei’s computer-generated prison from which he will escape.

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