Archivist's note: The following entries are excerpted from what appears to be the personal journal of a young woman who identifies herself only as "Juri." Investigators have been unable to further determine the woman's identity (including even her last name) but she is believed to have been one of the victims of the multiple murders which took place at the House of Blue Leaves nightclub in Tokyo, Japan, on the evening of October 10, 2003.
April 25th - First Entry
This is my first ever attempt at keeping a journal, and I frankly don't know how long I'll keep at it. As a member of O-Ren Ishii's elite guard, the Crazy 88s, there are, of course, many aspects of my working life that I am simply forbidden to set down in writing. So, while my intention here is to record only my own thoughts and feelings on matters that concern me personally, if I find I keep bumping up against those "forbidden subjects," I may have to just give up this little endeavor altogether.
For now, though, I suppose a little general background to get things rolling is probably in order. My given name is Juri, and like most of my fellow Crazy 88s, I almost never use my family name. We mean no disrespect to our families by doing this; it is simply safer for them, given the nature of our profession, if we don't advertise their connection to us.
Besides, the Crazy 88s are my real family now.
I live in a small but comfortable studio apartment on the sixth floor of O-Ren Ishii's headquarters building in Tokyo. Boss Ishii has generously provided living quarters for any of the Crazy 88s who wish to reside on site here at headquarters and many of us have elected to do just that. Boss Ishii herself occupies the top two floors of the building, and I believe most of her senior staff reside in the building as well.
I began my life on the "wrong side of the law" as a young teen, running with the Tokyo street gangs. I am twenty-six years old now and looking back – with whatever wisdom the intervening years have granted me – I can see that it didn't have to be that way. I was born into a wealthy and respected family. My father was a renowned and successful bladesmith. An easy path to a comfortable life had been available to me, but, as I entered my teens, I was afflicted with that condition which, I suppose, has probably afflicted every adolescent since the dawn of man: I began to rebel against my parents' control. While I can look back on it now and see that they were only trying to guide and protect me, at the time I thought them clueless dolts subjecting me to a ridiculous and random set of rules. I wanted total freedom and independence and so, at the age of fourteen, I ran away from my family and became a thief and pickpocket on the streets of Tokyo. My father tried – for years – to remain in touch with me, to reconcile with me, to protect me. I rebuffed him at every turn. Eventually, he got the message and gave up.
I was barely sixteen when I committed my first killing, and while I have since racked up eight more kills as a member of the Crazy 88s, that first one is the only one that still weighs on my conscience. Those subsequent eight kills were accomplished with the skill and discipline of a soldier, during the Council Wars that ultimately brought O-Ren Ishii to power. That first kill, in contrast, was a senseless blunder caused by my own ignorance and lack of discipline.
Back then, at the time of the incident, I was a thief and a pickpocket (a damned good one, I might add) but I was no killer. Unfortunately, in this instance, my "mark" had detected my attempt to stealthily lift his wallet from his pocket and had grabbed me by my wrist, with a grip like steel, and begun yelling for the police. I panicked. In a desperate attempt to free myself, I shoved his head backward into the stone facade of the building we were standing in front of. In my inexperience and fear, I shoved much too hard.
It was shortly after that incident that Johnny Mo came into my life. I had actually met him once before, during happier times at my father's workshop. He had been one of my father's best customers. I didn't know what business Johnny Mo was in, but he seemed to have need of unusually large quantities of high-quality katanas. But that had been years earlier, and I had almost not recognized him at all when he approached me on the street that day.
At first, he offered me only a place to hide from the Tokyo police who were searching for me. Later, he offered me much more: a permanent place to sleep, food and shelter – but more importantly, slowly and over time, he began to open my eyes to the many benefits of a life of focus and discipline and honor. Just as he had been instrumental to my father's business prosperity, Johnny Mo would prove to be the key to my own personal salvation.
My martial arts training, under the man I now referred to as Master Mo, began just before my seventeenth birthday. My progress was rapid. Master Mo said I was blessed with the natural grace and strength of a warrior. I immersed myself in the study of the philosophy of the samurai. For the first time in my life, I began to feel powerful and in control. I began to feel hopeful.
By the time O-Ren Ishii's increasingly bold grab for power had erupted into a full-scale yakuza war, I was a different person from the young guttersnipe Master Mo had rescued from the streets. I was strong, disciplined, focused and deadly. I was ready to join his elite corps of warriors, the Crazy 88s.
I ran into Boss Ishii's young bodyguard Gogo Yubari today in the fourth-floor gymnasium. She was practicing – alone, as usual – with a meteor hammer, a heavy ball and chain weapon that looks – to me, anyway – as though it would be damned near impossible to control. She, however, is extraordinarily skilled with it. She handles it as though she were born with one in her hands. I suspect that practice dummy she was flailing away at was ready for the scrap heap by the time she was done with it!
Gogo is an odd character. She keeps to herself for the most part and doesn't seem to have any desire to socialize with the rest of us. She spends a great deal of time practicing her martial arts in the gym, but it seems to be just to keep up her proficiency; she doesn't seem to get any enjoyment out of it. I asked her about it once, when she took a break from her practice one day.
"What's to enjoy?" she shrugged. "It's a necessary discipline to keep the mind and body ready for combat."
"Maybe you'd enjoy it more if you practiced with someone, rather than alone," I suggested. My own katana practice, especially if Miki is my partner, is often the most enjoyable part of my day.
But Gogo just shook her head. "I'd have to hold back too much." Then, without another word, she was off, back to her solitary mayhem against the practice dummies.
Gogo is only seventeen years old, yet she already holds the exalted position of personal bodyguard to our leader, O-Ren Ishii. That, along with her aloof (some would say superior) attitude toward the rest of us, has won her few friends among the Crazy 88s.
She is often the target of some of the more vindictive rumormongers within our ranks. It's been alleged, for example, that she is mentally unstable and has to be fed a constant diet of anti-psychotic drugs in order just to be able to function. Or that she's a drunkard, spending her off-duty hours cruising the bars of Tokyo and randomly attacking – and sometimes even killing – innocent civilians for the sport of it.
Of course, there is absolutely no evidence that any of these rumors are true, but their dislike for the young girl makes many of my fellow warriors wish to believe that they are.
Gogo's supposed rivalry with Sofie Fatale is another source of conjecture among the 88s. It is widely accepted as fact that there is no love lost between the two. (I, myself, once heard Gogo snidely refer to Fatale as "O-Ren's little porcelain doll.") Some say it is because Gogo is envious of Fatale's position as Boss Ishii's second in command. Others, perhaps wanting to add a little spice to the story, say it is because Gogo wants to steal Fatale's place in Boss Ishii's bed. All of it is unfounded speculation. (Indeed, the conjecture that Boss Ishii and Sofie Fatale are lovers – or that they are even lesbians at all – is nothing more than unfounded rumor.)
Anyway, such is the way Gogo is viewed by most of the Crazy 88s…but not by all of us. I, for one, wonder if Gogo's aloofness has less to do with any feelings of superiority on her part and more to do with the hatred she must feel emanating from many of the Crazy 88s. Some of us like to paint her as an imperious pretender to the throne looking down her nose at us, but when I look at Gogo, it's very easy for me to see instead an isolated, lonely and unhappy young girl.
I feel sorry for her.
What can I say about O-Ren Ishii? I have pledged my loyalty to her and I will keep that pledge no matter what, even at the cost of my own life.
But…to be honest, my true loyalty is to Johnny Mo. I have been with him much longer than I have been with O-Ren Ishii. It is he who took me off the streets, trained me and essentially gave me a life. I am loyal to O-Ren Ishii because Johnny Mo is loyal to O-Ren Ishii.
And at first blush, she seems an odd choice for Master Mo to give his loyalty to. Rumor has it that she began her career as a freelance professional assassin. Not that there's anything particularly dishonorable about that, except that she was a sniper! To kill one's enemy in total surprise and from the safety of great distance…there just doesn't seem to be much to respect in that.
And it doesn't really gel with other stories about her. For instance, it is said that her parents were killed by a yakuza boss named Matsumoto and that, at the age of eleven, she avenged them by worming her way into his bed and opening him up from crotch to chin with a samurai blade while he was still breathing. And that she took her time doing it, too. It's hard to reconcile that with someone who would feel it necessary to kill from a safe distance. Either of those rumors could be true, but I doubt that both can be.
And about her "worming her way into his bed" at eleven... at ELEVEN? That seems unlikely to me. (I have to wonder if the jackasses who came up with those rumors about Boss Ishii and Sofie Fatale sleeping together might have come up with this little tidbit as well.)
Anyway, as Master Mo says: "No one is born a samurai. Every samurai has had to become a samurai." Whatever the truth about Boss Ishii's past, Master Mo believes that she has become a great samurai. And that's good enough for me.
Can I tell you something? I despise those black masks we have to wear when we're on duty out in public! Yes, I know many of the Crazy 88s consider them almost a badge of honor, but I really don't like them.
I don't deny that they are superbly made. They are actually custom fitted to each of us, but even fitting like a glove they still interfere with your peripheral vision a bit. They say you get used to it, but I haven't yet.
The black suit may not be the most flattering thing for a woman to wear, but I'm not trying to look pretty when I'm on duty. The suit I can live with. But those masks truly suck!
Wow. Master Mo dropped a bombshell on me today. He didn't mean to. In fact, he was surprised that what he mentioned, almost in passing, wasn't already old news to me – and it probably should have been – something I should have realized all along.
It seems that chance encounter I had with Master Mo all those years ago, when he took me off the streets and essentially saved my life, wasn't by chance at all. Apparently my father, whom I had severed all ties with by that time, had, upon learning of the kind of trouble I had gotten myself into, turned to Johnny Mo in desperation, begging him to help his "little girl."
As I sit here writing this, I'm still feeling a bit stunned…and sad. By that time, I had completely turned my back on my father, feeling I never wanted to see or hear from him again. But apparently he never gave up on me.
My father died almost five years ago. And as I sit here tonight writing this, I realize there are so many things I wish I could say to him. But now it's too late.
Well, will wonders never cease! I ran into Gogo Yubari again yesterday evening, just as she was finishing up yet another solo training session, and – believe it or not – I actually managed to cajole her into sharing a pizza and watching a movie in the rec room with me! That's very unusual behavior for her. In fact, I lost count of the number of double-takes we got from people walking past the rec room door while we were in there!
We settled on the movie "Battle Royale" – me because I had seen it before and liked it, and Gogo because she thought it sounded the most promising of the titles we had available.
I tried to keep the mood light and fun. I teased her mercilessly about how much she looked like Chigusa Takako, a character in the film, but she was having none of it. I don't think she cracked a smile the whole time we were there and when she left to return to her own quarters immediately after the movie ended, I felt the evening had been a bust and that she would probably never want to try anything like that again.
Later, around 1 AM, I woke up with a bad case of indigestion, probably from the pizza. There's a big medicine cabinet in the cafeteria on the ninth floor where we keep all the over-the-counter medications, so I headed up there looking for something to take.
When I arrived, I was surprised to find Gogo already there, looking fairly miserable, sitting at one of the tables gulping a big glass of clear, fizzing liquid (probably Alka-Seltzer). Then I noticed, to my astonishment, that she was wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a pair of black, bikini-style panties!
"Jesus, Gogo!" I said. "This isn't a girls-only cafeteria, you know! What if some of the guys were to wander in here?"
She snorted dismissively. "You don't really think any of those apes have the balls to actually try anything with me, do you?" she scoffed.
I giggled. "No, probably not.
"So," I continued as I walked to the medicine cabinet and grabbed a handful of antacid tablets, "pizza get you, too?"
"Pizza and your damned movie!" she growled. "I dreamed I was that damned girl you kept saying looked like me. And Sofie Fatale was chasing me with a goddamned pistol!"
I couldn't help laughing out loud at that. Knowing how Gogo feels toward Sofie Fatale, that must have been a nightmare indeed!
"Sorry," I said, stifling my laughter. I then held up my right hand, like I was taking an oath, and said, "I promise: no more bad pizza and Fukasaku movies at the same time!"
"Good," said Gogo, completely deadpan, "because if you ever make me feel this way again, I'll disembowel you."
I don't know…something about us both being up with tummy aches in the middle of the night…or maybe it was just that she was actually joking with me now after being so distant earlier that evening…whatever it was, I suddenly felt very sisterly toward her and I impulsively leaned forward and gave her a quick peck on her cheek.
"Feel better, Gogo-chan!" I said, and then padded off back to my own room.
But you know what? Now that I think back on it, I'm not completely sure she was joking about disemboweling me…
I've been promoted to what we informally call the A-Team! It's pretty much O-Ren Ishii's personal honor guard. Whenever she goes out in public, she takes with her (along with her personal bodyguard, Gogo Yubari) a six-man security team. And now I'm one of those designated six! It's considered quite an honor within the Crazy 88s.
My first assignment as an A-Team member is tonight. We're taking Boss Ishii across town for some kind of council meeting. We've already had our "mission briefing," earlier today. I was mostly just listening to everything, trying to pick up any pointers I could. One of the other guys asked if anyone knew who was driving the limo tonight (meaning Boss Ishii's limo, of course). Another guy answered, "Yubari," and everyone groaned!
Miki must have seen the puzzled look on my face because he leaned over to me and said, "Just remember, if you find yourself on one of the lead motorcycles, you be damned sure to keep your speed up! Because if you don't that bitch will flat run over your ass!"
The others all laughed at that while I just rolled my eyes. I figured it was just more crap being thrown Gogo's way.
Nevertheless, if I do find myself on a lead cycle, I believe I will keep my speed up, just in case!
I may have really, royally screwed up.
Yesterday, Miki and I had just finished a particularly spirited training session in the gym – hand-to-hand combat this time rather than our usual katanas – and he invited me back to his room to catch our breaths and share a cup of sake.
Maybe it was the close contact of our bodies during our training match. Or maybe it was just being in close and private proximity to each other in his room with our blood already pumping and adrenaline already flowing. Whatever the reason, one thing just led to another and we ended up spending the afternoon making love in his room.
I was initially thrilled that it happened. Miki is my best friend in the Crazy 88s as well as my favorite training partner. I've been attracted to him ever since I first met him during the closing days of the Council Wars. Sleeping with him is something I have fantasized about on more than one occasion.
When I left his room later that evening and headed back to my own quarters, I was on the proverbial cloud nine. But now I'm feeling really edgy about it. Miki and I both know that sexual relations between members of the Crazy 88s are strictly forbidden. This infraction could conceivably get us both thrown out of the Crazy 88s if it gets out.
It was stupid of me to let this happen. It's not like we're required to live like monks; we're allowed to express our sexuality however we please outside the group (so long as we betray no confidences and so long as our activities do not impair our service to Boss Ishii). Why can't I be more like some of the other Crazy 88s, the ones who just go out and pick a pretty face out of a crowd and take them to a hotel room for the night? It's easy enough to do. For most people, dating a yakuza – even for just one night – is like dating a rock star. Why can't I just do that instead of risking my whole damned future for a moment of weakness with my training partner?
Sigh. I see many nights of unrequited horniness in my future.
But seriously, God, please don't let what Miki and I did get out!
A-Team duty again tonight. We're going to the House of Blue Leaves for R&R.
These are usually pretty fun gigs because Boss Ishii lets us let our hair down a bit. We're allowed to joke around and socialize with one another, allowed to eat and even drink (in moderation, of course!).
At the briefing earlier today, they reminded us yet again to be on the alert for a tall, blonde, American woman. This has been going on for a month now. Still no details on why she is a concern – only that, should we encounter her, she is under no circumstances to be allowed to approach Boss Ishii. Nothing really unusual about that…except that we are specifically NOT to verbally challenge her if she tries to do so. Instead, we're instructed to kill her immediately…with no warning, if possible. That is unusual.
I can't help but wonder what her story is. She has to be someone who has made some kind of threat against Boss Ishii. Or I suppose she might be someone who is known to have accepted an assassination contract on her…although it's hard to imagine anyone being stupid enough to put out a contract on Boss Ishii these days. With the power she now wields, that's pretty much just suicide.
Anyway, on a lighter note, if I get the chance tonight, I'm going to invite Gogo to another pizza and movie night. "Shikoku" this time. Same actress that played the girl who looked like Gogo in "Battle Royale." It'll be fun teasing her again!
Archivist's note: There were no further entries beyond this point.