The Wounded Madonna

Around the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, the humid stillness of the midsummer morning was broken only by the constant humming and buzzing of cicadas in the trees.

Inside the church, two priests were hearing the confessions of about thirty parishioners, most of them middle-aged Japanese women. From her place high atop the altar, close to the ceiling, a wooden statue of the Madonna, based on a motif of the Immaculate Conception and carved in Italy, looked down on them.

It was August 9, 1945. Fat Man tumbled through the clouds at 11:02. The nuclear flash seared through the lives of 70,000.

Ground Zero was a mere 500 meters distant from the Cathedral. The shock-wave blew in all the stained glass windows and melted the church’s bell. The walls caved in. The roof collapsed. Fire storms consumed altar, pews, confessionals until only shadows were left standing. A fragment of wall here, another there atop a field of smoldering debris, scorched brick and stone. Three-quarters of Urakami Cathedral’s 12,000 parishioners died in the blast.

Kaemon Noguchi had grown up in a district of Urakami, a devout Catholic boy in a Catholic family in the most Catholic community in Japan.

He recounts in a letter how he was twelve years old when the Madonna was brought from Italy and mounted above the altar. “Her celestial beauty made a deep impression on my boyhood soul.”  

In 1929, Noguchi joined the Trappist order in Hokkaido. Before leaving for the far north of Japan, he paid a visit to the Cathedral and knelt down at the altar to pray to the Madonna. In 1939, he was ordained a priest.

The war broke out. Noguchi was conscripted into the Japanese Imperial Army, recalled to Nagasaki and assigned to the Kurume Regiment. He was stationed in Okayama when the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war ended.

Before returning to Hokkaido, he went back to Nagasaki to visit his mother and brother. The field of rubble that the Cathedral had been reduced to shocked him; he stumbled through it in a daze, intent on finding some object of spiritual significance he could take back to the cloister with him. A crucifix, perhaps, a missal or hymn book, a candle stick.

But there was nothing, only desolation.

“Then, all of a sudden, I saw the holy face of the Virgin, blackened by fire, looking at me with a sorrowful air.”

He snatched the burned head up, took it home with him and from there to the monastery, where it stood on the desk of his cell. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1959. On the 30th anniversary of the bombing, Noguchi brought the head back to Nagasaki.

Today, it stands behind glass in a special chapel. It is called The Wounded Madonna.

“The Madonna’s eyes have become scorched, black hollows,” writes The Asahi Shimbun. “Her right cheek is charred, and a crack runs like a streaking tear down her face.”

The Smile in the Mirror

Two of my novels – “29 Argyle Drive” and “Escarpment” – were partially inspired by a number of stories told to me over the years by friends and acquaintances who possess a sixth sense. I recently heard another story, which I want to pass on here.

As in “29 Argyle Drive”, the events Susan related to me seem to be connected to a house, this one located in Buffalo, New York State. At the time, Susan was a college student and lived in the house with her younger sister and parents.

One afternoon, she was sitting at her computer working on a school assignment when she heard a girl scream. Not in some other room or out in the street, but as though the girl had crept up to her side, put her lips to Susan’s ear and SCREAMED.

Naturally, she was thoroughly upset and frightened. She didn’t hear the voice again, but was visibly aware at times after that of the girl’s presence. She could see her; but at the same time not see her.

“It’s hard to explain,” she admits. “It’s like when you turn your head around suddenly. Your eyes might sweep passed someone who is standing there, but because they don’t stop on that person – don’t focus – but continue their sweep, your brain is aware of having seen, but not actually seeing the person. If that makes any sense.”

She came home late in the evening. The rest of the family was out, and all the lights, except the one on the porch, were off. But when she put her key in the lock, the lights came on, all the lights in the house. She was terrified, but didn’t run away. Instead, she grabbed one of her father’s golf clubs that were stacked in a bag in the hallway and walked slowly through the house in search of the culprits. Every few steps, she called out, “Who’s there?” and kept announcing that she was armed. But the house was empty and the doors and windows locked.

She was sitting at her computer in her room; her sister was in her own room upstairs, similarly occupied. Suddenly, feet ran across the floor above Susan’s head. Stomped across the floor strongly enough to shake the house and to dislodge specks of plaster from the ceiling, which floated down over her desk and keyboard. She texted a message to her sister:

“Was that you? I hope it was.”

“It wasn’t me.”

Susan has an aunt who possesses a sixth sense. She was visiting for a few days, and one afternoon took a nap on the couch in the living room. What happened next, happened in the dream the aunt had while she was sleeping.

In the dream, she was washing her hands in the bathroom sink when she looked up and saw a girl’s face watching her from inside the mirror; a pretty girl, with long, wavy blonde hair.

“Who are you?”

The image did not respond; her expression remained blank.

“What are you doing here?”

The girl smiled; a teasing kind of smile. Then she said, “You’re the only one in this house who has ever seen me.”

The aunt thrust her hands into the mirror. They grabbed the girl and ripped her out. She carried her through the house to the living room and flung her through the windows.

Then she woke up.

Susan told me that from that day on nothing disturbed the house’s peace.


David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.


A Review of Wild Willful Heart

One complaint about this thing – it came to an end all too soon. Because I hadn’t been so snatched up and carried along by a book in a long time.


“Wild Willful Heart” is W. Boone Hedgepeth’s quest for spiritual authenticity. It is a book full of magic and true grit. Full of grace and darkness. Full of demons, UFOs and miracles. Of brutal honesty. Of sadness and hope. Of the South.


There is real horror in Black Mountain; and real beauty in the writer’s descriptions of that mystical North Carolina environment that was the dramatic stage for some of his spiritual struggles.


Boone’s writing style is clear, taut, measured and down-to-earth. He is a skillful storyteller. Wisely rejecting a straightforward chronological narrative, he weaves his tale out of different strands of his life in order to create maximum suspense and anticipation.


There is much that is fascinating in these pages, a lot to ponder and many things that linger in the head and the heart after the book is closed.


What lingers for me is the powerful image, early on, of the “marginal man”, a state to being to be avoided, but one that threatens all of us at one time or another; and, near the end, Boone’s (or Christ’s?) command to not be plagued by guilt or self-loathing, but to love yourself.


He writes, again near the end:


“…In the present and in the future, I will not cling to traditions of the past, but will seek new light and direction as a revolutionary, patriot, and saint in Jesus Christ…I am just an authentic person filled with countless flaws just like you. I am not greater than you are, I am your servant, you are mine, and we are learning simultaneously…”


I like that very much. We are all fellow-travelers.




David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.


Graham Greene, Out-of-Body-Experiences and Tommy Still Trying Put Martin to Rest. An extract from a Pig with Three Legs

He was standing over a pint in a pub, listening to the mournful bells tolling the late hour from the church tower. Next to him, an old man in a faded suit rolled a snifter of brandy round and round under his nose. They were the only customers left, and the old man suddenly said:

“It’s a funny old thing, isn’t it? Life, I mean. The things that happen.”

Tommy couldn’t disagree.

           “And they’re all connected, those things. To give you an example.  The other morning on the radio I heard an interview with a famous rock climber. Then, on the bus into the City, I read in the newspaper about vandals defacing some ancient rock paintings in a cave in France. The calendar on my office wall has got a picture of a Japanese rock garden on it.  On my way home, I dropped by the local library. The first book I picked up was Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Do you see what I’m getting at, about everything being connected? I’ve studied these things, you know. I belong to societies. They send me newsletters.”

           “Graham Greene’s dead.”


           “Years ago. Isn’t he?”

“Well, I expect he is by now. But dying doesn’t mean much. My wife’s mother died twice already and she’s still with us. Once, in a traffic accident, and again during an operation on her womb. She claims she hovered both times out of her body. The first time, she memorized the number plate of the ambulance. The second time, she heard the doctor say, Oh shit. God obviously didn’t want her, which is understandable.”

He sipped his brandy.

“Did you know they found Jesus Christ’s bones?”

“I thought he died on the Cross.”

“Obviously he didn’t, if they found his bones. The Vatican is keeping it a secret.”

“Where’d they find them?”

“In the south of France. He was married. Did you know that?”

“I didn’t. Who to?”

“Mary Magdalene. They had a daughter. Sarah.”

“How do they know it’s his bones?”

“Secret documents.”

He finished his brandy.

“Well, I must get on home. It was nice to have talked to you, nice to get some intelligent conversation for a change. Good night.”

After he went, Tommy looked at the dregs of beer in his glass and at the barman.

“Have I got time for one more pint before you close?”

“Not if you’re driving. Are you?”

“Yeah. I’ve got to pick up a bloke.”

“Then you better not have any more. He won’t be very happy having you pick him up as pissed as you’re getting.”

“He won’t mind.”

“He will if you crash into a lamp post and kill him.”

“No he won’t.”

Tommy took the last swallow of beer.

“Good night, sir,” the barman said. “Watch how you go.”

When he came out into the cold, a wind blowing in from the Hackney marshes hurt his cheeks like ground glass. The Rover’s heater wasn’t working, so Tommy’s icy breath steamed up the windscreen as the vehicle bounced blindly over the rutted track into the site and lurched to a stop with the headlights framing the mound of earth in which, somewhere, Martin Bullock lay.

Tommy found the shovel and the pick-axe he had hidden when he knocked off work and he used the pick-axe to break the frost-hardened surface of the soil before stabbing into it, this place and that, until he hit the solid resistance of the tent.

Like an archeologist, he dug the hard soil from around the corpse trapped inside it.

“Come on, out with you. Come on, lad.”

And he told it another joke.

(The dead make Tommy’s best audiences.)

“Have you heard the one about the woman and the baby in the burning council flat? She’s on the seventh floor at the window, screaming – Save my little baby! Save my baby! The firemen are underneath shouting – Throw him down. But the woman’s frightened, afraid they’ll drop him.  One of them calls up – Don’t worry, luv. Barry here used to be a professional goalkeeper. He’ll catch your child. Come on, luv, before it’s too late.”

Tommy grasped the icy canvas and pulled it down onto the ground.

“Barry braced himself under the window, arms ready to catch the baby. The neighbours are watching. Everybody’s tense. The woman throws him out. The little bloke falls, screaming. Barry catches him. There’s a cheer, then a stunned silence as Barry bounces him twice on the ground and kicks him over a fence.”

He dragged the tent to the car. The night before, Martin had be pliable and cooperative. Now he was as hard as an ironing board. And that ironing board wouldn’t fit into the trunk.

Standing on his back (or his stomach; he wasn’t sure), Tommy grasped the legs, forced them back, pushed at them and sat on them until something snapped and he was able to get the broken ironing board into the trunk.

When he threw the shovel into the trunk, it bounced off the canvas. He tried to grab it, but in the dark he couldn’t see what part he was catching, and the sharp edge cut into the palm of his right hand, searing it with pain.















David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.


A Stench of Blood and the Rawness of Battle

An extract from “Escarpment”


Over the many years of my residence in Japan, I have met a number of people who possess Second Sight – the Sixth Sense. Many of the true anecdotes they told me found their way into my fictional writing. One of those is incorporated in a scene from “Escarpment”. The extract is below.



“Sometimes at night, outside of this pension, if you listen, you can hear the echo of rifles, because the battle keeps going on. The dead don’t know they’re dead. The men on both sides who fought here felt only two things – the desire to kill or the pain of being killed. The civilians who died caught between them know only the pain of dying.

“All of those thousands of voices still cry out their pain from a place we know nothing about, and their cries are imprinted in the cliffs and the soil and the air.”

His hands scooped up water and let it drain through his fingers.

“I’ve seen a lot out there, not only at night. I’ve heard a lot. I’ve been tugged at and pushed about by invisible hands. But over the years I got used to it, and they got used to me. I’ll tell you a story.”

I really didn’t want to hear it.

“This was a long time before I started collecting bones.

“I used to own my own brown-sugar processing company. These days I play no active role in its operations. I am just a figurehead, the Chairman, to whom no one listens. My son is the president, and that fact sometimes gives me sleepless nights. But that is another story.

“Anyway, some years ago, one of my employees retired. His name was Ishihara, and he had been with the firm for many years, in the accounting department. So when he retired I took him out for a fine meal, just a token of my thanks. Of course, we drank too much, and after the meal I invited him to a club that had just opened in the Omoromachi district of Naha.

“This was during the economic bubble. What days they were, Dave-san! Where did they go? Like a dream they seem now.

“I telephoned ahead and the mama-san was waiting for us on the sidewalk, bowing very low. And why not? I did not always crawl through tunnels digging for ashes and bones. Once I was a company president! The hostesses all over Naha loved me because I used to buy them presents. I was a devil in those days, Dave-san. But you must not tell my wife, if you ever meet her.

“The club was called La vie en Rose and was located in the basement of an office building. The door opened on a red-carpeted and gold-plated winding staircase, which we descended like royalty. Inside, everything sparkled, most of all the hostesses themselves.

“Poor Ishihara! He wasn’t used to it. He was a quiet, gentle man – not that I was not also – with a quiet, gentle wife and a grandchild he doted on. Work was his life – not that it was not mine, too – and he was not accustomed to the gaudy nightlife of those days.

“And that was precisely the reason I took him there, to give him a pleasant memory to take into his retirement. The mama-san held the door open for us. We went through it, but Ishihara stopped on the stairs. Damn me if he didn’t cringe! I slapped him on the back. Forget your wife! For a couple of hours, at least, enjoy yourself!

“Two of the most beautiful hostesses in the world stood waiting to settle us onto a soft leather couch. One sat at my side, the other next to Ishihara. They mixed us drinks from a bottle of Chivas Regal. These days, you can buy that fine scotch in the supermarket. I will not tell you how much a bottle cost in that kind of place in those times.

“I said a few words to thank him for his years of dedicated service. Then, I proposed a toast. His expression was almost painful, which irritated me because I was paying a fortune to make this a memorable night for him.

“He was hunched over, tense and uncomfortable, as though this was an ordeal rather than a celebration. Concerned, the hostesses asked if he was all right. He shook his head. Then suddenly he got up. I’m sorry, he said, I feel very bad. I must go.

“He ran up the stairs. If he hadn’t already retired, I would have fired him. I went in pursuit, telling the mama-san I would be back in five minutes, with or without him.

“I found him on the sidewalk. He had recovered himself and was wiping the sweat from his face with a handkerchief. Again, he apologized to me; and I asked him what was wrong.

“He told me.

“All the years we had worked together he had never mentioned it before. He told me he had second sight, all his life it had been a burden. He saw things and felt things that were there, but which should not be seen, that most people did not see or feel. Dead things.

“He had witnessed such things in the club. He said that a stench of blood and the rawness of battle still infested the place. That he had seen the bodies of dead soldiers lying all around. And he could hear the moans of the wounded.

“The building that club used to be in is on the slopes of the hill the Americans called Sugar Loaf.”








No Way Out - an extract from #Escarpment

An extract from “Escarpment”


Her uncle was waiting for us at the edge of a narrow country road. A grizzled old man, with his thick gray hair cropped to his skull and white stubble growing from his cheeks and chin, he carried a flashlight and a big gnarled stick.

“The stick is for the habu snakes,” Sachiko disconcerted me by saying as we got out of the car.

He gave her a big hug, and then looked me up and down in a very unfriendly manner, growling at her:

“Tell him it’s very dark inside. There are insects and snakes. Tell him that if he gets bitten by a habu, he could end up in hospital or dead. So he better stay close behind me and not go wandering off on his own.”

“Dave-san speaks Japanese very well, uncle.”

I smiled, trying to break the ice, and told him, without going into any detail:

“I got bitten by a habu a few months ago.”

He led us down a steep bank. The entrance to the Gama was very low, and the darkness swallowed us up. He turned on the flashlight and kept beating the ground in front of us to scare off snakes.

“The beaches where the American forces landed are not far from here. My village was directly in the path of their advance. We escaped into this cavern, 140 of us – mothers and children; sisters and teenage girls; grandpas and grandmas, older uncles and aunts. No able-bodied men. Our fathers and older brothers had been taken away from us months before.

“We knew what to expect if the Yankees found us. The Army had told us what to expect. Flyers were handed out. First, the flyers said, the Americans would rape the teenage girls; and then the children. They enjoyed children very much, boys as well as girls. They liked to rape them and to slice their throats in front of their mothers. Then they would rape the mothers, cut off their nipples and disembowel them. The Americans were not human. They were devils from Hell.

“The flyers instructed the men-folk that if they were threatened by the approach of American troops they were to kill all children first, then the women and finally themselves. If there were no men around, then the mothers must kill the children before ending their own lives.

“As the Americans moved inland and spread out, a unit found our cave. An officer called down to us not to be afraid, that nothing would happen to us; and he asked us to come out. But no one understood what he was saying.

“I was a toddler. I couldn’t do anything to protect my mother and my grandma from these devils. But there were some older boys among us. By older I mean ten or eleven, and they were armed with bamboo spears.

“They believed themselves already to be soldiers of the Emperor and had been given a kind of rudimentary training by the young men from the village before those young men were taken away to the front lines of the defense. The boys had marched up and down in the fields and charged with their bamboo spears bales of straw set up to represent American soldiers, killing them instantly.

“And now, they did not hesitate. Too quickly to be restrained by their mothers, a platoon of about ten little boys charged towards the entrance of the cave with their bamboo spears. Screaming death to the enemy. The screams only of little boys, but screams that the cave amplified into terrifying sounds.

“Remember that the Americans had fought their way up the Pacific against the constant nightmare of the blood-curdling banzai charge. At that moment, they did not know they were facing little boys playing the hero.

“They saw only figures bursting into the dark cave mouth. A nervous soldier fired his rifle at them; then another did likewise. Realizing the mistake that was happening, an officer shouted for his men to hold their fire, but by then it was too late. The boys lay dead.

“To the people cowering deep in the cave, that act was an affirmation of everything they had been told to expect. The devils had mercilessly gunned down ten little boys. Now they would sweep into the cave to rape, torture and kill everyone else.

“The old people had the strength to act immediately. They used the scythes they had cut the rice stalks with. By the time the American officers reached the carnage and put a stop to it, more than eighty of the villagers were dead.”

The old man’s flashlight beam showed me the scene of that brutal day, preserved over the decades as it was.

He showed me white bones, many of them small, some tiny. Fragments of skull, broken rice bowls, a sake bottle clogged with dust. He showed me cooking utensils, a wooden hair comb, an old hoe, a blood-soaked kimono. Showed me the rusty scythes.

“That comb belonged to my mother.”

I had seen. I would remember. I needed to get out. I turned my head, and my eyes searched for the sunlight at the cave’s entrance, but couldn’t find it. Panic gripped me; and a thought – there is no exit from this place.

For me, there was; and, sometime later, a seat on a flight back to Kobe. But for Sachiko’s uncle, and many thousands like him, there really is no way out of those caves.




David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.


Petula - an extract from A Pig With Three Legs


Part of the sea wall that runs along the Front dates from Roman times, and the buildings in Cribble-Sodding’s High Street look like they haven’t had a lick of fresh paint since before Christ either. 

The sky was a leaden colour, low and roiling. Under it, the gulls wheeled and screamed in an insane fashion. There was no one out on the sand. The deckchairs were stacked and battened-down under canvas, and the Dodgem track was padlocked. The wind blew cold and harsh, full of a stench of rotting seaweed.

           “It’s a bleak bloody place, isn’t it?” Alec commented.

           “It’s a bit cheerier in summer.”

Then, the beach was packed with smiling Swedes and pot-bellied Yanks; with smelly Greeks and preening Frenchmen and flirting Italians; with Spaniards cavorting over the sand pretending to be flamenco dancers, and Germans being miserable, and Japanese throwing up.

They left the car near the Promenade, and Alec followed Tommy up the High Street, past a closed gift shop, a scruffy cafe and a boarded-up game arcade, seeing not a soul abroad.

Tommy stopped before a peeling signboard that showed the silhouette of a geisha with what looked like a pair of knitting needles plunged into the back of her skull. Across it were the words:

The Moonlight Lady.   

They went down a stairway that smelt not of the Orient but of beer bottles and cooking grease. The premises at the bottom were cavernous, the whitewashed walls undecorated, and the tables solid wood.  

A bar ran the length of one wall, and down the far end was the small stage, oblong and only slightly raised, like a memorial slab over the grave of Tommy Dugdale’s career as a comic. 

An unshaven man in a red bra and panties and black stockings sat on the stage on a stool, picking at his teeth with a fingernail. Around him lay the frilly female clothes he had shed and the things he had used in his act – a parasol, a water pistol and some broken eggs on a sheet of newspaper. 

Sally Shaw was at the bar, talking about him with another man. 

“What can I say, Harry?”

           “You liked the act, Sally. Don’t tell me you didn’t.”

           “He’s just not pretty.”

           “He’s not got his makeup on. I told you that. Of course, he’ll shave and wear his wig.”

           “Look at that belly.”

           “He’s a bloke, isn’t he? It’s natural in a bloke. But that’s the point, isn’t it? If he was a real woman, it wouldn’t be interesting, would it? Listen, Sally, when you were watching the act, what was going through your mind? I’ll tell you. This is different, you were thinking. This is original.”

           “What was going through my mind was, this could get me closed down.” 

Sally glanced at Petula, for that was his stage name.

“He’s blank. Do you see what I mean? Wooden.”

           “He’s had a hard life, not much to smile about.”

           “Can he sing?”

           “If he could sing, he wouldn’t be doing this shit for a living, would he?”

           “I’m sorry, Harry.”

           From the stage, Petula asked, “Can I get dressed?”


           “Does she want me to pay for the eggs?”

           “I don’t know. Do you, Sally?”

She smiled at Petula. 

“It’s all right, luv.”

           Petula picked up all her things and went into the kitchen behind the bar to change. Tommy stepped onto the vacated stage. His fingers tapped the mike awake, and his smoker’s rasp echoed off the walls.

“Have you heard of the Canadian Wu-Wu Bear, ladies and gentlemen? You haven’t? It’s fabled. It’s very rare and it lives in caves only in the far north of Canada. I’ve got this pal, he’s a hunter, and the passion of his life was to shoot a Wu-Wu Bear.

“So he hired a guide and they spent the whole hunting season tramping about in the far north of Canada. They didn’t have any luck, winter was coming on and the guide had had enough. But my pal was made of flintier stuff. He decided to carry on alone. The guide gave him a piece of advice.

“When you come to the mouth of a cave, he said, give the Wu-Wu Bear mating call. If there’s one inside the cave, it’ll answer. The Wu-Wu mating call goes like this:”

He put his lips close to the mike. 

“WuuuuuuWuuuuuu WuuWuu WuuuuWuuuu.”

He paused.

“So, off my mate goes. For a few more days, nothing at all, then, just when he’s beginning to lose heart, he comes to this cave and pokes his head inside and gives the mating call…

“This time, there’s a response, very faint…WuuuuuuWuuuuuu WuuWuu WuuuuWuuuu. He cocks his rifle and steps inside. He makes the mating call again, and again comes the response, closer this time and louder…Closer and louder…Closer and louder…And the train ran right over him and killed him dead.”

“Hello, Tommy!”

“Hiya, Sally.”

           Petula, in jeans and a biker’s leather jacket, sat down at the bar next to Harry.

           “Have you got your stuff?” Harry asked her. “Have you got the water pistol? Because it’s my son’s.”

           “It’s all in the bag.”

           “Come on, then.”

           Petula looked at Sally.

           “You don’t like me, then?”

           “It’s nothing personal.”

           “I left the eggs in the kitchen, wrapped in the newspaper.”

           “Thanks. Lose a bit of weight, luv. And get a bigger bra. You’re young now, but you’ll feel the benefit of a bigger one later. Bye, Harry.”






David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.


Souls of a Thousand Unclaimed Dead Allied POWs Still Cared for at a Temple in Osaka

An extract from “Shig”


They walked among the tall, moss-speckled poplars, stepping into the sun again onto a wide stretch of parched grass. In the distance, there stood a small temple.

“It’s dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy.”

He pointed to the priest who was raking weeds out of the gravel in front of the temple’s steps.

“That’s Tanigami-san.”

  He was a tall, bony, round-shouldered old man, with a shaven head and white bristles on his chin.

“They drafted him when the war started, but he refused to fight because he’s a priest. They gave him a hard time, but in the end assigned him to a body-bag detail. After the big Osaka air raid, he was reassigned to the Ambulance Corp.”

           His gaunt, hollow-cheeked face crumpled up into a merry grin when Shig introduced Buscemi. He took his hand in both of his own and pumped it up and down.

           “I want to show you something,” Shig said.

He spoke to the priest, and Tanigami led them to a pagoda hidden in the trees in the rear of the temple. He unlocked the heavy door with a key he kept tied by a cord around his neck, and his hand felt in the dimness for a switch. A weak electric bulb came on, and Shig took Buscemi inside.

           It smelt of stale incense and moldy copper. The stifling humidity made Buscemi’s skin prickle. They were facing a large glass-covered panel bordered with intricate Buddhist designs. In front of it, there was a long table of polished oak on which stood votive candles. Behind the glass, faded photographs were pinned up on the panel—more than a hundred of them—photographs of young foreign servicemen.

In some, they were posed proudly in photographers’ studios before going off to war. In others, the camera had caught them relaxing off duty at camp, surrounded by pals and beers and poker games, or on R&R in exotic locales. A few were actual childhood snaps that must have once graced a mantelpiece or a side table.

“There were more than a hundred thousand allied soldiers held in POW camps around Japan and an awful lot of them died.”

He waved a hand toward the photographs.

“These men died, too. But they are the unclaimed. Either their families couldn’t be contacted in the confusion after the war, or they had no families. Or they just got lost in the bureaucratic shuffle, and because they were dead, couldn’t stand up and have themselves noted. Tanigami-san became their spokesman.

           “He collected the remains and keepsakes of about a thousand and stored them in the temple. There are still about eight hundred guys left there. Every evening since 1946 Tanigami-san has recited sutras for their souls.”

           Shig bent down to open a cupboard beneath the oak table.

“He sends letters out every year. I translate them into English for him. Most of them are returned, address unknown, but sometimes he gets a letter back. A few months later a family shows up to collect the remains of a lost son. And they leave these photographs as a token of their thanks. I interpret whenever a family comes.”

           He put two thick bound volumes on the table. One contained visitors’ messages. In the other were the details of the thousand souls Tanigami has in his charge, all neatly written in faded blue ink and divided by country: the US, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, India, and Norway.

           The columns contained name and rank, the POW camp he had been interned in, the cause of death, and his last-known address. Buscemi ran his eyes down the Cause of Death column:




Injuries sustained in air raid

Bayonet wounds



Shot while trying to escape

Bayonet wounds




Bayonet wounds



           Buscemi read some of the messages the families had left in the other book, but the sorrow of it all was too much to take in, so he closed the big book, and Shig put both books away.

They followed the priest back to the temple and knelt on the polished floor, wrapped about by clouds of incense, as he prayed for the souls of the dead boys. Buscemi could feel the gaze of their helpless eyes in the sweltering darkness.

When the sutra finished, they came out into the blinding light and the muffled roar of the overhead traffic and the smell of Osaka’s dirty air. Buscemi shook Tanigami-san’s hand again, and they left the temple, their shoes moving heavily through the shingle as though it were deep sand.












David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.


Yakuza Tales: a few pages from “Incident at the Citrus Heights”


The stories surrounding the biggest and most flamboyant yakuza bosses of that time are legendary.  

In Kobe, gambling on bare-knuckled street fights was a major source of income for the gang that controlled the city’s waterfront – the Yamaguchi-gumi. One of the professional fighters of the time, Kazuo Taoka, caught the eye of the gang’s kumicho.

Taoka’s ferociousness during bouts earned him the nickname of The Bear, because he went for his opponent’s face and tried to scratch out his eyes. The Boss took the young brawler under his wing, and Taoka rose from enforcer to his wakagashira. In 1937, Taoka was charged with murder and spent six years in prison. He became the third kumicho soon after his release.  

When he took over the Yamaguchi-gumi, it was a small and local dockland gang. He moved it off the docks into loan sharking, gambling and into legitimate business investment, especially in the world of sport and entertainment.

Baseball and laughter.

About the only laughter the people of Osaka got in those hard, post-war days came from the vaudeville shows, the stand-up comics and the burlesques. All of these were controlled by the Yamaguchi-gumi. 

If you went to a baseball game in the Osaka/Kobe area, part of the entrance fee and part of the cash you paid for the beer you drank went into the gang’s coffers. They also controlled the wide-spread and illegal baseball gambling that went on, which meant they controlled the players and the outcome of the games.

Taoka ruled the Yamaguchi-gumi for more than thirty years and saw it grow into the biggest underworld gang in the country. Despite many attempts on his life, a heart attack took him, in 1981.

Kakuji Inagawa’s father had been a graduate of Meiji University.  The young man himself found his vocation in gambling and in judo. Like Taoka in Kobe, Inagawa’s physical strength and fighting skills brought him to the attention of a Tokyo gang boss, and he was hired as an enforcer. Like Taoka, he, too, rose to become the kumicho. The Inagawa-gumi eventually became the biggest organized crime syndicate in eastern Japan. 

It was built around gambling. 

Inagawa formed relationships with the bosses of big business interests in the coal, construction and transport industries. Their workers gambled in dens run by Inagawa. Through the skill of his gamblers, Inagawa was able to retrieve a big percentage of the workers’ wages and return them to the bosses, after taking his cut. 

The name of Chong Gwon Yong, the “Ginza Tiger”, has already appeared in these pages. He arrived in Tokyo from Korea with The Occupation forces, moved into the Ginza and established there a gang which controlled that classy entertainment district for a generation. His soldiers were called the “Ginza Police” and enforced law and order in its streets more effectively than the Tokyo Met was able to do.  

There are many stories, too, about the less well-known but equally brutal Yoshio Fujimi, kumicho of the Fujimi-gumi, to which Ishigaki’sgang belonged. As it was this man that GHQ soon found itself in direct confrontation with, I think an anecdote is in order.

It was told to me many years later by a retired detective acquaintance from my Occupation days over bourbon in a seedy Tokyo bar. 

It goes back to the explosion in the meth laboratory.

Three of Ishigaki’s soldiers were dead and his wakagashira was in hospital, badly burned, and would eventually be imprisoned. On top of that, the Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office had been under recent pressure from GHQ to put an end to the illegal manufacture and sales of stimulant drugs, so it had decided to target Ishigaki.

Those things left him in a weakened position. The boss of a gang in nearby Sumida Ward decided to take advantage of his weakness by moving in and snatching the profitable methamphetamine business for himself.

This thug, called Nishioka, was a loose-cannon; loud-mouthed and dumb. He started with skirmishes against bars, clubs and brothels that Ishigaki controlled in Yashio, warning the owners that soon Ishigaki would be in jail and that he, Nishioka, would be in charge.  

Fujimi was watching the situation closely; so was the Boss of The Sumida Cooperative Association, the gang to which Nishioka’s crew owed allegiance. His name was Degawa, and Fujimi crossed the river to see him and offer to act as go-between, to sit down with both Ishigaki and Nishioka and work something out. Degawa accepted the offer, and ordered Nishioka to meet with them.    

Nishioka insisted that the sit-down would be on his own terms – a place, day and time of his choosing, which he would reveal to Fujimi in a telephone call only immediately before the meeting itself. He feared that he would be set up if any advance notice were given.

For the venue, he chose a big and busy izakaya pub, down an alley in the Kabukicho entertainment district. It was a Friday night, and the place was crowded with a mixture of business men, university students and their girlfriends and factory workers.

Nishioka sent five of his men inside first to settle down as customers and check the place out for any suspicious activity before entering himself, with two additional bodyguards, taking a table against the rear wall and ordering beer.

Only then were Fujimi and Ishigaki summoned.

Fujimi was a large man, weather-beaten by his hard life, stooped and slow. Ishigaki was younger, slighter of build and puny in the shadow of his Boss. The empty sleeve of his right arm was pinned up to the shoulder.

They sat down, and three waiters approached. But before Nishioka could order anything, the waiters pulling revolvers out from under their aprons and aimed them at his head and the heads of his two bodyguards.

When they saw this, the other bodyguards sprang from their various places to go to the Boss’ assistance, bringing out their own weapons as they moved. But the customers themselves overpowered them. 

They, the waiters and the kitchen staff were all members of the Fujimi-gumi.

Heavy-duty rice sacks were pulled down over Nishioka’s head and the heads of his men – to prevent blood staining the floor – and they were beaten to death with wooden mallets.

The corpses were zipped up into US military body bags, carried by truck to the docklands, weighed down with chains and dumped from a trawler into Sagami Bay, far from shore.  

Nishioka had told no one the location of the venue for the sit-down, except, of course, Degawa, for the Boss must know everything; otherwise he isn’t the boss anymore. And Degawa was uncomfortable with this stupid, unstable and unreliable thug. So he had come to an agreement with Fujimi to get rid of him, and let him know the name and address of the izakaya in advance.

Fujimi had had the manager kidnapped. The staff were intercepted as they showed up for work and hustled into a truck that was parked in back of the premises. Fujimi replaced them with cooks and waiters from establishments he owned. The customers, too, were all part of his organization; some brought along their wives and girlfriends. Three tough guys patrolled the alley to turn away anyone trying to enter, saying the place had been rented that night for a private party.

Only the guest of honor and his bodyguards were allowed in.

Five minutes after Fujimi came through the door with Ishigaki, Nishioka and his thugs were dead. Nothing was ever heard of them again.The manager and his staff were rewarded for their cooperation and released.

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David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.


The Hours of the Ox: Hell Hath No Fury

Kiyomizu – the name means “pure water” – is perhaps the most famous and beautiful complex of temples in Kyoto. Throughout its history, it has been renowned for the wide platform that juts out over an 18-meter drop; and for people jumping off it. There is an expression:


Which translates as: “to jump off the Kiyomizu platform.” The meaning is similar to take the plunge; to throw caution to the wind. People used to believe that if they jumped off the platform and survived, their wishes would come true. According to Wikipedia, 234 people took the plunge during the Edo era; and the survival rate was and excellent 85.4%.

 Wikipedia further states that no nails were used in the building of the entire structure.


 On the eastern extreme of the Kiyomizu complex stands a small shrine called Jisshu. It is dedicated to the God of Love Okuninushi. Young women go there to pray for good fortune in love; to meet Mr Right. Very popular with female visitors are the so-called “Love Stones”, two stones placed far apart – if a girl can walk successfully from one to another with her eyes closed, things will work out well in her love life.

 Standing in prominent place in the shrine is a great cedar tree, called the Prayer Cedar. Visitors, again mostly women, come from all over Japan to stand before it and pray for love and a happy marriage. But there is a dark side to that cedar tree. If you look closely at the trunk, people say, you can see small holes made by hammered-in nails.

Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d

Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d

[William Congreve]

There is an enduring tradition of women whose love has turned to hatred making voodoo-like dolls out of straw to represent the man who is the object of their hate. Taking them into the shrine in the dead of night to that cedar tree. Dressed in white. Hammering them to the trunk, with curses against the man on their lips. According to the tradition, it takes seven days for the curse to take effect. And for the man to die.  

 The straw doll is called wara ningyo in Japanese. The tradition says that the ritual is not confined to that specific shrine, but is widespread among the cedar groves of shrines throughout Japan. And in the mountains, too. I have heard many stories of wara ningyo being found by hikers along trails in Kobe’s Mt. Rokko range.

 In the dead of night…

 According to the Chinese system of reckoning time, each two hours has one corresponding animal. The hours between one and three in the morning are called after the ox. These hours, according to tradition, are most effective for curses. Evil is abroad and most productive between one o’clock and three in the morning.

 And so there exists the expression Ushi-no-kokumairi.

Literally, “Ox-time shrine visit.”

Here is a photograph of an actual straw doll that was once used to put a curse on someone. It is on display in the National Museum of Ethnology.

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