What is Tadamasa Goto’s Connection to Tokyo Vice? Where is He Now?

Tadamasa Goto is a retired yakuza and the founder of Goto-gumi, an organization created as a part of Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group in Japan. Goto is an infamous figure whose tales of crimes are even known in the United States. The individual ruled the streets of Tokyo during the time Jake Adelstein, the real-life counterpart of the protagonist of Max’s crime drama series ‘Tokyo Vice,’ was working for the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. It is not the only connection Goto has with the series, which is based on Jake’s memoir of the same name!

Shinzo Tozawa is Partially Based on Tadamasa Goto

Shinzo Tozawa, the antagonist of ‘Tokyo Vice,’ is a heavily fictionalized version of Tadamasa Goto. Even though the series diverts considerably from reality, there are several similarities between both of them. Like Tozawa, Goto also suffered from a life-threatening illness. Goto had liver disease and a liver transplant became essential for him to continue living. At the time, he was barred from entering the United States but he managed to obtain a special visa to seek medical help in the country from the FBI. This can be connected to Tozawa’s mysterious departure to the United States at the end of the first season of the show.

‘Tokyo Vice’ begins with Tozawa’s men threatening Jake to stop unveiling their leader through his writings. According to the real-life journalist, the threats were real. “Erase the story, or we’ll erase you. And maybe your family,” a Goto-gumi enforcer told Jake, as per his memoir. “It was more like, ‘Either the article disappears or something else disappears. You have a family, right?’ in Japanese,” the journalist told The Hollywood Reporter about the threat he received. Jake lived under police protection in Japan after he started to write about the yakuza leader. Several of Tozawa’s crimes in the series can be paralleled with the ones committed by Goto.

According to The Guardian’s Tokyo correspondent Justin McCurry, Goto “amassed a fortune from prostitution, protection rackets, and white-collar crime, while cultivating a reputation for extreme violence,” which isn’t drastically different from how Tozawa establishes his power and presence in Tokyo, challenging Hitoshi Ishida’s Chihara-kai clan. In the show, Tozawa is portrayed as someone who doesn’t align with the traditional values of the yakuza elders. In the fourth episode of the second season, he even kills his superior to establish his unconventional means of authority. Goto, in real life, reportedly did make a deal with the FBI to gain permission to undergo a liver transplant surgery in Los Angeles.

“Goto said, ‘Here’s the deal. I need to get in the United States to get my liver transplant or I’m gonna die. I will give you the names of all our front companies in the United States,’” Jake told Lara Logan of ‘60 Minutes.’ “As soon as he [Goto] got his liver and was better, he’s back to Japan. And he only gave the FBI a fraction of what he promised, maybe a 10th, maybe a 20th. Not a complete failure, but certainly not what the FBI wanted,” the journalist added.

Where is Tadamasa Goto Now?

After his liver transplant, Tadamasa Goto returned to Japan to remain an authoritative presence as far as yakuza is concerned. When Jake Adelstein uncovered his deal with the FBI, he allegedly wanted the journalist dead. “I heard from someone very close to him that as he was leaving and getting in his car he said, ‘That goddamn American Jew reporter, I wanna kill him,'” Adelstein said while appearing in ‘60 Minutes.’ Goto retired from yakuza in 2008, the year he got expelled from the Yamaguchi-gumi. As per Justin McCurry, he was expelled due to a “furious row with his bosses over his conduct.”

Tadamasa Goto, legendary Yakuza figure who basically conned the FBI into a liver transplant. Goto needed his US travel ban lifted in order to get a liver transplant in LA. The requirements were 100k to UCLA and info on Yamaguchi-gumi activity in the US. Goto gave them no actionable intel.
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Goto apparently invited several celebrities to his birthday party, only to upset his seniors. The media reports concerning the same surfaced after the controversy regarding the deal he made with the FBI. In the absence of Yamaguchi-gumi leader Shinobu Tsukasa, who was in prison at the time, the second-in-command Kiyoshi Takayama expelled Goto from the clan. In April 2009, he joined the Buddhist priesthood and started his training at a temple in the Kanagawa prefecture, which is located south of Tokyo. Goto reportedly described the occasion as “solemn and meaningful, in which Buddha will make me his disciple and enable me to start a new life,” as per The Guardian.

According to a 2012 report Jake wrote for The Atlantic, Goto returned to criminal activity by operating a new gang under the moniker Goto Enterprises. In 2010, he published his autobiography titled ‘Habakarinagara’ (‘Pardon Me But…’), which ended up becoming a bestseller. Jake went on to add that the former yakuza boss’ new “business ventures” are reportedly highly successful. In 2012, the Yamaguchi-gumi and Goto became involved in a legal dispute with the family of a civilian killed in 2006. Kazuo Nozaki, a real estate agent, was allegedly killed by a Goto-gumi member. The victim’s family asked for ¥187 million or $2.4 million in damages. Goto, at the time, was in Cambodia.

In 2015, the United States froze the assets of Goto. “Tadamasa Goto possesses deep ties to the Yakuza and has been instrumental to its criminal operations around the world,” said John Smith, acting head of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement. “Today’s action denies Goto access to the US financial system and demonstrates our resolve to aggressively combat transnational criminal organizations and their supporters,” he added.

“Despite his retirement from mob life, Yakuza figure Tadamasa Goto reportedly still associates with numerous gang-tainted companies that he utilizes to facilitate his legitimate and illicit business activities. He continues to support the Yamaguchi-gumi and remnants of his semi-defunct Goto-gumi by laundering their funds between Japan and Cambodia. Additionally, Goto has reportedly established links with the notoriously violent Namikawa Mutsumi-kai group, formerly known as the Kyushu Seido-kai, which is recognized by Japan as a Yakuza group,” the US Treasury added.

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