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What Tokyo Vice Taught Me About Forgiveness

HBO Max's Tokyo Vice.
HBO Max/ Tokyo Vice

The following content may contain spoilers for the HBO Max series Tokyo Vice.

The HBO Max hit series Tokyo Vice concluded its second season last month. And while there were many takes I got from the show since it’s debut in 2022, season 2 taught me something about forgiveness.

As a Navy brat, I spent some years in Japan, and am very in touch with Japanese culture. Tokyo Vice delivers a breathtaking presentation of all aspects of Japanese culture. One important part of that culture is the notion of forgiveness.

In a world of violent gangs and political corruption, it’s easy to hold grudges and seek revenge.

Antagonist of the show Shinzo Tozawa, a high level Japanese Yakuza member, embodies these dark traits.

When a the leader of a rival Yakuza clan, Ishida, reaches out to Tozawa seeking peace…Tozawa responds by putting a hit on him, making it clear that he is unwilling to let go of his grudge and hunger for generational revenge.

This anger and lust for vengeance ultimately leads to Tozawa’s downfall at the climax of the season.

There are however, two characters that demonstrated the nobility of expedient forgiveness.


At the end of season 1, we saw Gen brutally stab Sato.

Sato survives the stabbing. His Yakuza clan hunts down Gen, and gives Sato an opportunity to kill him.

Sato however, immediately requests that Gen be forgiven, sparing his life. Sato wants peace, and is quick to forgive the man whom just tried to kill him in cold blood.

Gen is moved by Sato’s forgiveness, and becomes his most loyal friend.

Sato and Gen in Tokyo Vice. Sato forgave and befriended Gen, the man who tried to kill him.


Ohno is a brilliant architect, and welcomes Samantha into his home. Samantha however, is merely gaining Ohno’s trust in order to obtain building plans for the Yakuza’s interest. Ohno catches Samantha in the act.

Samantha comes clean about her intentions to deliver the building plans to the Yakuza. And in response, Ohno agrees to help with her situation. When Samantha asks why he would help her, after she just betrayed his trust…

Ohno responds with what I believe are the most powerful words in the series…

”I know what it is to need forgiveness”.

Samantha is too, moved by such a humble act of expedient forgiveness.

Ohno tells Samantha he understands what it’s like to need forgiveness.

It’s A Gift

Yakuza gang violence and corruption aside, Japanese culture is driven by respect, humility, and forgiveness.

I’m learning in my own life to let go of things like ego, anger, grudges, and resentment.

It’s exhausting, and life is just too short for that.

It will make your life and your relationships a whole lot smoother. When you can have that sense of peace within yourself, you’ll learn to react less, and empathize more.

And that’s the foundation for forgiveness, empathy.

And just like Ohno-San, I know myself what it’s like to need forgiveness.

Feria Finale

Both Sato and Ohno displayed empathy for the people who tried to screw them. Likely because Sato and Ohno themselves have wronged others, but were shown forgiveness.

And that’s the beauty of forgiveness, it’s a gift that’s paid forward.■

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