- "Me and Majima just chose this life and never looked back. That's how a true yakuza lives."
- —Taiga Saejima
Taiga Saejima (冴島 大河 "Saejima Taiga") is a loyal member of Sasai family of the Tojo Clan and sworn brother of Goro Majima. He became a legend amongst the yakuza for carrying out the 1985 Ueno Seiwa massacre, in which eighteen key members of the organization were slain. His killing spree thrust the families of Tojo, and his own sister, into turmoil.
Saejima was raised by a single mother alongside his stepsister, Yasuko. In his youth, he hoped to one day attend college and become a schoolteacher. His future was put on hold, however, when his mother passed away suddenly and he became responsible for Yasuko's welfare. The pair ended up in foster care, but feeling as though they were nothing but burdens on their surrogate family, they ran away and were made to fend for themselves.Their situation was further complicated when it was discovered that Yasuko was in need of a kidney transplant, and the only compatible donor was her birth father. Saejima traveled to Osaka to find his stepfather, who had become a lowly yakuza thug and refused to donate his kidney without being paid for it. With few options, Saejima turned to a life of petty crime to help finance the operation. It wasn't long before he came into contact with Hideki Sasai, who offered Saejima a place in his crime family in exchange for the funds for Yasuko's procedure. It was also during this time that he met his oath brother, Goro Majima, who was working with the allied Shimano family.
In April 1985, Majima and Saejima were tasked with assassinating a few key members of the Ueno Seiwa in an attempt to provoke a conflict that Sasai would mediate. Unbeknownst to them, Isao Katsuragi, a young Ueno lieutenant, had become aware of the plot through Kazuo Shibata. Katsuragi recognized an opportunity to further himself in the organization and colluded with the Shibata to hatch an elaborate power-play. He tasked his sworn brother, police double-agent Junji Sugiuchi, with ensuring that the assassins were equipped with non-lethal ammunition. Then Shibata, in exchange for a cut of the Ueno Seiwa's earnings, would see to it that Majima never made it to the ambush location and that Saejima would be forced to carry out the hit alone.
On April 21, Majima was summoned away and captured by Shibata, leaving Saejima to fall blindly into Katsuragi's trap. Saejima was anxiously awaiting his brother outside of the shop, but he didn't come. He got up to phone the main office, but it was then that Patriarch Ueno arrived with his men. Realizing he had to conduct the hit himself, Saejima retrieved the six pistols from the trunk of his car. With a pistol in each hand and one in his mouth, much like a great tiger baring his claws and fangs, Saejima walked up to the small ramen shop that would change his life forever. Entering the location for the hit, he was met by virtually all of Ueno's leadership. He easily gunned down most of the unsuspecting targets, before witnessing Katsuragi selflessly sacrifice himself for his patriarch, Yoshiharu Ueno. After finishing the job, Saejima fled the scene, completely unaware that the ammunition in his guns were actually rubber bullets, and that all of his victims had simply been stunned. Having feigned his suicide, Katsuragi proceeded to summarily execute all of his unconscious brethren, leaving only chairman Ueno alive.
The police investigation, led by Sugiuchi, identified Saejima as the assailant, and he was arrested shortly thereafter. Saejima refused to cooperate with the police or give them any information, and after being convicted, he was sentenced to death. In the wake of the ordeal, the Ueno Seiwa entered into a truce with the Tojo, becoming a subordinate family to the treacherous Shibata. Katsuragi, having seemingly saved Ueno's life, is appointed to a high-ranking position in the organization and named the eventual successor to the chairman.
Saejima's patriarch, Sasai, disbanded his family and disappeared. Left on her own, Yasuko was soon made the prized possession of Katsuragi. Goro Majima, having already lost an eye to Shibata the day of the massacre, was exiled to Sotenbori under Futoshi Shimano's orders.
Yakuza 4 Edit
"Regrets? Can't say I got none. I regret every life I took. I'd done everything for the boss."
After serving 25 years, a few days before his scheduled execution, he is suddenly transferred to a secret prison off the coast of Okinawa, where he meets Goh Hamazaki, who persuades him to break out together after telling him Majima is alive and well and now a patriarch of his own family. Wanting to find out what has happened after 25 years and his boss, both of them performs a prison break together as Hamazaki takes a bullet meant for Saejima and has a complete change of heart as he wishes to become a sworn brother of Saejima after he is returned to the good graces of the Tojo and becomes a Patriarch himself, Saejima and Hamazaki was successful in escaping but Hamazaki ends up getting wounded pushing Saito into the sea..
After falling into the sea, Saejima washes up on the beach where he is found by Haruka. Saejima gives his name as "Suzuki" to Haruka and Kiryu. Kiryu confronts Saejima on the beach about his prison time when he asks for some money to get to Tokyo, saying that the 30,000 yen Saejima is asking for will not get him very far in present-day money. He also says that Haruka told him about how Saejima fell on top of her and supposes that Saejima must not have been with a woman for a very long time. Kiryu challenges Saejima to a fight in return for the money, which Saejima didn't manage to win, but did not lose either. However, after Haruka gives him a briefcase she found alongside him on the beach containing plane tickets to Tokyo, Saejima leaves Okinawa.
Meeting Kido, a member of the Shibata clan and Arai's protege, he offers his help in finding an information broker who knows about the disappearance of his Patriarch. The Florist offers his help but as Saejima lacks the funds, he is forced into a fight to the death with an undefeated fighter in the ring. When told to finish off his opponent, Saejima refuses and calls them out for their disregard for what it is like to truly kill somebody and spares his opponent. The Florist reveals it was a test to show that Saejima was here for the truth of the events and not an excuse to murder those he thought abandoned him and has a tragic reunion with the now demented Sasai. He returns to his hideout to find
Minami trashing his hideout and offering a chance to meet his oath brother. He proves his worth to Majima and he finally explains to him why he wasn't there that day and more importantly, the man behind everything was murdered. Around that time,
Saejima was attacked by Katsuragi who have made moves against both him and Majima by having Majima arrested with the help of Kido and Katsuragi attacking Purgatory.
Soon after he and Yasuko, his sister were kidnapped by Katsuragi, where they see each other for the first time in 25 years. Katsuragi explains that Saejima the details of the plans he made to ensure his survival and rise to power and his manipulation as well as learning of Kido's treachery. Kido then shoots Katsuragi and reveals his allegiance was not to the Shibata but Arai who then shoots Kido to see if he was a plant by the Tojo to spy on Munakata and him. Saejima then warns Kiryu and Yasuko of the bulletproof vest he's wearing, but the warning comes too late and Yasuko is fatally shot protecting Saejima but not before killing Katsuragi for the suffering and pain he had inflicted on both of them. In her dying moments she tells him unlike Saejima she indeed murdered people to find her brother and she never could repay the kindness he has given her and dies in his arms.
After the death of Yasuko, he remains aimless as Majima was arrested and he now has nowhere left to turn.
He was given bad news that Hamazaki, his first oath brother in 25 years has died from his injuries and his final request is to protect the Tojo from the cops, Arai included. With the help of Kiryu, Akiyama and Tanimura they head to the Millennium Tower to avenge those close to them and expose the true culprit. Facing off against Kido who had only learned that Arai was a plant by the police but since have become independent and willing to throw Kamurocho into chaos for the sake of becoming the successor to Kamurocho, he defeats Kido as proof of his commitment to the Tojo and finally bringing the man who exploited the situation to justice. With his name restored, he becomes the new head of his own family at last.
Yakuza 5 Edit
Despite his rise to power as a Patriarch, Saejima struggled to reign in the new generation with his traditional ways of running the Yakuza. In his short 6 month stay in Kamurocho the situation for the Tojo had worsened as Saejima had learned in his rule. Hoping to go to finish his prison sentence to fully redeem himself as a Tojo Clan member he enjoys his last day of freedom with Majima. He ends the day by having one last fight with the Majima family before going to prison to complete his sentence, so his brother could be sure he could still handle prison life.
In Sapporo, Hokkaido, Saejima is serving out his sentence. He is attempting to keep on his best behavior in order to get an early parole but is repeatedly beaten by the gang of Kugihara. Kosaka, the Deputy Warden, offers the chance for Saejima to serve out the rest of his sentence in solitary confinement but Saejima declines as he fears Kugihara will turn his attention to his cellmates whom he has befriended.
The following day, Shigeki Baba, one of Saejima’s cellmates, is accused of stabbing one of Kugihara’s gang members. Saejima believes there is foul play due to Baba’s parole hearing being that day. They discover that Kugihara framed Baba to which Saejima confronts him. Kugihara reveals he’d be trying to get Saejima to fight him to delay his parole. Saejima is brought before Kosaka who gives Saejima a letter detailing that he’s been excommunicated from the Tojo Clan. Saejima also finds out that Goro Majima has been murdered.
Later that night Kosaka meets with Saejima and Baba. He details that Saejima’s parole was denied by the Ministry of Justice and the Warden was murdered outside of Sapporo Airport. He also says that there are one-hundred inmates scheduled for transfer into the prison and they are likely assassins. He gives Saejima to a snowmobile outside the southwest exit and urges him and Baba to escape to figure out why Saejima is being targeted. Saejima and Baba escape after a protracted brawl with Kugihara and the new prisoners but wreck their snowmobile and Saejima is attacked by a monstrous bear called Yama-Oroshi. He and Baba are saved by Okudera, a hunter in the nearby village who has a grudge against the bear.
Saejima and Baba head to Sapporo to meet with Kitakata who is supposedly Majima’s killer. They manage to kidnap him during the Snow Festival via the sewer system and he talks with Saejima. Majima was brought to Kitakata to negotiate an equal alliance in spite of the Tojo Clan being the larger entity, however, after Kitakata agreed to it Majima then advised him to decline the offer as he suspected it was being made for foul purposes. Before Kitakata can say who the mastermind is he is shot by Baba. Baba hesitates in killing Saejima, having grown to respect him and they fight.
Saejima is then detained by Serizawa who tells him about the turmoil in the Tojo Clan. With Daigo missing, Majima murdered in Sapporo, and Tojo Lieutenant Azumi murdered in Nagoya, the clan is in an uproar. He hypothesizes that someone is manipulating the whole ordeal and that Saejima is the key. He offers Saejima the opportunity to go to Kamurocho to figure out what’s going on if he provides information to the police.
Yakuza 6 Edit
After the end of Yakuza 5, Saejima was arrested yet again by the police force to finish up his sentence which only were 2 months left. Majima is infuriated with this, but Saejima reassures him to take care of things while he was away. He was not seen again until the epilogue, where he was freed with Daigo from prison, and talks about how the Tojo Clan almost start a war with the Yomei Alliance and the situation was defused after Daigo was freed by an unknown man in exchange of Kiryu faking his death. They agreed to form an alliance with the Yomei Alliance, who was now headed by Koshimizu after Takeru Kurusu's death.
Saejima has a very large and tall frame and is extremely muscular. In Yakuza 4 he has long dark hair, but he shaves this off in Yakuza 5. He has a tattoo of a tiger roaring with some bamboo grass in the background.
Saejima is a selfless, but blunt person at the very core. Throughout the series, he is portrayed as someone who would follow his oath to the logical conclusion even at the cost of his own life. When he was tasked with killing the Ueno Seiwa, his response was remaining silent even though he risked facing a death penalty. During his youth, he threw away his hopes of becoming a school teacher to take care of Yasuko even though he was only 15 at the time. Saejima's selflessness has gotten him in trouble that others would have avoided out of personal preservation, as apparent after he had his Coliseum fight, where he lamented the audiences who brought back the memories of the Ueno Seiwa hit, which traumatized him for the last 25 years.
Fighting Style Edit
Yakuza 4 Edit
Saejima relies on brute force in battle similar to Kiryu, but lacks the grace that Kiryu has. Relying on a plethora of wrestling moves, Saejima is considerably much more durable in combat than other fighters as his charge attacks make him almost unable to flinch when hit. His Triangle moves can be charged to more damage and can be used to set up Heat Actions in battle when they are knocked midair or against the wall.
Yakuza 5 Edit
After a finishing blow, Saejima gains the ability to grab an opponent and swing them around like a rag doll, damaging all who are hit by the swing and the flying enemy. He also gained new Heat Actions.
Yakuza 4 Edit
Saejima's attacks have a lot of strength that could possibly finish enemies very quickly, and with bosses taking a quarter or a whole health bar if the combos are charged. Saejima not only has a really strong string of attacks but also gains non-flinching properties for his charges. when his fully charged attacks are released, he gains invincibility frames. He may have strong attacks and impenetrable defenses, but he lacks speed and recovery. It's always important to have Heat as he cannot be sent to the ground when in heat mode (except for grapples and command grabs). He cannot recover quickly from the ground and he can only perform rolls as they are much slower than sidestepping. Saejima has a huge health bar that covers a quarter of the screen. His heat gauge is smaller compared to the rest of the other characters.
Yakuza 5 Edit
Some of Saejima's attacks gain more recoil that can send enemies up much higher, allowing more follow up options such as his power slam heat action or following up with another combo. Saejima learns a new special attack called "Tiger Puppetry". Saejima also has his own Tiger Drop move called "Tiger Dragon Drop" this move doesn't send enemies flying but instead stuns them allowing you to land free hits. like the other protagonist, he gains climax heat actions. Saejima's Health Bar is even Bigger which covers almost the whole screen. His Heat gauge still is small, but his initial heat gauge requires more heat before he enters heat more, During heat mode, Saejima has an ability called "Herculean Spirit" Which allows Saejima to never flinch from attacks, as well as being invincible to all grabs.
"Shut your fuckin' holes!!! Which one of you fucks just said, "What's one more?" Huh?! Was it you?! You?! You sit there chantin' "Kill, Kill, Kill!" But how many of you ever killed a man before?! Huh?! Lemme fill you fuckin' hyenas in on something. Killin' a man is like...It's like...It's fuckin' terrifying!!! I still get nightmares of that day. Every fuckin' night, I see those eighteen guys. My fists bashin' their heads. Sound of crushin' bone. Screams. The fear on their dead faces...It's like it happened yesterday. Shit, I know I scarred their families for life. I feel awful. But that...The remorse is nothin' compared to the real horror! Once ya kill someone, you can never escape the horror of what you done! I gotta relive that bloodbath every day! You have any idea what that's like?! This tournament's bullshit. I'm leavin'."
- Saejima to the Coliseum audience. Yakuza 4, "The 25 Year Blank" chapter, "The Price of Murder" cutscene
"Hey, buddy, If you're capable of killin' yourself, I'd say you're capable of just about anything."
"Kid, bein' brave is a good thing, but suicide ain't. When you ain't got a chance in hell, you oughta haul ass outta there."
- Saejima appears as the second playable character on two games, in Yakuza 4 and in Yakuza 5.
- Although Saejima doesn't appear on Yakuza: Dead Souls (albeit mentioned), His running animation from Yakuza 4 is reused on Ryuji as his running animation in Yakuza: Dead Souls in free roam gameplay.
- Saejima is the only protagonist to fight Kiryu and Majima twice.
- Shimano's tattoo are the combination of Saejima and Majima's tattoo. Shimano has a tiger on his back (similar to Saejima) with additional pattern similar to Majima (from Shimano's back to both upper arms and on both chests).
- With his appearance in Yakuza 4, Saejima has a long black hair in similar fashion with another newcomer protagonist, Akiyama. But in Yakuza 5 afterward (including his incarnation in Ishin), he shaved his hair to avoid having similar fashion with other characters.
- The reason Saejima has a tattoo of a tiger on his back is because his given name Taiga is pronounced similarly to the English word tiger.
- In Yakuza 4, protagonists representing the 4 Eastern Gods. Taiga Saejima is obviously the White Tiger, as he has the most strength out of the characters and is the most cynical. He also has the Tiger Tattoo.
- In Yakuza 4, visiting certain places (such as the pawn shop) as Saejima will make him reminisce about his younger days.
- His favorite food appears to be tripe, as he orders a good amount of it in Yakuza 5.
- He appears to suffer from psychological and emotional trauma after the hit.