- "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 one of the loyal members of Sasai family of the Tojo, when he was given the task of killing several key members of the Ueno Seiwa. His murder spree would set upon the chain of events that puts the families of Tojo and his own sister into turmoil.
In his youth, Saejima was raised solely by his mother and his stepsister Yasuko. Despite his hopes of one day graduating and becoming a schoolteacher, Saejima's mother passed away when he was young and was responsible for Yasuko's welfare after both of them ran away from their foster family as they felt they were burdens to them. His situation worsens when his sister needed a kidney transplant and the only compatible candidate was her former father. Going to Osaka to find his stepfather who have now become a lowly Yakuza thug, he refuses to
transplant his own organ to his blood daughter unless he is paid for it. With few options, Saejima turns to a life of crime as a petty thug until Sasai finds him and makes him an offer of joining his criminal family in exchange for the money for the operation and transplanted lung. During this time, he met his oath brother Majima, who was working with the Shimano family.
On the fateful day of April 21, 1985, Majima and Taiga was tasked with killing key members of the Ueno Seiwa in an attempt to provoke a conflict that Saisai would mediate. Unbeknownst to Taiga and Majima, Katsuragi knew of the assassination attempt through the Shibata and had Suiguchi give them non lethal munitions to ensure the survival of him and the chairmen alone. In addition, he colludes with the Shibata where he would offer a cut of the Ueno Seiwa's earnings in exchange for their silence and protection in return for ensuring Majima never makes it to the assassination site to make sure Taiga is forced to dispatch of the thugs alone.
The Tiger of the Tojo fell blindly into the trap, easily gunning down the sudden increased amount of official members of the Ueno Seiwa. He was there to watch as Katsuragi selfishly sacrifices himself for his Patriarch and puts one non lethal round into the Patriarch. Leaving the site, eventually police officers heading the investigation by Sugiuchi orders his arrest and in his silence results in a death sentence. However, the damage was done, the Ueno Seiwa signs a truce with the Tojo and Katsuragi being the eventual successor patriarch to be with the sudden loss of so many official members of the Ueno Seiwa while the Shibata rises in prominence as he has the Ueno Seiwa as their underling family. Taiga's Patriarch disbanded his family in the turn of the events and disappears and Yasuko was soon made the prized possession of Katsuragi himself and his Oath brother Majima loses an eye in defiance and his exile to Soutenboori under 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 himself, wanting to find out what has happened after 25 years and his boss, both of them performs a prison break together as Goh takes a bullet meant for Taiga and has a complete change of heart as he wishes to become a sworn brother of Taiga after he is returned to the good graces of the Tojo and becomes a Patriarch himself, Saejima and Hamasaki was successful in escaping but Hamasaki 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. Taiga 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. 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 protegee he offers his help in finding an information broker who knows about the disappearance of his Patriarch. Kage offers his help but as Taiga 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, Taiga refuses and calls them out for their disregard for what it is like to truly kill somebody and spares his opponent. Kage the Florist reveals it was a test to show that Taiga 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,
Taiga 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 Taiga didn't kill the men and the real culprit is he himself masterminded the plan to ensure his survival. The guns Taiga used were loaded with rubber riot bullets and only knocked the men unconscious after being shot by Taiga. After he left, Katsuragi personally killed them all while taking a gunshot wound from Suiguchi to prove he was also among the wounded, Saejima had unwittingly claimed responsibility for the murder in his silence when he was framed and further enraged by Kido's treachery. Kido shoots Katsuragi and Taiga warns Kiryu and Yasuko of the bulletproof vest he's wearing, but the warning comes too late and Yasuko is fatally shot protecting Taiga as she tells him unlike Taiga 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.
Worse news was given to him when he learned Goh, 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. 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. During his final day in Kamurocho before he is incarcerated and sent to a cell in Tsukimino to complete his prison sentence. 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. Having one last fight with Majima before going to prison.
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 cell mates whom he has befriended.
The following day Shigeki Baba, one of Saejima’s cell mates, 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 the 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 2 months left. Majima 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 Kurusu Takeru'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.
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 be flinched 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 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 defences, but he lacks speed and recovery. Its 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.
- 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 freeroam 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 afterwards (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.