In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, he is the former captain and second patriarch of the Arakawa Family, a former lieutenant of the Omi Alliance, and the first chairman of the Tokyo Omi Alliance. In Ryu ga Gotoku Online, he is the captain of the Arakawa Family, the patriarch of the Sawashiro Family,[a] and a lieutenant of the Omi Alliance. He is also a member of the Four Kings, a group of Omi Alliance executives.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Sawashiro has a solid build fitting of a skilled martial artist. In his younger years, his short dark brown hair is left unstyled. It is slicked back later on when he adopts a more mature appearance. In later years, his hair is graying, with bangs long enough to reach his eyes when his hair is let down. His eyes are brown and appear to become clouded with cataracts as he gets older. He has a faint scar on the left side of his forehead.
Ryu ga Gotoku Online: Sawashiro has a muscular build which allows him to effectively incorporate techniques from boxing into his fighting style. In his younger years, his unkempt, black shoulder-length hair is worn pulled back with bangs parted in the middle. His eyes are gray.
By 2017, his hair is partially graying, cut shorter, and slicked back in a neater style save for some loose pieces of white hair. He also has a large forked scar on his face going through his left eye, a smaller scar on his left cheek. There are three scars across his torso; one across the right side of his chest, one across his stomach, and one over his left hip. Additionally, he is missing a piece of his left ear.
Ryu ga Gotoku Online: Sawashiro's tattoo covers most of his back and ends just above his thighs. It depicts a dragonfish (龍魚, ryūgyo), the in-between state of the koi in the legend of a koi that swims up to the top of a waterfall and is rewarded for its tenacity by being transformed into a dragon. The tattoo represents his devotion to Masumi Arakawa, who he views as the 'dragon' he aspires to live up to.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Sawashiro's signature attire between 1993 and 2001 consists of a dark gray suit worn over a violet shirt, a burgundy patterned tie fastened with a gold tie slide, and light brown dress shoes.
By 2019, his attire consists of a dark gray double-breasted crocodile-skin suit worn over a light gray snakeskin waistcoat, a black shirt, a violet and bluish-gray patterned tie, and worn out dark brown dress shoes. The Arakawa Family crest pin adorns his lapel in both appearances. He is also sometimes seen wearing black leather gloves.
As a teenager, Sawashiro wears a dark gray bomber jacket over a black sweater, jeans, and black sneakers. In his twenties, he wears a patterned button-up shirt, dark dress pants, and dark brown dress shoes, as well as a necklace with a rectangular black and silver pendant.
Ryu ga Gotoku Online: Sawashiro's signature attire consists of a white suit with light gray snakeskin patterned lapels worn over a black dress shirt, a navy blue paisley patterned tie fastened with a gold tie bar, a dark blue snakeskin belt, and dark brown dress shoes. His more recent appearances add a white pocket square in a 3 peaks fold, gold diamond-shaped cufflinks, and an Omi Alliance crest pin adorning his lapel.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Sawashiro is a militant and volatile yakuza who places duty above all else. Swift and ruthless in retaliation to conflict and bold in taking the offensive, he represents the Arakawa Family's dark side. He defends their hard-earned reputation zealously and does not tolerate any attempt to discredit it, real or perceived.
In his view, the yakuza is a world of violence where the strong rule the weak. He is an old-school yakuza at heart in this sense and looks down on those who attempt to curry favor with words alone. As the Arakawa Family's fervent treasurer, however, codes of honor come second to the family's advancement in his eyes. He is said to have a "lust for money" because of this, although wealth does not appear to be a major priority for him.
Being a dedicated worker who handles his duties efficiently, he expects the same of his men, often to an unreasonable degree. A harsh disciplinarian, failure never escapes his notice and is met with verbal and physical abuse without hesitation. His subordinates fear him as a "boss from hell" and a "demon drill sergeant" for his "conservative, old-fashioned ideas of discipline" and exacting standards. Only Masumi Arakawa, who views these qualities of his as strengths, is capable of keeping his violent tendencies under control. He often singles Ichiban Kasuga out in particular on the basis that he is "slow" to complete tasks, including, for example, failing to answer a phone call within two rings.
The only exceptions to Sawashiro's ruthless nature are Masumi and Masato Arakawa. He has a strong sense of loyalty and gratitude to Masumi and a strong desire to make amends to Masato. In particular, he shows near-absolute obedience to Masato and borders on being overprotective of him, as he considers protecting him his "life's purpose." From his perspective, everything he does is in service of these motives. Because both bonds matter to him, he does his best to reconcile Masumi and Masato's diverging convictions without acting against either of them.
After Masumi's death, he appears motivated to take his place as patriarch and unite the Tokyo Omi Alliance. However, he soon grows listless and despondent, especially after Masato loses faith in him and comes to see him as disposable. These events leave him with a bleak outlook on his future and little regard for himself or what happens to him. He is also revealed to harbor a great deal of guilt and self-loathing because of his past actions, believing himself to have "[thrown his] humanity away a long time ago." The Japanese name of his primary fighting style, zanki-ryū (慙愧流, lit. "Shame Style"), hints at this as well.
By nature, he is a reserved individual who conceals his inner thoughts and emotions. Noted as being someone whose "each and every word [feels] like it might have something more to it," much of what he says cannot be taken at face value. This ambiguity is deliberate on his part but may sometimes come about due to him experiencing internal conflict, as he is prone to denial. He appears to credit this tendency partly to his abusive upbringing, which taught him to deny and conceal inconvenient truths.
His combative nature may also be similarly rooted in the aggression he faced in his youth, as he describes often getting into street fights as a teenager. His work ethic and values when it comes to the unwritten rules of their business may stem from his working-class background as well. In particular, his belief that "Obon and New Year's aren't holidays in Kamurocho" may have been shaped by his experience of having to work New Year's Eve while Ikumi gave birth to their son.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Sawashiro was born in 1961 in Kamurocho to unnamed parents. Subjected to physical abuse at home by his father, an alcoholic, he spent most days getting into fights on the streets of Kamurocho. He left home around age fifteen and moved into a small apartment with Ikumi. Neither of them had a long-term relationship in mind at the time.
The same year, Sawashiro learned Ikumi was pregnant. Already in a bad financial situation and unable to provide for a child, this sent them into a panic. It was, however, too late to terminate the pregnancy. Out of desperation, they neglected the pregnancy in hopes it would lead to a miscarriage. Even so, on New Year's Eve, while Sawashiro worked road construction, Ikumi gave birth to their son.
With no adult guidance at their age, they saw no options left except what their dysfunctional backgrounds had taught them. Anxious to sweep everything under the rug and move on, they decided to abandon their newborn. Sawashiro shut the baby inside coin locker number 0099 at Shinjuku Station.
He and Ikumi got into an argument later that night in Public Park No. 3. Sawashiro wanted to put the whole thing behind them, while Ikumi insisted on going back for the baby. He eventually gave in to Ikumi's change of heart, but when the two returned to the station, they were stunned to see a yakuza force the locker open and leave with their baby.
Sawashiro was initially relieved and tried to reassure Ikumi that everything had worked out. They were both troubled by the yakuza's unexplained motives, though, and remained at the scene for a while. A few minutes later, they saw two men retrieve a second baby from the adjacent locker number 0101. From their conversation, they were able to piece together that a woman named Akane had hidden her and the yakuza's newborn in the other locker. Sawashiro realized the yakuza had mistaken their baby for his own.
While he and Ikumi separated sometime later, Sawashiro remained in Kamurocho. In 1982, he crossed paths again with the yakuza and his son, who was now in a wheelchair. Looking into them further, he learned that the yakuza was Masumi Arakawa, patriarch of the Arakawa Family. He had given his son the name Masato. As for Masato, he had never been able to walk due to organ failure caused by hypothermia suffered at birth.
While observing them from a distance, he watched Masumi's efforts to soothe Masato, who was humiliated by his disability. He felt a deep sense of shame that his actions had led to his son's condition, later describing the scene as "[haunting him] for who knows how long." This guilt drove Sawashiro, who felt "fated" to end up a yakuza, to join the Arakawa Family. He pledged absolute loyalty to them to atone for the hardship they had to endure and repay his gratitude to Masumi.
Over the next few years, Sawashiro earned Masumi's complete trust. He was appointed captain and treasurer and placed in charge of the family's finances. His militant stance also drove their notoriety to new heights, which peaked in the Bubble era. At the same time, he was caring and attentive toward Masato to the point of being described as "following [him] around like a lost dog." Masato, in return, placed much of his faith in Sawashiro and favored him over Masumi.
In 1993, Masumi performed yubitsume for the Shinomiya Family in exchange for Ichiban Kasuga's life. Sawashiro became enraged at Kasuga's attempts to join the family after this, resorting to beating him whenever he approached Masumi. These beatings continued even after Kasuga became a member. Sawashiro later stated that when he hit Kasuga, he always wondered when he would get the chance to kill him.
As he learned more about Kasuga's past, he began to theorize that he was Masumi's biological son. He believed one of the men at the station may have been Jiro Kasuga, as Akane was a former employee of his, which would mean Kasuga was the baby in locker 0101. He kept his suspicions to himself, however, and continued to conceal the truth.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: 2000-2019
During the events of Chapter One, Sawashiro is first seen when Ichiban Kasuga returns to the Arakawa Family office, with Mitsuo Yasumura following Ichiban leaving the nightclub with Masato Arakawa's money. Ichiban tries to pass the money off as that of a debtor, and Sawashiro figures out that it is Masato's money. After this, he slams Ichiban against the wall, and gets a knife, clearly intending for Ichiban to cut off his own finger via yubitsume for taking Masato's money and passing it off as the collected sum. This is stopped when Masumi Arakawa enters the room, stopping Sawashiro just before Ichiban cuts off his finger.
This is the last interaction that Ichiban has with Sawashiro before Ichiban heads to prison, though he is said to be the one that killed the Sakaki Family man, the murder that Ichiban accepts to take the fall for Sawashiro. This is later revealed to be Masato Arakawa himself that killed the man.
Ryu ga Gotoku Online: 2000-2018
ー春日一番。」— Sawashiro to Kasuga, Ryu ga Gotoku Online
"That being said... my loyalty is unshakable. In my own way, I am devoted to Masumi Arakawa. [...] You know, that man tasted the bitterness of running a third-tier family first-hand... and now look at him. The Tojo Clan is finished, and as far as the Omi's concerned, he's the star of the show. At this rate, there's no doubt in my mind he'll end up in the chairman's seat. Can you imagine a success story more thrilling? I took him to the top and did whatever I had to do to get him there. That's my loyalty. If you still have objections—
—You're welcome to try and stop me by force... Ichiban Kasuga."
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Sawashiro is proficient in various martial arts and excels in the use of weapons in particular. Of these, his primary fighting styles are Vile Blade (慙愧流, zanki-ryū, lit. "Shame Style"), a hard-hitting style which utilizes sharp-edged weapons to inflict Bleed on his opponent and Cane (ステッキ, sutekki), a more defensive, retaliatory fighting style. Cane style is said by Nanba to be based off of a Western martial art. With his Cane style, he can use Opportune Strike to strike an enemy in the chest with his cane after knocking them to the ground. Although a vicious bare-handed fighter as well, he does not take his opponent seriously when fighting unarmed, and as such it is his least powerful style. He utilizes a boxing fighting style when bare handed, with fast footwork and combinations of jabs, crosses, and uppercuts. After his cane is broken, he utilizes the broken cane in his right hand with the broken blade from his katana in his left hand. His skills in this style include Vile Enlightenment, which will cause him to gradually recover HP by focusing with his eyes closed. He can also counter physical attacks by slashing with his blade.
- The katana Sawashiro uses is identical to Okita Soji's.
- Sawashiro's primary fighting style, Vile Blade, shares its Japanese name, Zanki-ryū, with a school of techniques originally featured in Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan!.
- Sawashiro's secondary fighting style, Cane, is described as a more refined version of Yu Nanba's fighting style.
- Shinsuke Matoba is introduced as a member of the Sawashiro Family in a mid-battle title card in Yakuza: Like a Dragon's files, which may hint at the existence of the Sawashiro Family in both Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Ryu ga Gotoku Online. However, the file is unused, and there is otherwise no mention of the Sawashiro Family's existence in-game.
- The given height of 187 cm (6′ 2″) is based on the character model's scaling factor within the game's data. For Dragon Engine games, this method is believed to be very accurate (±1 cm). However, this is intended as an estimate, not a substitute for an official statistic.
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Ryu ga Gotoku Studio, PC, November 2020) - .JSON File - "character_model_model_data.json"
- "Characters / Personnages." YAKUZA: LIKE A DRAGON - Day Ichi Book -, Les Éditions Pix'n Love, 2020, p. 32-33.
- 龍が如くスタジオ 公式 (September 20, 2019) - PS4専用ソフト『龍が如く７ 光と闇の行方』堤真一スペシャルインタビュー (PS4 senyō sofuto [Ryū ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue] Tsutsumi Shinichi supesharu intabyuu, lit. "PS4 Exclusive Ryu ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue Shinichi Tsutsumi Special Interview") - (1:23 - 1:59)
Tsutsumi: 私が演じる沢城はクールでありながら、怒らせるとおっかない昔気質の厳しさを持った極道です。特に弟分である主人公春日のことを目の敵にしており。春日にとっては、まさに鬼上司のような存在といえます。そんな沢城ですが、とある出来事から所属していた東城会を裏ぎって近江連合というライバル組織に寝返ります。何度も春日たちに行く手を阻む沢城。しかし彼がそんな立場にまわったのには、実は深い理由があるんです。 My character Sawashiro might be cool, but he's scary when you get him angry. He's a yakuza with conservative, old-fashioned ideas of discipline, and he can't stand the protagonist, his subordinate Kasuga, in particular. You could definitely say Kasuga sees him as something of a "boss from hell." But after certain events, Sawashiro betrays the Tojo Clan and switches sides over to the Omi Alliance, a rival organization. Time and time again, he gets in the party's way, but it's all actually in service of a deeper motive.
- https://getnews.jp/ (November 18, 2019) - 豪華出演陣が集結！『龍が如く7 光と闇の行方』完成披露会が実施！ (Gōka shūen-jin ga shūketsu! [Ryū ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue] kansei hirō-kai ga jisshi!, lit. "A Stunning Cast Attends! Ryu ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue's Completion Premiere Event Is Held!") - Archive
Nagoshi: 若頭という役柄ですが、鬼軍曹的な強面で重要な役どころになっています。言葉の1つ1つに、裏があるのではと感じさせる貫禄のある方にお願いしたかった。 Although he's second-in-command in terms of his role, he has the forcefulness of a demon drill sergeant, so there's this sense he's someone you should be paying attention to. We wanted him to be played by an actor with the screen presence to make each and every word feel like it might have something more to it.