Taiga Saejima (冴島 大河, Saejima Taiga) is a recurring protagonist and character in the series. He appears as one of multiple main protagonists and playable characters in both Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5. He appears in flashbacks in Yakuza 0 and is a supporting character in Yakuza 6 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
He is the sworn brother of Goro Majima. In 1985, while a part of the Tojo Clan's Sasai Family, Saejima became a yakuza legend for carrying out a massacre against the Ueno Seiwa Clan that claimed the lives of eighteen of its members. He spent the next 25 years in prison, and after his release, he became the Patriarch of the Tojo's Saejima Family. Alongside Majima, he served as one of Sixth Chairman Daigo Dojima's most trusted officers in the Tojo.
- 1 Profile
- 2 Background
- 3 Involvement
- 4 Fighting Style
- 5 Gameplay
- 6 Trivia
Saejima is tall and powerfully built. He has an immense size and his brute strength rivals and may even surpass Kiryu. He uses his size to his advantage in combat, often charging and overpowering his opponents with brute force. In Yakuza 4 he has dark, shoulder-length hair. After returning to prison in Yakuza 5, his head is shaved and he retains a buzz cut hairstyle in all of his subsequent in-game appearances. He usually sports a military-esque outfit.
His attire typically consists of a heavy olive green jacket over a black t-shirt with camouflage cargo pants, a black leather double grommet belt with a silver double prong buckle, and black ankle length leather combat boots. In Yakuza 4 he wears an olive colored, military-style long coat given to him by Kazuma Kiryu after escaping Okinawa Penitentiary No. 2 along with a silver chain necklace with a pendant and a black leather belt with a gold buckle. In Yakuza 5 he wears an olive colored parka given to him by Okudera after being rescued from the mountain. In Yakuza 6 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon he wears a sage colored Alpha Industries N-3B snorkel parka. For formal occasions, such as the end of Yakuza 4, Saejima wears a double breasted 4 button black suit with a white dress shirt, black tie, and black dress shoes. During the Ueno-Seiwa hit, he wears a single breasted black suit with a white dress shirt, black leather silver buckle belt, black leather oxfords, and a silver watch with metal band on his left wrist.
His tattoo features a roaring tiger surrounded by bamboo. This is primarily representative of his stark opposite traits to Kiryu and being similarly skilled in battle; in Buddhism, the tiger and dragon are said to be equal to each other, representing different symbols of power. The tiger is more headstrong and relentless, while the dragon is more patient and wise. Their polar opposite personalities and fighting styles shine throughout the series and as they confront each other, with Saejima powering through nearly every opposing attack and Kiryu always waiting for the right moment to strike.
Saejima is exceedingly blunt, and is never one to beat around the bush in a conversation. This can lead to him sounding harsh or pessimistic, but his words are usually meant with the best of intentions.
Saejima's selflessness surfaces often in the series, especially apparent in his willingness to return to jail prior to the events of Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 6 in order to clear his name for the good of the Tojo Clan, as well as in his speech after the fight in Purgatory's coliseum, refusing to kill his opponent even with the promise of information from The Florist. During his youth, he gave up his dream of becoming an elementary school teacher in order to take care of his step-sister, Yasuko, even though he was just 15 at the time.
Throughout the series, he is shown to be incredibly loyal, seeking out both his old patriarch and his oath brother immediately upon his escape from the penitentiary where he is held during the events of Yakuza 4. This nature inspires intense admiration from friend and foe alike; on multiple occasions, Saejima has foiled potential traitors simply by winning them over.
Of all of the protagonists in the series, Saejima is the most sensitive, being described as "delicate inside" in contrast to his outward appearance. He cries frequently, and appears to have PTSD from the trauma caused by his actions during the Ueno Seiwa Clan hit. He describes the experience as "terrifying", and says that he has nightmares of the men he killed.
He remains silent in the face of a death penalty after the Ueno Seiwa hit, believing that his brother Majima had betrayed him, he planned to atone for his crime in solitude, only breaking out after Goh Hamazaki provoked him with false information about Majima.
Due to the long period(s) of time spent in prison, he is often confused by technology and current slang. Saejima speaks Kansai dialect, having spent much of his life in Osaka.
Saejima was raised by a single mother, alongside his stepsister, Yasuko. In his youth, he hoped to one day attend college and become an elementary school teacher. His future was put on hold, however, when his mother passed away suddenly and he became solely responsible for Yasuko's welfare. The pair ended up getting adopted by close relatives, but feeling as though they were nothing but burdens on their surrogate family, ran away and were forced to fend for themselves.
Their situation is further complicated when it is discovered that Yasuko is in need of a kidney transplant, and the only compatible donor is her estranged birth father. Saejima travels to Osaka to find his stepfather - a lowly yakuza thug - who refuses to donate his kidney without being paid for it. With few options left, Saejima turns to a life of petty crime to help finance the operation. It wasn't long before he came into contact with Hideki Sasai, who saw worth in Saejima's talents and offered him a place in his family in exchange for the funds for Yasuko's procedure. It is likely that during this time, he met his oath brother, Goro Majima, who was working with the allied Shimano family.
April 20, 1985, Majima and Saejima are tasked with assassinating key members of the Ueno Seiwa Clan, under the pretense of punishing them for enroaching Tojo turf. Despite Majima's insistence, and his concern for Yasuko's safety, Saejima makes it clear he doesn't intend to tell his step-sister of their inevitable fate, telling Majima that it's "bad luck".
On April 21, Majima is captured by Shibata (who is working with both Katsuragi and Sugiuchi), leaving Saejima to fall blindly into Katsuragi's trap. Saejima, now outside a ramen shop in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, where Ueno is having a meal, anxiously awaits Majima's arrival, but he never shows up. Not wanting to miss his chance, Saejima realizes he must carry out the hit alone, and retrieves the six revolvers from the trunk of his car. With a gun in each hand, one tucked into his jacket, two in his waistband, and one in his mouth, Saejima walks calmly up to the ramen shop.
He is met by the entirety of the Ueno Seiwa Clan; he easily guns down most of the men, before finally aiming his gun at the patriarch, Yoshiharu Ueno, Katsuragi jumps in front of, seemingly sacrificing himself. After finishing the job, Saejima leaves the scene, completely unaware that all of the ammunition in his guns were actually rubber bullets, with the victims having only been stunned. Katsuragi then proceeds to execute all of his unconscious brethren, leaving only himself and chairman Ueno alive. In total, 20 people were shot, and 18 were killed.
The police investigation, led by Junji Sugiuchi, identifies Saejima as the assailant, and he is arrested shortly after he surrenders himself at 6:05 p.m., April 21. Saejima refuses to speak with the police, remaining silent through the entire interrogation.
The Ueno Seiwa Clan enters a truce with the Tojo Clan, becoming a subordinate family to Shibata, who is promoted to a higher-ranking position for making the truce. Katsuragi, having seemingly saved Ueno's life, is also appointed to a high-ranking position in the organization and named the eventual successor to the chairman. Saejima is given the death penalty and is sent to Tokyo Penitentiary. Saejima's patriarch, Sasai, disbands his family and disappears shortly after the hit.
Yakuza 4: 2010
— Taiga Saejima
"Regrets? Can't say I got none. I regret every life I took."
After serving 25 years, a few days before his scheduled execution, he is suddenly transferred to Okinawa Penitentiary No. 2, 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, they attempt a prison break together late at night using a grappling hook created by Renta Kamiyama. After staving off multiple guards, including one persistent Saito, the two men come to see each other as oath brothers, but just as they are about to escape, Hamazaki is shot by Saito and they plunge into the ocean together. Distraught, Saejima jumps off with them but ends up drifting away.
Saejima eventually washes up in front of Morning Glory Beach where he is found by Haruka Sawamura. Saejima gives his name as "Suzuki" to Haruka and Kazuma 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 the present day. 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 ends in a draw. However, after Haruka gives him a briefcase Kiryu claims to have found alongside him on the beach containing a change of clothes, plane tickets to Tokyo, some money and a letter, Saejima leaves Okinawa.
Meeting Takeshi 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.
Shortly after Isao Katsuragi fails to kill Masayoshi Tanimura, he goes after Saejima in hopes of trading him and Yasuko for the audit file that Hamazaki obtained during their prison escape. Now waiting in Purgatory for Yasuko, Katsuragi explains to 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 in a bid to rise in the ranks. Shortly after, Yasuko arrives and is also taken hostage, but she finally meets Saejima for the first time in 25 years.
After Kiryu hands the file over to Kido, Katsuragi orders Kido to kill them both only to have Kido shoot Katsuragi and reveals his allegiance was not to the Shibata but to Arai himself. Arai arrives and shoots Kido to see if he was a plant by the Tojo to spy on Munakata and him and leaves with the file and returns the money back to Akiyama. Turning his attention towards the man he failed to kill years ago, Saejima leaves him there to lament his fate as his clan was destroyed like Sasai's and wanted him to suffer for as long as he live only for Katsuragi to recover from the shock of the bullet, having worn a bulletproof vest in anticipation of Kido's betrayal and attempts to kill Taiga. Yasuko is fatally shot protecting Saejima but not before killing Katsuragi for the suffering and pain he had inflicted on both of them and to avenge Tanimura's father's death by his hands. 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 remained aimless as Majima was arrested and he had no reason to return to the Tojo as he had avenged his betrayal but was left with nothing to live for.
He was given bad news from Haruka 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 and decided to help fulfill Hamazaki's final wish. 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: 2010-2012
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 9-month stay in Kamurocho the situation for the Tojo had worsened as Saejima had learned in his rule. Hoping 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 Hokkaido's Abashiri Penitentiary, 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 Hiroshi Kugihara. Seiji 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 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 Daizo Kitakata of the Kitakata Family 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 to stop Baba from committing suicide.
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.
Once there, Saejima is told that Naoki Katsuya of Osaka Enterprises has also arrived at Kamurocho, and is suspected to be behind the plot to take down the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance. He moves to Purgatory to find answers, but finds Masato Aizawa instead. After briefly fighting him, Saejima encourages him to not lose faith in his oath brother, except that Yu Morinaga had already been killed prior to their meeting.
Saejima decides to go up Kamurocho Hills, hoping to find Katsuya. He meets up with Kiryu, Katsuya, and Masaru Watase, who all conclude that the real enemy will only show up if they all fight each other. Saejima fights and defeats Katsuya, and then faces Kiryu once more, which results in yet another draw. Serizawa suddenly appears from the other tower and shoots Kiryu and Saejima, with the Omi men properly recognizing him as Tsubasa Kurosawa, the 7th Chairman of the Omi Alliance. Kurosawa explains his plot to them and then attempts to kill Watase, but Katsuya takes the shot for him. He tries to use his last shot on Watase before being stopped by Daigo Dojima, who was previously missing, but Daigo is subsequently shot by Kamon Kanai, who had now betrayed Katsuya. Saejima restrains a heavily distraught Kiryu from rushing to the other tower.
Saejima brings Kiryu to New Serena, as he could not approach a hospital due to being an escaped convict. Makoto Date enters and they discuss the circumstances that brought them all together. Shun Akiyama also arrives and they go over what Kurosawa has planned for Haruka Sawamura at her concert. Kiryu regains consciousness and tells them to not cancel the concert. When mentioning the danger she could be in, he heads to the rooftop for some air, and Saejima follows. Kiryu discusses his worries and loneliness, and Saejima comforts him, also telling him that he has allies to ensure Haruka's safety.
Kiryu and Saejima regroup along with Akiyama and Tatsuo Shinada at New Serena. When they receive news that Majima is actually alive and being held hostage, they advance onto the Millennium Tower, with Saejima going up to the tower alone after splitting up with Shinada. He finds Kurosawa and Majima, half beaten to death and chained, along with four guards, as Majima states he is only in this position because he refused to kill Haruka. Kurosawa unchains Majima on the condition that either one of them dies, or Haruka is shot during her concert. The two oath brothers fight once more, but stall out just long enough for Shinada to intercept Baba before Kurosawa can give the order. They are then saved by Daigo and Katsuya before they can be killed by Kurosawa's guards.
Yakuza 6: 2012-2017
Saejima is first seen waiting outside Kiryu's hospital room. Because he had not carried out his full sentence in Hokkaido, he is approached by police officers and decides to turn himself in to serve the remaining 2 months. Majima is infuriated with this, but Saejima reassures him that he can take care of things.
However, he ends up staying in prison for much longer, as he is not seen again until just over four years later, where he is freed from prison along with Daigo and Majima. Discussions of war with the Yomei Alliance brew within the Tojo Clan due to Kiryu's supposed death, but Daigo refuses, as Kiryu's will requested for him not to swear revenge. The three men agree to form an alliance with the Yomei Alliance, which is now headed by Kanji Koshimizu after Heizo Iwami's death and Tsuneo Iwami's imprisonment.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: 2017-2019
Saejima, along with Daigo Dojima and Goro Majima, had been in Nick Ogata's care since the announcement of the Kamurocho 3K Plan, which put heavy pressure on the Tojo Clan. At Daigo's behest, Masumi Arakawa leaked info about the Tojo Clan to let the plan succeed, became the acting captain for the Omi Alliance, and caused its influence to expand to Kamurocho. The four men then rendezvoused at the Omi Headquarters, where Masaru Watase had previously agreed to disband the Omi Alliance (with Daigo mirroring the decision with the Tojo Clan) in order to thwart Ryo Aoki's attempts at completely controlling the yakuza before being sent to prison sometime in 2017.
Saejima first appears alongside Majima when he stops Ichiban Kasuga's party from breaking further into Omi Headquarters. Wondering why two Tojo officers would be at the Omi Headquarters, Kasuga's party has a lengthy battle with Majima, and Saejima jumps in when Majima starts having trouble. Just as Majima and Saejima are about to get serious, Arakawa stops the battle, acknowledging that they are all on the same side and have plans to end Aoki's stranglehold on the yakuza.
Saejima is among those defending Daigo and Watase when they announce the disbandment of both the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance. When Kazuma Kiryu returns as reinforcements, Saejima is delighted, addressing him as the Dragon of Dojima. In the days following, around the time Arakawa is murdered by Yosuke Tendo, attempts to kill Daigo and Watase take place, but Saejima, Majima, and Kiryu successfully defend them.
Saejima is present at the Arakawa funeral. He plans to join other former Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance members who decided to leave their yakuza life to form a security service company. They offer Kasuga a job there, but he politely refuses, saying his place is in Isezaki Ijincho.
- 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. He has a slow movement speed and many of his attacks have longer wind-ups than other characters. His Triangle moves can be charged to deal more damage, and can be used to set up Heat Actions in battle when they are knocked midair or against the wall. His heat aura is blue, though his soul orbs are green. Saejima is the only protagonist that can naturally grab large enemies without being immediately pushed off. Other protagonists will immediately be shoved off unless they have specific upgrades, though Saejima's stature allows him to do so without any upgrade needed.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
- Saejima's default attack is a front push kick, similar to his heavy attacks in previous games. His skills include Rush Combo, utilizing his full rush combo of a right hook, left hook, right hook, and flying knee finishing blow, Shoulder Tackle, which deals high damage and knocks over enemies, Tiger's Spirit, which buffs his attack and prolongs the buff (can only be used once and causes his upper body to glow orange and emanate yellow flames), and Double Backhand, which will have him perform two spinning backhand slaps. Saejima is exceptionally durable and its weakness is ice damage, the opposite of Majima's weakness to fire damage. In the True Final Millennium Tower, his thought entity is weak to lightning rather than ice.
- Although Saejima doesn't appear in Yakuza: Dead Souls, it is mentioned briefly that he is away on Tojo Clan business in China.
- Despite having been created years after the release of the original Yakuza, Saejima is referenced twice by Majima in its remake, Yakuza Kiwami.
- After Kiryu beats Majima in Club Asia in his "welcome back party", Majima says that 10 years in prison is just "a walk in the park" compared to the sentence Saejima got (although he never mentions his name).
- After Kiryu beats Majima in one of their fights in Yoshida Batting Center, Majima says Kiryu packs a tough punch just like Saejima (again not refering to him by name)
- In Yakuza 4, the protagonists represent the 4 Eastern Gods. Taiga Saejima is the White Tiger (or Byakko), as he is the most cynical of the four, and possesses the most brute strength.
- In Yakuza 4, visiting certain places (such as the pawn shop) as Saejima will prompt dialogue about his younger days in Kamurocho. The same mechanic appears in Yakuza 5 once the city is accessible.
- In Yakuza 5, Saejima fights every final boss except Kamon Kanai.
- Saejima's Alpha Industries N-3B parka from Yakuza 6 and Like a Dragon is identical to the one worn by Wen Hai Lee (and potentially by Majima if his outfit is changed in Premium Adventure) in Yakuza 0.
- Saejima's dream was to become a teacher, though he was forced to join a street gang and later the yakuza to pay for Yasuko's kidney transplant.
- Saejima's tattoo features a tiger which aligns with his given name, Taiga. Additionally the bamboo grass on his back is (笹の葉, sasa no ha) which uses the same kanji as Sasai (笹井).
- Saejima appears as a guest character and a playable hero in the crossover mobile game, SEGA Heroes.
- Saejima's likeness was featured in Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight as a DLC costume for Makoto Niijima.