Ishii was born in Yokosuka in 1924. In World War II, he was assigned to a kaiten unit of the Japanese Navy but never got the chance to die in a suicide attack. After the war, he became a yakuza and joined the Inagawa-kai in 1958. He rose to the number two position in that gang, but was imprisoned for a gambling scam from 1978-1984. Time in prison gave him time to think and reflect upon himself. After serving his time in prison Susumu Ishii spoke to the media, saying; “We cannot succeed in the Yakuza world unless we are active and aggressive until our early forties. After that, we have to adapt our lives to ordinary society. We cannot always be so forceful.”
His house still remains in Yokosuka city as a legacy of him. 3 story, bricked house designed and constructed by French, Greek and Italian architectures.
Ishii had ownership of a golf club. Iwama Country Club was 36 holes, luxurious golf course. Ishii gathered the wealthiest of Japan and asked them to buy member ship fees that cost over two hundred thousand dollars. The golf course was a big success, bringing millions to Ishii.
He was released from prison at the start of Japan's Bubble economy. Through various loans, banking deals, and real estate scams, he accumulated assets of over $4 billion which he invested in projects around the world, including in Korea and the United States. In 1989, his group even hired Prescott Bush, George H. W. Bush's brother, as an advisor (Bush denies knowing his clients' criminal background).
At that time, the Yakuza were all about money and violence. If the Yakuza had any sort of problems they either paid people off or sorted out their problems with violence. However the way Ishii viewed things was different compared to the typical Yakuza. Ishii never favored violence and whenever he came across a problem he would always think and talk his way out of problems. Ishii did not use violence or money to solve any of his problems. Ishii also did not receive money from anyone when others wanted to resolve a problem with him or his clan. Ishii changed the overall image of the Japanese Yakuza with his words.
Yomiuri Newspaper of Japan stated, “Almost every money transaction was related to Susumu Ishii in the 80s and 90s.” Ishii's money went overseas as well. Susumu Ishii invested his money in hotels in Monaco, Hong Kong and America. In total he invested 700 million dollars all around the world. Throughout various investments Ishii was able to have successful international relations and he was able to grow his money.
Ishii was known as the “World's Richest Gangster” or “The Gangster With the Golden Touch.” Everything he touched changed into millions of dollars.