Ex-Yamaguchi-gumi lawyer says book key for understanding changes in yakuza world

Shukan Post Jan. 1-6
Shukan Post Jan. 1-6

It’s the time of the year when the nation’s newspapers and magazines print book review features, and some of their readers can be of the most unexpected variety.

A former legal adviser to the Yamaguchi-gumi organized crime group tells Shukan Post (Jan. 1-6) about a particular book that he considers to be a life-changing work, one that shows the ongoing changes in Japan’s criminal underworld like no other.

Yukio Yamanouchi goes back and repeatedly reads “The Complete Autobiography of Kazuo Taoka, the Third Godfather of the Yamaguchi-gumi,” published by Tokuma Shoten in 2015. First released in less comprehensive form in 1973, the book is an account of the legendary don’s heroic tales.

Yamanouchi, the so-called “guardian deity” of the Yamaguchi-gumi, having served as its legal adviser for four decades, said he initially picked up the book to learn about the gang when he first took on a criminal case. He found himself moved by Taoka’s competence. But these days, he is left with a different impression.

“When I read it now, it makes me acutely aware of the notion that times have changed for the yakuza world,” he tells the magazine. “While Taoka tells his members to engage in legitimate work, it’s impossible to do that today. He expanded his power using violence as his weapon, but such gang-wide efforts in disputes are now forbidden.”

Yamanouchi says that fingers — ahem — would be pointed at upper-level member if such actions were taken today.

“[If that happened], disputes between yakuza groups could lead to everyone being arrested,” he adds. “The Anti-Organized Crime Law and other ordinances seeking the elimination of gangs have pushed them into a corner, and this book tells of a time when power could be used, by the likes of Taoka, to suppress others and victory could be achieved with strength. That time is over.”

The Complete Autobiography of Kazuo Taoka, the Third Godfather of the Yamaguchi-gumi
“The Complete Autobiography of Kazuo Taoka, the Third Godfather of the Yamaguchi-gumi”

Even without working for the gang any longer, Yamanouchi often reads yakuza-related publications. With many books having been released this past year about the Yamaguchi-gumi’s split in 2015, he says that “The Complete Story behind the Split of the Yamaguchi-gumi” is highly entertaining.

“It’s written from a tough perspective, one that is against the yakuza, and without reserve,” he says. “Some of its aspects might be hard for the general population to understand, but if you go back and read it over a number of times, you should be able to see ‘the real reason’ for the Yamaguchi-gumi split.

Yamanouchi says that some gang members are avid readers themselves.

“They particularly like to read historical accounts,” he says. “Shinobu Tsukasa, the sixth and current Godfather of the Yamaguchi-gumi, likes to read, and he also enjoys writing, although it isn’t easy to make it public because of the large influence that he has.”

Source: “Moto-Yamaguchi-gumi komon bengoshi Yamaguchi-gumi hon de yomitoku yakuza shakai no henbo,” Shukan Post (Jan. 1-6, page 164-165)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.

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