For most Japanese, the month of August will include a summer vacation, likely during the obon holiday period, when the spirits of one’s ancestors are honored. Likewise, members of the nation’s many yakuza syndicates are usually encouraged by upper bosses to take time off during this period.
“It is now ordinary for Yamaguchi-gumi members to not do anything for the month of August, including family-related ceremonies,” a representative of the gang, which is Japan’s largest, tells weekly tabloid Shukan Post (July 13). “The purpose is for executives and underlings to take time off. This year, the period will extend between August 1 and the general meeting on September 5.”
However, as the tabloid conveys, society is growing less tolerant of the presence of gang members, which is cutting into opportunities for leisure.
“[Persons with] irezumi tattoos cannot enter hot springs, swimming pools and seaside bathing areas,” continues the Yamaguchi-gumi member, referring to the colorful ink often sported by underworld figures.
According to the magazine, part of the issue stems from legislation enacted several years ago that restricts the money-making activities of members of criminal syndicates and their interaction with regular society.
The aforementioned gangster adds that Shinobu Tsukasa, the chairman of the Yamaguchi-gumi, loves the sea. He used to visit an uninhabited island off the Chita Peninsula in Aichi Prefecture to use a Jet Ski. “Now, he cannot do that nor swim,” the source assures.
Limited opportunities overseas
Venturing overseas is also rife with restrictions. A member of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, which formed following the splintering of the Yamaguchi-gumi in 2015, says that the United States maintains a list of members of criminal syndicates in order to deny them access.
“As well, the number of other countries that will deny entry due to a previous criminal conviction is on the rise,” assures the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi member.
The gangster adds that the personal information of gangsters is known by travel agencies, which will turn away members at service counters.
“In the end, a lot of gangsters wind up going to countries in Asia since their immigrations departments are relatively tolerant,” the gangster continues.
Tensions are high
At present, there are three Yamaguchi-gumi sects — and they not on the friendliest of terms with one another. As a result, a holiday in August is really not much of a holiday at all, says Tomohiko Suzuki, a writer who covers the criminal underworld.
“Related parties with the Yamaguchi-gumi have expressed that ‘preparations for war are unchanged’ in August,” says Suzuki.