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Japan’s gangsters hold no regrets in life of crime

Shukan Post Jan. 1-10
Shukan Post Jan. 1-10

Unlike the rest of Japan, the nation’s organized crime groups celebrate the New Year’s holidays well before December 31.

In the middle of December, yakuza groups observe kotohajime, a traditional event in which members gather to remember the past 12 months and look forward to the year ahead. In spite of legal restrictions that make such gatherings and other aspects of yakuza life more challenging a recent poll says that most gangsters would not have it any other way.

Writing in Shukan Post (Jan. 1-10), yakuza journalist Tomohiko Suzuki reveals the results of a survey of 100 gang members — including those from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai — conducted over a one-week period in December.

Of those polled, 60 percent said they would once again choose a life of crime if they had to do it all over again.

“I enjoy the lifestyle of being a gangster,” says a 25-year-old yakuza from the Chubu area. “I’d choose this life each time.”

For younger gangsters, such a reply was common. The negative responses came primarily from elder yakuza.

“I had a longing to be a yakuza,” says a 62-year-old gangster from the Kanto area. “But reality versus fiction, as in what is portrayed in films, is night and day.”

Dirty language and betrayals are everyday occurrences.

“In a society where you do not trust your sworn brother, you should always think about never being openly honesty,” says the 62-year-old.

In October of 2011, legislation that prohibits ordinary citizens from doing business transactions with gangsters went into effect. Of those polled, 98 percent said that they have been negatively impacted.

As an example, Suzuki describes the challenges in delivering bento lunch boxes to one kotohajime party: A special truck had to be arranged since food companies must now refuse to deal with organized crime.

Suzuki tells the Asahi Shimbun that police pressure may put an end to kotohajime events — and beyond.

For the 62-year-old Kanto yakuza, that is his main concern. “Revealing my occupation to my children is not a problem,” he says. “My only worry is the police.”

Source: “Geneki 100nin ni kiita yakuza senronchosa,” Shukan Post (Jan. 1-10, pages 164-167)