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Change Some Nouns on the Yakuza

This is the most ridiculous article ever:

Trouble feared as gang moves HQ few blocks from enemy’s

Let’s replace a few key nouns and read it with a non-Japan perspective:

The Metropolitan Police Department announced Wednesday that a violent drug gang and extortion syndicate has moved its headquarters from Queens to Times Square, about 250 yards from a rival violent drug gang’s headquarters.

According to the MPD, the Times Square building in which the drug gang’s headquarters is housed was purchased by an affiliated firm of the gang organization in September together with its land lot. The firm’s president is a senior drug gang member.

According to the MPD, starting Wednesday, Times Square Police Station deployed patrol cars at a parking lot in front of the Times Square building and station several policemen in the area around the clock as an emergency measure.

The drug gang in question is the nation’s third-biggest designated crime syndicate, after two other large drug syndicates.

The rival drug gang’s headquarters is located in a condominium about 250 yards northeast of the new drug gang headquarters building. The rival drug gang claims areas around its headquarters as its operating territory.

The MPD will establish a panel designed to remove gang organizations with the participation of local residents and corporate representatives on Jan. 21 in an attempt to remove gangs from the district.

The MPD believes tension between the two groups could rise as drug gang relocated its headquarters to the Times Square building.

MPD sources said that a senior drug gang member told an MPD investigator who was monitoring a New Year meeting of drug gang in New Jersey on Wednesday that the gang had started to use the Times Square building as its headquarters starting that day.

According to the MPD, the affiliated company bought the land and building from a real estate company in New Jersey in early September.

The land measures about 100 square yards, and the building has a floor space of about 260 square yards, covering three stories and a basement.

According to the property register book, no mortgage was taken out on the land and the 18-year-old building, which a real estate company in the area estimated that the gang likely spent about $3.2 million to acquire.

W. David MARX
January 8, 2009

22 Responses

  1. M-Bone Says:

    The more ridiculous article is the one that doesn’t show up in the Baltimore Sun when you type in “drug, gang”. You get a MLB drug test first, followed by a handful of AP articles from around America. Its not like people in Baltimore don’t know who the gangsters are either. But what to do?

    One article (which naturally names no gangs, nor any significant action against gangs) reports that a third of murderers arrested in Baltimore were under the supervision of parole officers at the time of the crime. The author writes, “We know the people who are being killed, and we know the people who are doing the killing. The frustrating part is that we can’t seem to stop it.”

    Inaction on good crime info is not only a Japanese phenomenon and its not like they Japanese police aren’t trying – in the past few years, I can recall a single drug bust that netted $250,000,000 worth of coke (500+ kg). I’m sure that the Yakuza didn’t like that so much. I’ve also seen numbers that there are 5000-10,000 shabu arrests among yakuza or suspected yakuza yearly. The best guess is that there are 80,000 “official” yakuza in Japan so it does seem like they are turning over a reasonable number of them in shakedowns. Don’t think that the police aren’t keeping an eye on the gangs that throw up a sign and trailing people who are in and out. It is also not like they aren’t going after the big guys, either. Isn’t the current top yakuza in Japan in jail right now? It’s just that they don’t expect to bust into these offices and find a bunch of drugs and guns on the table. So what to do?

  2. M-Bone Says:

    Okay, maybe they do find stuff – this is about the very same Inagawa-kai -


    Its not like the Japanese cops never do anything….

  3. Our Man in Abiko Says:

    Don’t worry, the Daily Gomiuri is on the case, so you can expect a swift reaction from the authorities. Hmmm.

  4. Daniel Says:

    “designated crime syndicate” – that’s the best line, and nothing had to be changed. Do you think they had a 着任式?

  5. W. David MARX Says:

    I don’t know, M-Bone. I appreciate the effort, but I think the government acceptance of the yakuza in Japan is pretty unparalleled. Mostly because right-wing governments always work with the mob (to fight Leftists, mostly), and in most countries, there is eventually a change of governments. Is the DPJ as beholden to the mob as the LDP has been? If anybody in the Japanese government actually wanted to get rid of the mob, they could just pass a RICO-type law. New York did eventually get Gotti. Giuliani made his whole career on “cleaning up” the mob out of NYC. Who’s the last Gumi leader to be publicly tried and sent up? They usually only get the street guys, no?

  6. M-Bone Says:

    This is the thing, the Rico law is, as I understand it, American only. Other people have to figure out how to live with their gangs.

    New Zealand crime looks a lot different than either American or Japanese but there are some similarities with the way things are done in Japan. The big gangs in NZ are “The Mongrel Mob” and “Black Power”. They have logos, they make their own t-shirts. People know which bar is the MM bar and which is the BP bar. The police have special units devoted to both (I’m a Mongrel Mob detective!). The police go and talk to the gang leaders, etc. Just being a “gang leader” is, of course, legal – you have to get caught doing something to go away.

    Check this out and tell me that it does not seem just as nuts as the Japanese example -
    They had a big gang fight in front of a school, and the police gave them a big scolding!

    There was a fistfight between members of the two gangs at a rugby match in early 2007. Police knew something was up but its not like you can just arrest anyone with a Mongrel Mob patch. So they parked some cars outside of well known haunts. A week later, a 2 year old girl was killed in a drive-by. The gangs let the usual suspects get rounded up and everything went on as normal. Gang higher ups were apparently consulted. There is no government corruption behind this, the resources just are not there.

    In Canada, the top gang for most of the 1990s and the early 2000s was the “Hell’s Angels”. They had nice jackets, logos, the whole thing. They were so brazen that they would put the logo up in bar windows. The police sat down with them a bunch, but it was only when they started SERIAL BOMBING that anything real got done.

    In some of the Western provinces, gangs openly display logos and there was a bit of a scandal when one group was open about its identity for a year or two and nobody on the local police force was wise to it.

    The thing is, however, NZ and Canada (and Japan) where there is open gangsterism to some degree and police are willing to reach out to many leaders – the crime rates really are lower.

    Japanese police don’t have Rico, but I’m afraid that Americans take for granted the ideas of witness protection and plea-bargaining. In other countries, the idea that someone who has committed crimes can get off with no punishment for ratting on their bosses is anathema. In Japan, it has been the subject of a great deal of debate. It is not as simple as Rico=good.

    “Who’s the last Gumi leader to be publicly tried and sent up?”

    That’s just it, Tsukasa Shinobu the Yamaguchi-gumi leader (top yakuza in Japan) is currently jailed on firearms charges. They ripped one of his bodyguards with a gun and he was apparently charged for conspiring with the bodyguard to possess a concealed weapon (now tell me that the government was not looking for ANYTHING that they could find to get the guy). They were stupid, the good guys won.

    There are lots more examples – the head of Yoshikawa-gumi was jailed in the early 1990s. The Japan Probe piece has a top Inagawa-kai guy in jail at present. The second head of the Inagawa-kai (which is the third or fourth biggest yakuza group) was jailed for 10 years in the 70s and 80s when he was caught in a gambling raid. If you look into it, you will find that many elite Yakuza have done prison stretches of 5-15 years and the trend has increased since the anti-bouryokudan law in the 1990s. I’ll give you 15 more if you want.

    It is not perfect, but police will has increased. So in short (and you have to admit that I did pretty well) it seems like they turn over a good mix of street guys and higher ups.

    Your piece was funny, and no doubt designed to tear down the myth of safe and oh-so harmonious Japan (which is a real myth with a grain of truth), but the counterpoint – the the Yakuza are just allowed to run wild and that police and government are complicit… it has a significant grain of truth to it but mythological bits as well.

  7. W. David MARX Says:

    Fit Sasakawa Ryoichi and Kodama Yoshio into the New Zealand and Canada narratives…

    By that I mean, tolerating youth gangs or outlaw gangs is not the same as letting organized crime buy up a significant chunk of legal industries and become part of the political process. Kishi had a direct line to the yakuza and used it. Not to say that today’s LDP is always calling up the mob, but the Gumis and Kais are not just “wayward youth.” The yakuza are a political and economic force (and ethnic minority interest group) that essentially supports the ruling power, and as a result, receive the tacit right to exist and rule over their industries.

  8. M-Bone Says:

    Hold on now, don’t change the subject…. Those guys have been out of the picture for ages now (dead for 15 and 20 years,). I notice that your original posts were in present tense. Now you’re going back before Rico (and ironically, Kodama did jobs for the CIA). And Sasakawa, didn’t he try to buy a good reputation with UNICEF work and the like for his last 10 years or so? Go back 20 years before the primes of Sasakawa and Kodama and we’re in the war years go back 20 years before that and we’ve got Douglas MacArthur as a rightwing strikebreaker and US judges bought and paid for. So are we talking about now or what?

  9. M-Bone Says:

    If we are talking about now, there is a lack of hard evidence to back up the relevance of your points for contemporary japan (and I fully agree that what you describe was a major feature of 1980s life) compared to the very clear newer evidence of jailed yakuza bosses and what seems to be a crackdown that is having some impact.

    Why don’t we look at the LDP historically? They have consistently sucked, but their character has differed over time. That Nagasaki mayor shot by a Yakuza a year back was LDP backed.

  10. W. David MARX Says:

    I am trying to say that there is a legacy of the ruling party having connections to the entrenched mob interests in questions. They may have less connections now, but I don’t believe there was exactly a big “falling out.” The tougher laws against the yakuza only came after Itami Juzo got slashed, as if the yakuza were A-OK before that happened.

    These are not fly-by-night drug gangs like the Barksdale crew we are talking about. These are long-standing organizations that now have a structural place within Japanese society. And again, if they were funneling money to leftist causes or trying to buy out Fuji or something, they would clearly be treated more harshly.

  11. M-Bone Says:

    There certainly is a legacy of ruling party connections to the mob (and which ruling party? have you heard the story about Hamada Koichi and Nixon?), the question is – what is the relevance of that legacy at present?

    “And again, if they were funneling money to leftist causes”

    Not sure about that – you used “ethnic minority interest group” above and that means North Korea affiliated Zainichi, right? There has long been an awareness that NK gets a lot of its money through gambling and organized crime activity in Japan. NK is public enemy number one for the LDP… but where’s the specific crackdown? We have not seen results. Instead we see Yamaguchi-gumi heads going behind bars for what looks like nothing. What I would argue is, that like most aspects of Japanese society at present, the “structural places” are being uprooted (slowly perhaps) by the increasingly plural social and cultural experiences of the Heisei period. While we had a neat little Yakuza-LDP-pissed off and marginalized left triangle in the Tanaka Kakuei briefcase full of cash days, things are far more diverse and thus far more chaotic at present.

    “fly-by-night drug gangs like the Barksdale crew”

    Who were supposed to have moved millions through state and city politicians and bought up real estate that would be redeveloped to the tune of hundreds of millions. Does this happen? It very well could, given the terrorist billions that were found floating around unidentified in 2001 and the fact that the FBI has been aiming much of its resources in that direction, not drugs, ever since.

  12. Kim Jong-il Hater Says:

    Since when is the NYPD known as the MPD?

  13. Daniel Says:

    But they didn’t even know what Avon Barksdale looked like until Freeman found that old boxing poster in Season 1. Don’t the guys here register names and locations with the authorities? The Yomiuri just published what it took the fictional BPD three seasons to figure out.

  14. M-Bone Says:

    “Don’t the guys here register names and locations with the authorities?”

    So we all love us some “Wire”?

    Yeah, the cops have “forced” the yakuza to register since the introduction of that “anti-boryokudan” law that I mentioned above. Advantages and disadvantages to this.

    One of the most interesting moments of season 1 for me was the idea that the two biggest drug gangs in Baltimore could get together for a big BASKETBALL game without any police knowing what was up. Realistic or not, food for thought.

    In any case, in my narrative here, it really seems like the yakuza are morons (look at the Yamaguchi-gumi head thing) – the deal is that they were used to acting with relative impunity for much of the postwar period, but things have been different for as many as 15 years now. By all accounts, they have also been unsucessful in preventing inroads by other Asian organized crime into Japan (even into Kabukicho, although there is some`partnership`). The authorities seem equally clueless here – for all the foreign crime grumbling, there has been no effective crackdown.

    While Marxy makes some good points about how Rico has done in `the Mafia`, I don`t think that this should be equated with the `fall of organized crime`. America has lots more crime than Japan – nothing controversial about saying that (and also no reason not to be annoyed with the crime and corruption that does exist in Japan).

    But the US has something like 12 times the number of murders of Japan, rate of robbery is 1.8 per 100,000 in Japan and 205.4 per 100,000 in the US (numbers may have changed slightly lately), drug use in the US is, by all accounts, massively higher. All of the money produced by this goes somewhere and much of this crime is organized and it is very likely that a lot of the money gets laundered. The DEA estimates that Mexican organized crime in the US alone launders as much as $25,000,000,000 yearly. Mexico as also been a clearing house for dirty political contributions since Watergate days. A lot, a littleÉ Who knowsÉ

  15. Mark Says:

    Everything I know about the intersections of Japanese organized crime and politics I learned from Buronson’s comic “Sanctuary.” That’s pretty much 100 percent true to life, right?

  16. M-Bone Says:

    I’d say that “Heat” is a bit more true to life. Or “Yabo no Okoku” if you really want to get all 70s.

  17. Daniel Says:

    Which of those three is most worth reading?

  18. M-Bone Says:

    I was joking about “Heat” being realistic. My personal ranking would be Yabo no Okoku > Sanctuary > Heat. Yabo no Okoku is realistic and silly at the same time. It has a great “B” movie feel (as much as a manga can feel like a B movie) and I agree with its politics – it is like a Yakuza parody of an Ayn Rand novel (that is, I like the idea of spoofing yakuza and Ayn Rand). It is long and expensive, however, but keeps one-upping the craziness.

    For a more conventional (but still fun) yakuza manga – go for Hakuryu. Only the first part of the series is good, but they are now putting it out in those cheapo 500 yen for 800 page konbini versions. It has also started popping up for 100 yen at Bookoffs. Also, the recent “Scarface” spinoff of “Grappler Baki” produces a nice little comedy of violence.

    For better Yakuza culture, go for films – Onibi, Kids Return (Beat Takeshi’s most underrated film), and maybe Miike’s “Graveyard of Honor” remake. Also, while not really “yakuza”, Mahjong Horoki is an excellent look at the same world.

  19. Aceface Says:

    My personal best for Yakuza manga is ”本気!”(Maji!)by Tachihara Ayumi.Shouldn’t be distracted by the starry eyes protagonist with punchi-perma.Great saga of a teenage yakuza rising to the top.

    The best yakuza film is Fukasaku Kinji’s “仁義の墓場Grave of Honor””県警対組織暴力Cops VS Thugs”.

  20. M-Bone Says:

    I was trying to pick some more recent titles, but Fukasaku’s 70s Yakuza films are indeed the best. Gendai Yakuza – Hitokiri Yota is another great one from back in the day.

  21. M-Bone Says:

    Aceface – I’ve read “Jingi” and “Yowamushi/Chinpira” (as well as, I think, Abayo Hakusho) but not “Maji” – is it really way better than the rest?

    Also, have you checked out that newer one – Gokudo no Shokutaku? I also heard that “Gokudo Meshi” is good, but have not had a chance to check it out yet.

  22. Aceface Says:

    Jingi seems to me a carbon copy of “Maji” minus Shirogane Maji.I thought it was better than the rest.Although less realistic.

    I haven’t read the other titles you’ve mentioned.