Voices in Japan
Voices in Japan
Jul 17, 2019
Working with the Yakuza
Play • 47 min

Over the years, there have been many TV dramas and movies about Yakuza (organized crime syndicates originating in Japan) that often times romanticize membership in the organizations.  While Yakuza have a negative reputation in general, it is not uncommon to come to know a current or former member of one of the clans if you live in Japan, simply because Yakuza are involved in many businesses or other parts of everyday society, and for the most part, they tend to come across as good people.  A close friend of the podcasters and fellow martial artist, Damien, joins this episode to share some of the experiences he has had with Yakuza through jobs that he had during his early years in Japan, and it’s interesting to hear his take on the unique place the Yakuza hold in society.  Please check out Damien’s website that is scheduled to start reselling Japanese sweets and other merchandise from August 2019 (domodomocandy.com), and as always, thank you so much for listening to and supporting the podcast!

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Conversation highlights:

  • Damien’s motivation to come to Japan to study judo and chiropractic treatment after practicing judo in his native country of France
  • The history of the Yakuza going back to the feudal 1600s in Japan when Burakumin (an outcast group at the bottom of the social order) came together to form organized gangs
  • The difficulties that Damien faced with finding work when he first came to Sapporo, and how that eventually led to an introduction and job interview with a former Yakuza lieutenant, Mr. “S.”
  • The background of Mr. S, his position with the Inagawa-kai (one of the largest Yakuza groups in Japan based in the Kanto region), and the reason he could speak French
  • The way that Mr. S came to acquire a moving company where Damien became employed during his early 20s in Sapporo
  • The reason why some Yakuza choose not to get irezumi (traditional Japanese tattoos done by hand, using wooden handles and metal needles, and special “nara” ink), and the difference between irezumi and normal tattoos
  • Yakuza removing a piece of their finger for dishonoring the group, failing at group objectives, or money-related issues
  • Damien tells a story of a “job” he was asked to participate in, where nothing too serious occurred, but it led him to start questioning his involvement with the group of Mr. S
  • The first signs that Damien started to notice that hinted at Mr. S being Yakuza
  • A comparison of Yakuza with gangs in other countries, and the businesses in which they are involved, in general and in Sapporo specifically
  • The ways that Yakuza have contributed to society, such as protection against petty crime and sending volunteers to areas affected by natural disasters, and the questions of their true motivation in doing such acts
  • The guys talk about their regular interaction with current or former Yakuza in their everyday lives



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