Yakuza - Japanese mafia

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Oct 22, 2010 10:01
Today I'd like to tell a short story about Japanese Mafia, yakuza ヤクザ. They are also called 暴力団, literally meaning "violent group". Films made by Takeshi Kitano 北野 武 or ビートたけし often featured yakuzas. During the golden age of Japanese film production (1960s), plenty of yakuza films were produced. If you want to know about them, the best way is watching yakuza movies.

The biggest yakuza family is based on my home town, Kobe 神戸. According to Wikipedia, the number of its members is 36,000.

Ten years ago, my sister's friend lived next to the house of the number two, the second important person, in the yakuza family. Once I went there. The road in front of the yakuza house were suspended by police. Cars can not be accessible. Armed policemen were standing by barricades. They tried to stop the attack from enemies, probabably not for the sake of yakuza, but for people living nearby. The house was surrounded by a tall fence made of green net. That might also be a shield against prospective attack.

One day, when the friend came back from her trip, she found a big track crushed into the wall of the yakuza house. That was the real attack by an enemy, as prospected!

When Kobe suffered from the terrible earthquake in 1995, all the major transport systems were down. Citizens had to stand food shortage. However, the yakuza family had their own transport network, and their system was active even after the disaster. They opened the gate of a yakuza's den and provided foods for citizens. Ordinarily, citizens hate yakuza. But only this time, they felt happy with yakuza.

A local TV reporter visited the place where yakuza were distributing foods for citizens. The reporter interviewed one young yakuza. The yakuza replied with a quite proud smile on his face, "This is what we usually do, ninkyo 任侠!"

Ninkyo originally meant the concept, to help the weak and to fight against the strong. Later it became to mean yakuza itself.