Yakuza of Japan


The Japanese refer to their crime syndicates as “Yakuza”. Most people know they exist but think their chance of meeting a member is minimal ... especially on an overseas trip.

I live on the Gold Coast in Australia and have Japanese neighbours. We recently organised a barbecue for a visiting party of Japanese ladies. We picked a local park as a suitable place to entertain them. I arrived early, with some of my surfing mates and laid claim to one of the barbecue stands and surrounding tables. The ladies came from Nara, which is an ancient city just up the road from vulgar Osaka and smelly Kobe. It is a very refined place, overflowing with temples and cultural centres. The ladies made a point of saying that, while their husbands worked in Osaka, they resided in far more gentile surroundings. My surfing mates were a mixed bunch of young Japanese and Australians.

 The ladies seemed to get along with the Australians but a couple of the Japanese guys caused a bit of an upset. They came from Kobe where people speak with accents that are upsetting to refined ears. The barbecue got underway and everything was going smoothly when a group of Japanese men began to congregate nearby. One was elderly and dressed in a smart business suit. 

The lads from Kobe took an immediate interest in him. They told me the Yakuza had arrived and the old guy was an oyabun, or godfather in mafia parlance. One of the Nara ladies joined us and was informed that the Osaka Yakuza were holidaying on the Gold Coast and had brought their most senior member along with them. The lady was dismissive of the claim. She insisted that the thuggish looking men were factory employees on a works outing and the elderly man was almost certainly the works manager. The Kobe boys said she would soon see what they were talking about. Now, I’ve heard of the secret signs that Free Masons use and I’ve been subjected to some strange handshakes in my time but when it comes to funny greetings, the Yakuza leave the Masons for cold. As each newcomer approached the elderly man, 

he bowed respectfully, lent forward and tapped the old chap’s testicles. The lady from Nara didn’t know where to look. I guess she knew factory workers were uncouth but had no idea their behaviour sank so low. She hurried to the other ladies and returned insisting we relocate to a more agreeable place. I must admit that I was taken by surprise. Not so much by what happened but by the way the Kobe boys predicted it. I shouldn’t have been. I can identify members of Australian criminal gangs from their appearance ... and I’m not just talking about bike gangs.

 The criminal classes have a sense of identity. They dress the part and behave the part. Public servants, academics and a heap of others are no different. You can pick them out and predict how they will behave. I have been an academic and I’ve worked for the government. Individual departments feud with one another and so do the crims. Needless to say, 

it gets very messy when the Yakuza fight. Dress sets the Yakuza apart but it doesn’t stop there. They have a fascination for tattoos. Intricate designs cover every inch of their bodies except the parts that protrude beyond the cuffs and collars of their business suits. One of the Kobe lads recalled how he once tried to gatecrash a hot-spring party in a posh resort. Hearing male and female voices on the other side of a bamboo fence, he left his all-male pool and, suitably unattired, slipped through a narrow gate. Beautiful young women frolicked with older men. He strolled towards them and was about to

 jump into their pool when tattooed figures grabbed him from behind, spun him round, and hurled him back the way he had come. His mates said he was lucky to return with everything intact. Rumour has it that, in former times, the tattooed skin of dead Yakuza was peeled from their bodies and made into lampshades. The Kobe boys reckon it still goes on. They say it is a great honour to be turned into a lampshade. They point out that politicians have statues erected in their memory. Past presidents of Rotary have plaques inscribed. Yakuza are commemorated with lampshades. I asked about sliced fingers. I’d read about it. The practice is a variant on IRA kneecapping, which was a punishment inflicted upon individuals who failed to do as they were told. The Kobe boys said that finger slicing is self-inflicted and shows remorse for getting things wrong. 

The Yakuza are sticklers for law enforcement. So, if the oyabun tells you to go out and shoot someone, it is important to get it right. If you shoot the wrong person, you have to admit your mistake. You do this by cutting off the end of a finger and placing it in a small box with a note explaining what happened. You say you are humbly sorry and will be more careful in future. The Kobe boys say they know people with bits of fingers missing

You’ll find more about the Yakuza in my mystery thriller The Missing Miss Mori. You can buy a copy from the major retailers for $2.99 or receive a FREE COPY from me. CLICK: http://eepurl.com/bP8XL9

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