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The Strange World of Yakuza Fan Magazines

It figures that something like this would be coming, since he is such an avid collector of the things, but Jake has written a detailed rundown of magazines published by fans of the Yakuza for Publishing Perspectives.

The Japanese mafia, better known as the yakuza, has been the subject of fan magazines for decades. These magazines serve as de-facto trade periodicals for a world of vicious, autocratic thugs, men who are handy with swords and guns, sport full-body tattoos, deal in illegal contraband and laundered money, and rip off the general public; all the while funneling money and power to their families and kigyoshatei (corporate blood brothers). What may be even more surprising is how easy the yakuza fan magazines are to find: they are readily available at newsstands, convenience stores, bookstores, public libraries and even some government offices.

It isn’t a shock that this happens in Japan, where yakuza are viewed as legal entities, and they operate under the cover of being fraternal organizations “dedicated to the preservation of traditional values,” much like the Rotary Club or the Boy Scouts are in the United States. According to the National Police Agency, there are 22 such recognized yakuza groups, claiming a total of 86,000 members. They have their own office buildings or, in the case of the Yamaguchi-gumi, which has emerged as the largest yakuza group in the country and claims 50,000 members and affiliates, a compound/headquarters in Kobe that takes up almost an entire city block.

Many Japanese people, including some police officers, have great awe and admiration for these tattooed gangsters. They are seen by some as lovable outlaws, a necessary evil (必要悪) keeping the streets safe from “evil foreign criminals.” And in the eyes of the middle-aged salaryman, the yakuza are real men living the ideal life, one filled with an excess of money, booze, excitement, and beautiful women (as well as retirement packages that are better than those of Japan’s leading automakers).  It is little wonder, then, that the beaten down office worker turns to the yakuza fan magazines as a way to escape and fantasize about a better, more glamorous life.

Read the rest here: The Strange World of Yakuza Fan Magazines

Is Shibuya Tokyo's new sin city?

Since the tightening of regulations against fuuzoku sex industry businesses in Shinjuku’s Kabuki-cho last year, there have been voices of concern about whether or not the neighborhood will lose its character along with its seedy image.

And it now may have a new competitor. Adult-themed businesses have been sprouting up in the Shibuya area over the past few years as the ever-changing cityscape has begun to take on a pink glow from these:

Two men walk past a "free information center" on Shibuya's Dogenzaka. The sign advertises aroma relaxation, ¥4,000 for 40 minutes.
Two men walk past a "free information center" on Shibuya's Dogenzaka. The sign advertises aroma relaxation, ¥4,000 for 40 minutes.

Once known as the teen-fashion capital of Asia, Shibuya is being slowly overrun by muryo annai-sho, or “information centers” that are the new gateways to adult entertainment.  While the Tokyo Police Metropolitan Police Department has focused its efforts on Shinjuku ward, the Shibuya flesh merchants have taken up residence in this relatively overlooked area–just as they have done in Akihabara and Uguisuidani.  Shibuya, because of its reputation as a teen mecca, also tends to attract a certain type of Japanese man with a fetish for young, and even underage women–so called loli-con or “lolita complex bearing men.”

Continue reading Is Shibuya Tokyo's new sin city?

Child pornography pulling profits?

“How can you crack down on child pornography in this country when it is not a crime to be posses it?”

“When you are looking at child pornography, you are not looking at something sexually titillating. You are looking at a crime scene. I mean it is crime scene. It is evidence that crime has been committed and that people can derive sexual pleasure from that or profit on that is horrifying.”

— Jake Adelstein

The Australian Broadcasting Corperation’s Radio Australia reports on how old time Yakuza are concerned about the rising number of younger blood who are looking to make their fortune with child pornography. Jake Adelstein weighs in.

Listen here:

Veteran Yakuza express concern over porn push [via Radio Australia’s Connect Asia]

On the road with Tokyo Vice

Jake Adelstein is currently traversing across the U.S. on a tour promoting Tokyo Vice. The New Yorker’s Book Bench gave two thumbs (and ten fingers) up to the book’s launch party at Idlewild bookstore in Sushi and Vice.

To get in on the action, hit up one of Jake’s appearances on the Tokyo Vice Book Tour.

Not only limited to leaking too much information at parties with expensive alcohol, Jake recently made an appearance on WYNC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

Jake Adelstein on air

Jake Adelstein, former reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, and author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, discusses his new book. He tells Brian Lehrer why in Japan, the cops are friendly, the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) are cool and sometimes a massage is more than a massage.

Jake Adelstein talks to Brian Lehrer

Getting up close with Jake

Reuters photo of Jake Adelstein

Reuters’ Isabel Reynolds gets up close and personal with Jake Adelstein about the sotry behind Tokyo Vice.

In his English-language memoir, “Tokyo Vice,” which will be published in the United States this week, [Adelstein] tells the story of how he got to grips with the unique Japanese way of journalism, becoming such a serious irritant to the yakuza that he faced death threats and was placed under police protection in 2008.

Adelstein, who belonged to a rare breed of foreign journalists writing for the Japanese-language press, spoke to Reuters recently about his career and crime in Japan.

Author gets too close for comfort with Tokyo’s yakuza gangs [via Reuters]

Tokyo Vice review by Dan Scheraga

Here they come, hopefully one in a long line of reviews!

“Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan” (Pantheon Books, 352 pages, $26), by Jake Adelstein: A journalist is supposed to observe and report his story, not become part of it. But by the time Jake Adelstein found himself face to face with an enforcer for one of Japan’s most vicious mafia gangs, it was too late.

“Erase the story or be erased,” was the yakuza’s message. “Your family, too.”

It was an offer Adelstein couldn’t refuse. As a Tokyo crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun, Adelstein’s tirelessness and loyalty had won him respect and trust on both sides of the law as well as at Japan’s largest newspaper. But when an organized crime boss threatens to kill you and your family, it’s time to go, Adelstein reasoned.

He packed up and left Japan with his story. It was a fantastic one, too. Yakuza heavyweight Tamagata Goto had sold out his own gang to the FBI in order to receive a liver transplant in the U.S. ahead of ailing American citizens. But as juicy as the story was, it wasn’t worth dying over.

That changed when Goto came after Adelstein again, putting the two quite literally in a fight to the death. Writing his story could get Adelstein killed, but it was the only weapon he had that could stop Goto.

Review: When an American journalist gets too close to his story on Japan’s yakuza, all bets are off [Associated Press via the San Francisco Examiner]

Economics 101: The Yakuza Barometer

A look at why the yakuza hitting the books is a sure-fire sign that the economy is hitting rock bottom, by Bloomberg’s William Pesek, with added flavor from Jake Adelstein.

Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s underworld can tell you a lot about what’s happening in the legitimate economy.

Gangsters are on the run as growth wanes and deflation worsens. Yet the oddest development by far involves yakuza members sitting for exams covering key aspects of their work.

If you think this is just a law-enforcement issue, think again. It’s a sign Japan’s funk will be longer than economists predict. That may surprise those betting Japan is recovering. Oddly, though, the plight of gangsters tells the story.

Huddled over legal texts and documents isn’t the popular image of Japan’s storied mobsters. When they aren’t collecting debts, shaking down shop owners, overseeing prostitution rings or rigging stocks, members of Japan’s biggest organized crime group, Yamaguchi-gumi, are studying for 12-page tests.

Yakuza’s Series 7 Exam Is Harbinger for Economy [via Bloomberg]

Ozawa's Angels — will they kick ass or pour tea?

A much-talked-about article with a slightly misleading headline about some lucky young ladies who were hand-picked by former DPJ president Ichiro Ozawa and ushered into seats of power.

Kumiko Hayakawa - House of Representatives Incumbent

NAGOYA, Japan — When Kayoko Isogai got the call from high-ranking officials at the Democratic Party of Japan asking her to stand for a seat in the national parliament, she was shocked.

It was just two weeks before the Aug. 30 election; she had spent most of the previous five years unemployed and taking care of her terminally ill parents; and she had no political or governing experience whatsoever.

“Impossible, impossible, impossible, impossible, impossible,” Isogai said recently, recalling her reaction to the offer. “I said it five times.”

But Isogai, 43, reconsidered and put her name on the DPJ ticket. Then, she watched in surprise as the party’s historic, landslide victory over the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party swept her into the House of Representatives of the Japanese Diet.

Politics meets porn in Japan [via Global Post]