Japan author sues police over ban on 'yakuza' publications

Now that April Fool’s Day is finished (at least here in Japan), we can actually post some real news! Related to the article last week about convenience stores in Fukuoka agreeing to take yakuza fan publications off their shelves, one man in the industry has now taken action against the move, calling it censorship and complaining that it hurts his income:

Japan author sues police over ban on ‘yakuza’ publications

TOKYO: A Japanese author and son of a Yakuza gangster on Thursday filed a lawsuit against police in the country’s west for asking stores to take underworld comics and magazines off their shelves.

Crime writer Manabu Miyazaki argued that police in Fukuoka prefecture were suppressing free speech by asking stores not to sell manga comic books and magazines that describe the Japanese crime syndicates.

“I am an author,” the 64-year-old protested on his website. “I make money by writing and selling books.”

In his complaint with the Fukuoka District Court, Miyazaki said police had asked convenience stores to remove 73 comic books and three magazine titles from their shelves, and that many shops had following suit.

The police request meant to enforce an ordinance aimed at curtailing the influence of the yakuza, whose organisations are not banned under Japanese law and whose exploits are often the subject of manga comics and fan magazines.

The police list included a comic book based on a Miyazaki novel about the life of a yakuza man, said the author, who demanded 5.5 million yen (about 59,000 dollars) in damages from the regional government.

An officer at the Fukuoka police said they were aware of Miyazaki’s lawsuit but could not immediately comment on it.

Japan’s yakuza, whose members are known for cutting off their little fingers to atone for acts of disloyalty and mistakes, have long been active in gambling, loan sharking and money-laundering.

In April 2007, a gangster associated with Japan’s largest criminal syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, shot dead the mayor of the city of Nagasaki. — AFP

His argument is akin to artists complaining that their albums aren’t sold at Walmart because of questionable material, and at the end of the day the “censorship” is voluntary so it’s debatable whether he has any footing at all. What I found most questionable was the article itself–even to introduce the yakuza to people who have no background knowledge about them, AFP could have done a little better than the last two sentences.

Click here to see the article on Yahoo! News.

Fukuoka convenience stores to remove yakuza mags

Fan magazines and comic books glorify the yakuza in Japan
Fan magazines and comic books glorify the yakuza in Japan

Fukuoka prefectural police requested March 25 that convenience stores in the prefecture no longer stock yakuza fan magazines. Four chains have already begun removing the products from their racks, while two more say they will do so beginning next month.The stores include Lawson, Family Mart, Mini Stop, Popular, Daily Yamazaki and Circle K Sankus.

According to police, a crime prevention group requested in December 2009 that convenience stores and book stores stop carrying the publications, citing that several monthly magazines “glamorize organized crime and may encourage youth to join the groups.”

Officials insist they do not intend to censor freedom of expression, and that the move is purely voluntary. Some warn, however, that the move opens the door for possible censorship in the future.

Read the original article here.

Yakuza cause stir at sumo match

The Mainichi reported on Jan. 26 about an uproar (if it can be called that) in the sumo world after Sumiyoshi-kai members were spotted occupying ringside tomari-seki seats at the New Year’s sumo tournament on Jan. 18 in Ryogoku, Tokyo.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police Department spotted the head of the gang affiliated with the Sumiyoshi-kai syndicate at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 18. He moved after being prompted to do so by one of the information desk staff.

The gang boss was sitting in one of the ringside guest seats on the south side of the ring. These seats are normally reserved for individuals and companies that have contributed a certain amount to the Japan Sumo Association (JSA), and are not on sale to the public.

Police told reporters an interesting tidbit of information as to why they want to keep the mob out of the arena:

暴力団関係者が維持員席での観戦にこだわる理由について、捜査幹部は「相撲中継は刑務所でも見ることができる。土俵に近い維持員席はテレビに映りやすく、自分の姿を見せて服役中の組員を勇気づける狙いがあるのでは」と分析する。

Investigators said they deny organized crime members access to seats for donators because they believe that, “Sumo is broadcast even in jail; by sitting close to the ring and appearing on TV, gang leaders hope to cheer up and show support to members that are serving time.”

(From the Japanese Mainichi article)

Authorities are currently negotiating with the JSA as to whether or not they can prohibit yakuza in the general admission seats as well.

Police and the Japan Sumo Association have been actively trying to oust the yakuza from sumo since last July, when authorities were shocked to see elder members of the Yamaguchi-gumi sitting ringside at a tournament in Nagoya. The JSA made their first-ever retaliation against the yakuza in September at the annual autumn tournament, posting a sign denying entry to organized crime members. In October the group ammended their contracts with seat holders, adding a clause that allowed them to terminate special seats of anyone found to be related to the yakuza.

With some appropriate timing, there’s currently another frenzy going on regarding ex-yokozuna Takanohana, now a JSA member, who is currently steeped on controversey after he announced his intention to run for the JSA board of directors and was tossed out of the Nishonoseki stable group. Recently, weekly photo magazine “Flash” published photos of Takanohana at an event in Kobe in August, 2008, sitting next to a “head of an organized crime group.” Takanohana told the press that he was “invited be long-time supporters, and went because it was a memorial service for those who died in the Kobe earthquake.”

More info at Nikkan Sports (Japanese only)

Failed pick-up line: "I'm a yakuza boss"

Sankei News reported that a 34-year-old man was charged with rape after a rather dodgy incident where he told a woman that he was a yakuza member and forced her to have sex with him last December.

Naoki Kambara, a part-time worker at a shipping company, threatened a young woman on a street in Tokyo’s Kokubunji City on Dec. 17, telling her that he was the “number two” of a yakuza group. He forced her into a public toilet where he performed obscene acts on her before bringing her to a nearby hotel and raping her.

According to police, Kambara got her mobile email address, sending her a text on Dec. 23 saying he’d “like to meet again.” Police set a time and a place for the two to meet again, arresting him when he showed up on Dec. 27.

What did they arrest Kambara on? Suspicion of a similar crime committed in November, where he reportedly used similar means to rape a girl in her teens. Brilliant! He admitted to both charges.

Read the original story here. (Japanese only)