Politicians and yakuza, not so different

News of Ichiro Ozawa’s questioning by prosecutors in relation to the Rikuzan-kai campaign fund scandal has flooded the dailies and the news for much of the past few days as investigators dig deeper into what may be a possibly destabilizing blow to the DPJ. Ozawa was put in the hot seat after the arrest of Tomohiro Ishikawa, a DPJ lawmaker who was formerly the secretary general’s privately hired secretary.

Something interesting about the incident is the language used in Ishikawa’s statements to prosecutors, where he refers to Ozawa using the word oyabun. The term is widely used by the yakuza to describe a gang boss they’ve pledged allegiance to.

From the Yomiuri Shinbun, Jan. 17:

「親分の言うことは絶対ですから。白と言えば白、黒と言えば黒なんです」

逮捕された石川知裕衆院議員(36)は周囲に、小沢氏への忠誠心を隠そうともせず、そう語っていた。尊敬する人物を尋ねられると、必ず「小沢一郎」の名前を挙げた。

“What the boss says goes. If he says white, it’s white; if he says black, it’s black.”

These were the words of arrested lawmaker Tomohiro Ishikawa, 36, who made no effort to hide his loyalty to Ozawa. When asked who he respects, the name “Ichiro Ozawa” always came up.

(Yomiuri article here)

This isn’t an isolated incident; former prime minister Taro Aso also peppered his speech with yakuza terminology. He referred to the act of earning money as shinogi — a term almost exclusively used by yakuza to describe their (illegal) methods of money making. Not only the actual connections between yakuza and politicians, but the way they speak and think also make it seem like they are two sides to the same coin.

Edit: The Japan Times recently published an article that touched on this subject as well. Check it out!