Happy New Year Of The Horse 2014 (馬年) Come ride with us!

January 31st, 2014–The Year Of The Horse 

Japan Subculture Research Center has taken a long sabbatical since December of 2013. We meant to get things off with a bang this January but our editor in chief and assistant editor were both out of commission. So we’re taking the opportunity today to relaunch the website and wish you all a happy Chinese new year. The Chinese new year and once upon a time, the Japanese new year as well, followed the lunar calendar, so today’s new moon (Friday) means we can all say goodbye to the (water) snake year and say hello to the (wooden) horse year!

Happy Year Of The Horse! Just get on and let the horse go where it goes.
Happy Year Of The Horse!
Just get on and let the horse go where it goes.


It’s going to be a busy year for all of us at JSRC but we’re looking forward to it. Thank you to everyone who submitted articles last year and we encourage you to submit more this year. BTW, if there are any young bilingual aspiring journalists out there interested in a poorly paid internship at JSRC–just let us know.  And if you have an interesting story on Japan that you’d like to submit, send it our way.  We have a limited budget but we’ll see what we can do.



In the meantime,  look up at the moon today and wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Today's new moon on Friday January 31st marks the end of the Snake Year and the start of the Horse Year, according to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Happy Horse Year 2014! We couldn't find any horses in Tokyo that weren't being served as sashimi (raw meat/馬刺し)so our acting editor in chief just inserted himself in this photo instead. We're riding into the year of the horse at full gallop!
Today’s new moon on Friday January 31st marks the end of the Snake Year and the start of the Horse Year, according to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Happy Horse Year 2014! We couldn’t find any horses in Tokyo that weren’t being served as sashimi (raw meat/馬刺し)so our acting editor in chief just inserted himself in this photo instead. We’re riding into the year of the horse at full gallop!

Book Review: Tokyo Underworld–a classic on the dark side of Japan

There are very few gaijin (foreigners) who know what happens on the dark side of the rising sun like Robert Whiting. Whiting is an American author and journalist living in Japan, one of the rare ones who has written great books published in both English and Japanese language after he first set foot in Japan in 1962, when he was 20.

His most popular book, Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan, published by Pantheon, N.Y. 1999, and Vintage Departures, 2000, has been optioned for being made into a major motion picture several times but still hasn’t made it to the silver screen. It’s not surprising that the book would appeal to Hollywood. The main protagonist in the book seems to pop out of a movie! But he isn’t, Nicola Zappetti, aka “The Mafia Boss of Tokyo,” an Italian American GI whose pizza restaurant in Roppongi became the informal headquarters of the Tokyo underworld, really existed and lived in the country where you would think modesty and order reign.

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 23.14.23

Whiting’s book while revolving around Zappetti, openly draws out the influence of the yakuza on Japanese society and politics. He illustrates historical facts by including Nick Zappetti’s encounters with some of the most intriguing Japanese figures, who brought Japan to become the world’s second largest economic power after the United States. He creates a great visual and fascinating world no one would imagine that modern-day Japan would emanate from.

Tokyo Underworld was translated into Japanese by Midori Matsui, at Kadokawa Bunko.[1]

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The book illustrates the genesis of the so-called keizai yakuza, or “Economic Yakuza,” the ones who intelligently mutated into financial wizards spurring the creation of new anti-mob laws in Japan—which also spurred more of the white-collar yakuza to go into finance. In Tokyo Underworld, Whiting explains how Japanese criminals, even suspected class A war criminals such as Yoshio Kodama, could escape execution, unlike the other war criminals, such as Hideki Tojo, the general of the Japanese Imperial Army who was directly responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Because the U.S. Occupation authorities needed to trade information about wartime government figures wanted by the GHQ (General Headquarters) to counter the growing leftist movements in Japan, the most vicious mob members were able to deeply root their organization in the structure of Japanese society. The Americans declared that all foreigners in Japan, whose native country was a Japanese colony before the end of the Pacific War would not be punished under the law, which was one of the reasons why the Korean community couldn’t be controlled by the Japanese police. The police thus made an unofficial agreement with the Japanese gangsters to keep the order. Whiting tells the story of how the most vicious of all Japanese worked hand in hand with their occupants.

The book retraces the life of Nicola Zappetti, an Italian-American who moved to Japan after the war as a U.S. Marine and later became the bridge that connected the American mafia and the Japanese yakuza. The story line follows the life of Nicola Zappetti, but incorporates the lives of various Japanese shady characters, such as Yoshio Kodama, who Whiting describes as “ A powerful wealthy ultranationalist and behind-the-scenes fixer (who was also the point of entry for America’s participation in this sphere.) Described by one historian as a master of channeling “unregistered” funds from big business and the underworld to politicians, […]


In 1958, Kodama went to work for the CIA, maintaining a professional relationship of considerable intensity that included helping to funnel agency money clandestinely to associates in the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party of Japan) and anti-communist groups. One of Kodama’s assignments was to cozy up to Indonesian President Sukarno and assess associates in a firm called Tonichi Trading Company were laying plans for business ventures in Djakarta, in part by supplying female companionship to the Indonesian president, a known womanizer, […]”


He expounds on how another historical figure, Hisayuki Machii, the boss of the Tosei-kai (now Toa-kai), which had 1500 mostly Korean members after the war, won a gang war against the pure-blooded Sumiyoshi-kai, a prewar gambling gang. “[…] Machii. The son of a Korean factory owner from Seoul and a Japanese mother, Machii had first made his name in the postwar black market running a band of young thugs. Nicknamed “Fanso” (Violent Bull) as a youth, he had won several barroom brawls versus larger American GIs, including one encounter with a U.S. Marine colonel, a karate black belt, whom Machii knocked out cold with one punch. He was famous for once having snapped a set of handcuffs in a fury over being arrested. […]”

Robert Whiting writes, “The Tosei-kai was symbolic of what had happened to the Tokyo organized crime scene. The old tekiya had fallen by the wayside as the street stalls gradually disappeared, and a new type of gangster had assumed control, drawn from the vast pool of jobless and homeless young men who filled the streets in the aftermath of the war.”


The book aims to trace the history of organized crime in Japan, and document the transition from the postwar Japanese gangsters to the “new breed” generation of gangsters, which inevitably mixed with the American culture, military, and politics, during the Occupation.


The book recollects many shady incidents and thus explains the moment when two or more cultures clash in an occupied territory. That’s when most improbable things happen. But they did happen, and that’s why the nonfiction genre fascinates us at time. Truth is often more interesting than fiction. True stories may not always be stranger than fiction but it sometimes they are much more fascinating than what never happened.

“Japan has the most honest used car salesmen in the world along with the most crooked politicians, and Zappetti’s story explores that conundrum,” The New York Times wrote in its review of Tokyo Underworld. Indeed, the Japanese are proud that their country appears to have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. At the same time, Japan has history of entertaining tacit interactions between some segments of its society and the underworld.

“When the first American-style “hit,” or shooting for hire, took place in Japan – the attack in 1958 on an infamous greenmailer (financial corporate takeover artist) named Hideki Yokoi as he sat in his downtown office – they, [The retired bosses of postwar outdoors markets] and the public at large, were overwhelmingly critical of the method employed. “Wearing American gangster clothes is one thing,” fumed one aging mobster in the Shukan Tokyo (Weekly Tokyo) magazine, in an article entitled “The Fire-Spitting Colt,” “but adopting the American custom of using professional hit men? How low can the Japanese gangster fall?” (The honorable way to settle a dispute, as everyone knew, was to grab a sword, purify it by spitting sake on it, and face the enemy man to man, not sneak up on him with a gun from the dingy back stairwell.)”


Whiting wrote, “The New Breed was there to stay and arcane distinctions such as tekiya and bakuto were fading away; the word ‘yakuza’ was being applied to all gangsters, and the term boryokudan, which literary means ‘violent group,’ was used for the gangs themselves.

Japan’s organized crime is still evolving. The gangs used to cooperate with the police in containing street crime and informing on each other. Some experts saw the new 1992 anti-gang laws as the beginning of a “mutually beneficial relationship” between the police and the yakuza, although their increasing involvement in legitimate businesses clearly became a serious concern for many Japanese. However, the law never officially made yakuza gangs illegal, and the smart mobsters, like mutating cockroaches, recycled their activities using dummy front companies to operate their vicious attempts to countermeasure the newly passed laws.

Currently, crime experts believe that the yakuza will continue to conduct their affairs in an even more covert manner. Japan’s economic growth was largely attributed to the power of the United States. “America will always be Japan’s oyabun, (father figure or godfather),” a retired yakuza boss recently commented to this reviewer.

Tokyo Underworld also recollects how the occupants helped the Japanese economy to become the world’s second largest in only a few decades. The rules and the laws, dictated by the Americans, made sure that the Japanese businesses would always win, as Zappetti learns towards the end of his years.

“According to the National Police Agency, […] the number of badge-carrying gangsters in the nation as a whole had swollen alarmingly. From a prewar total of several thousands, the total had risen to 56,000 by 1951 and then from there nearly quadrupled by the end of the decade. It was the largest concentration of organized crime members in history, several times the members of the Mafiosi in the United States, and was attributed in part to Japan’s precipitous economic growth, which had spawned thousands of new bars and nightclubs ripe for shaking down – as well as to the maturation of Japan’s baby boomers, which created new legions of juvenile delinquents. […]

Extortion, assault, and theft rates skyrocketed. Although Tokyo would later develop a reputation as one of the world’s safest cities, in that era, the burgeoning entertainment hubs were being described in the press as “hotbed of crime” and surrounding streets unsafe for anyone after midnight.”

Robert Whiting is one of the top American nonfiction writers on Japanese subcultures and history. Tokyo Underworld documents historical facts. Robert Whiting translated himself most of the Japanese news articles and he conducted nearly 200 interviews with various sources and began meeting Nicola Zappetti in the fall of 1989 until his death in 1992, including his friends, family, business associates and enemies. The book is great work of investigative non-fiction. While the book tends to be stuck in the true crime section, it is a wonderful sociological study of Japan, and may even be useful for the foreign businessmen. Tokyo Underworld explains deftly just how hard it was for a foreigner to start a business in Japan and keep it running.

While Tokyo Underworld rests in development limbo, Linson Entertainment and Silver Pictures are producing “The Outsider,” directed by Takashi Miike, starring actor Tom Hardy, who will play the role of an American expat in Japan who becomes a yakuza after WWII. The project is based on an original idea by John Linson, who will produce along with Art Linson through their Linson Entertainment banner according to Deadline. The story for the movie, although it is a fiction, seems similar to Nick Zapetti’s biography, as reported in Robert Whiting’s Tokyo Underworld. Zappetti was never a yakuza but perhaps his heart became tattooed over the year.

Robert Whiting, in his early career wrote about the Japanese society seen through baseball, the American sport adopted by the Japanese, sometimes called 野球 (yakyu). Many still say that the best way to understand Japan is to read his classic about Japanese baseball, You Gotta Have Wa. It’s clear that Mr. Whiting knows a lot about Japan and about baseball. Tokyo Underworld, as a work of non-fiction narrative is a home run with all bases loaded. Highly recommended.


Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, by author Jake Adelstein was never published in Japan because it names a promiment Japanese entertainment firm as a yakuza front company and touches upon other taboos, like the murder of Juzo Itami, the movie director who directed Minbo no Onna (The Gentle Japanese Art of Extortion) .

After the release of the film in 1992, members of the Yamaguchi affiliated Goto-gumi, unhappy with the portrayal of the yakuza in the film, conducted an attack against Itami, slashing his face and beating him up in front of his house, six days after the movie release. In 1997, Itami was found dead after falling from a high building in Tokyo. The Japanese police officially reported that he committed suicide, however his death is alleged to have been murder under the guise of suicide, purposed to prevent him from making another yakuza movie illustrating the links between organized crime, Sokka Gakkai, and political parties in Japan.

Tokyo Vice: Interview with Jake Adelstein

Read an exciting (sort of) interview with the author and chief editor of the web-site,  Jake Adelstein.

I’ve been working on this thing now for almost three years and its nice to finally see it in print. If you’re curious about the sex industry in Japan, about yakuza, cops, journalists and all that can go terribly wrong in the little island country of the rising sun, please read the book.   The following interview was done for Random House, who have been kind enough to publish the book.


Continue reading Tokyo Vice: Interview with Jake Adelstein

“You can’t lose at Muse” no longer true. Iconic Roppongi club lost in war on dance

Roppongi’s iconic dance club, Muse (ミューズ), became the latest victim of the crackdown on illegal dancing–the so-called “War on Dance”— when police announced on Sunday morning that it had raided the club and arrested manager Yuki Takano (37), a disk jockey, and two DJs. Their crime: setting up a DJ booth, playing music, and allowing the customers to dance. The police are also looking into other clubs allegedly run by the group including a so-called “girl’s bar”* in the neighborhood, to see if those establishments were also involved in other heinous illegal activity, such as customers sitting with the female bartenders behind the bar counter..

The Tokyo Police were not aMUSEd with this club's after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.
The Tokyo Police were unaMUSEd with this club’s after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.

The arrests are in violation of the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law (風営法, a set of archaic rules created in 1948, which prohibit dancing after midnight. The law had been gathering dust in the books for years, until the Osaka police began enforcing it rigidly in 2012.  In Tokyo,  when a man was beaten to death last year at Club Flower in Roppongi, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department also began to aggressively apply the laws, making raid after raid.  Since then, the police have been cleaning up the area and arresting the club owners violating the law. Muse is only the latest in a long string of clubs that have been busted this year for illegal dancing. In July the police raided the infamous Gas Panic nightclub and arrested the manager and disk jockey for operating without a license. In May, Vanity Lounge, was targeted and three employees were arrested in suspicion for violating the entertainment laws. Vanity reopened under a different name, V2, and labeled itself as a “restaurant”. The crackdowns have taken away much of what had made Roppongi the vibrant nightlife district sandwiched between the gentrified areas of Roppongi Hills and Midtown it had once been. Businesses have taken a hit, including the McDonald’s near the crossing, a meeting place for those who want to line their stomachs with a protective coat of Big Mac grease before a night of heavy drinking or a refuge for those waiting for the first train to arrive.

MUSE in it's heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment  + business card requirement kept the place "upscale." Or as they used to say "High-Touch."
MUSE in it’s heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment + business card requirement kept the place “upscale.” Or as they used to say “High-Touch.”

Although Muse is located only ten minutes away from Roppongi Station, it is known as a far less sleazy venue when compared to its neighbors. **A sign on the doorway requires that visitors, namely males, be between 24 and 39 years old, and have a business card to present to the bouncer. Flip flops, shorts, and gym clothes have no place on the dance floor. And most importantly, servicemen in the military who want to have a bit of fun tonight have to turn back around and head straight back to Gas Panic, because Muse has a strict “no servicemen allowed” rule. These rules filtered out enough of the “riff-raff” that the foreign customers were usually all  high-income expats working at foreign companies in Tokyo, or financially savvy and business card holding English teachers. Of course, none of these rules apply to females who are often allowed in without even flashing an ID card. My experience going to Muse was that I was waved inside before I could even reach into my purse to grab my passport. Females don’t even have to dish out the 3000 yen entry charge that males have to pay (Editor’s note: When will the discrimination against men in Japan ever end? This matriarchal society needs to change). This policy balances out the male to female ratio, compared to other nightclubs. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that Muse was still undeniably a meat market and a popular pickup spot. It’s unknown how long Muse will remain closed or whether it will open in time for Halloween celebration this weekend. But for now, warming up with a couple of cocktails from the nearby Lawson and buying an ice cream cone at Hobson’s before heading into Tokyo’s less sleazy alternative to the clubs in neighboring Roppongi—that is simply out of the question.

*”Girl’s bars” are essentially hostess bars that use a loop hole in the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law to operate past midnight. The female bartenders, who often work as hostesses before midnight, sitting next to customers, move to standing bar tending positions and speak with the customers over the bar counter. If the women sit with the customers past midnight, they are in violation of the law. 

** (Editor’s noteThere have been allegations that females working at MUSE were pressured to date some of the bar’s more wealthy clientele under dubious circumstances. MUSE management was unavailable for comment)

Combatting human trafficking: 1st Winner of Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Announced

Thanks to her Professor Tsuneo Akaha, Michiel  Brandt, was able to posthumously graduate from the Monterey Institute of International Studies on December 8th, 2012. Professor Akaha and Maria Pacana also helped set up a memorial fund in her honor. The first recipient was chosen this year.
Details are at the bottom of the post.
The Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund — Please help us keep Michiel’s dream alive:
Here is how to give to this Fund:
1) Go to:http://www.miis.edu/giving<http://lists.middlebury.edu/t/684068/711859/1372/0/>;
2) Click on “Giving Now”; and,
3) Complete the giving form: under “2. Gift Information” “Direct Your Gift”, please select “Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund.”

Elena Kokhanovski, a first year MPA student, has been awarded the $1500 cash prize to support her internship in the anti-human trafficking field. Elena is undertaking academic and non-academic activities focused on this issues, according to the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS).

The award is given in honor of the late Michiel Brandt, a former MIIS student from Japan who died of leukemia while preparing for a career in this field and received her MA in International Policy Studies posthumously in December 2012. Michiel-chan aka Mimi-Chan (ミミちゃん) was one of the founders of this blog and my BFF.

The prize is made possible by generous gifts from Michiel’s family and friends in Japan and the United States. This award is designed to encourage students with professional aspirations to work in this field with the hopes of eradicating and/or preventing human trafficking.

Amy Sands, Provost of Monterey Institute of International Studies and the staff of Japan Subculture Research Center wish to extend congratulations to Elena on receiving this prize and good luck as she begins to pursue her career and fights the good fight.

Michiel wrote a very eloquent and heartfelt essay on why she wanted to work to stop sexual slavery. From 2006-2007, when I was working on a US State Department sponsored study of human trafficking in Japan, including the supply side and the traffickers–Michiel was an invaluable research assistant and translator. The essay is below.

On Modern Slavery: Thoughts on Human Trafficking by Michiel Brandt

Michiel Brandt in 2008, after a day doing research.
Michiel Brandt in 2008, after a day of fact-checking early drafts of Tokyo Vice.


Michiel Brandt was a good friend and a comrade in arms in the fight against human trafficking. (November 2011). She was a very brave woman. It's good to see her remembered.)
Michiel Brandt was my closest friend and a comrade in arms in the fight against human trafficking. (Photo/November 2011. Saint Marianna University School of Medicine Hospital). She was a very brave woman. It’s good to see her remembered.

Michiel and Hanami





Daily Prophet Flash: DanRad gets Press Pass for Tokyo Vice; The Last Yakuza to be published in 2014

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter On The Police Beat In Japan…a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe!?

Radcliffe-san has been preparing to play the role of a newspaper journalist for over 10 years. To write for a newspaper, you have to read the newspaper.
Radcliffe-san has been preparing to play the role of a newspaper journalist for over 10 years–more or less. To write for a newspaper, you have to read the newspaper. The Daily Prophet is one of the most respected in the industry; almost always first with the scoop and only occasionally very wrong.
text courtesy of William Clark 
May 1st, 2013

Mike Fleming broke the news on Deadline this afternoon that Daniel Radcliffe will play Jake Adelstein in the film adaptation of TOKYO VICE:  An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.

The text of the release is as follows:

Tokyo Vice (UK edition)
Tokyo Vice (UK edition)

Daniel Radcliffe is set to star in TOKYO VICE. Veteran music video and commercial director Anthony Mandler will direct, based on a script by acclaimed playwright JT Rogers. Le Grisbi Productions’ John Lesher and Adam Kassan are producing. The film is eyeing a start date of first quarter 2014.

Radcliffe will play American reporter Jake Adelstein who, while working at the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper in Tokyo, covered a beat that included murder, vice, and the yakuza. The film will be based on Adelstein’s memoir of the same name and focus on his encounters with yakuza boss Tadamasa Goto, also known as the “John Gotti of Japan”. Adelstein investigated the notorious gangster at great personal cost and sacrifice, braving death threats, before finally exposing Goto.

Adelstein, who will be working with Rogers on the script, is still an investigative reporter. He currently writes for The Daily BeastThe Japan Times, and The Atlantic Wire. His second book, THE LAST YAKUZA(editor Tim O’Connell), will be published in 2014.

Radcliffe has had a busy schedule since starring in last year’s thriller THE WOMAN IN BLACK. He starred as Allen Ginsberg in this year’s Sundance hit KILL YOUR DARLINGS, which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics. He also recently wrapped the horror film HORNS and the romantic comedy THE F WORD and he has just signed on to star in FRANKENSTEIN for 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment. This June, Radcliffe will return to the West End stage, starring in Martin McDonagh’s acclaimed comedy THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN.

Mandler has helmed videos for such artists as Rihanna, Jay-Z, The Killers, and Muse.

Rogers’ plays include BLOOD AND GIFTS (National Theatre, London; Lincoln Center Theater, New York City) and THE OVERWHELMING (National Theatre, London; Roundabout Theatre, New York City). He was nominated for the 2009 Olivier Award as one of the writers of GREAT GAME: AFGHANISTAN. He is also a winner of the prestigious Pinter Prize.

Lesher produced last year’s END OF WATCH, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. He also produced BLOOD TIES, Guillaume Canet’s English language debut, starring Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, and James Caan, which will premiere at Cannes. Lesher is currently in production on Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s BIRDMAN, starring Michael Keaton, Ed Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts. He is in pre-production on BLACK MASS, to be directed by Barry Levinson and star Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, as well as David Ayer’s war film FURY, which will shoot in the fall and star Brad Pitt.

Radcliffe is represented by UTA, UK agent Sue Latimer at ARG, and attorney Fred Toczek. Mandler is represented by UTA, Management 360, and attorney Michael Schenkman. Rogers is represented by WME and attorneys Marc Glick and Stephen Breimer. Jake Adelstein is repped by UTA and William Clark Associates.

You can learn more about Jake Adelstein in Peter Hessler’s excellent profile, “All Due Respect: An American Reporter Takes on the Yakuza” in the January 9, 2012 issue of The New Yorker. 

Jake’s next book, THE LAST YAKUZA:  A Life in the Japanese Underground, a singular, in-depth, occasionally humorous, often dark, but inspiring tale about the life of former gang boss T. Mochizuki, aka “The Tsunami,” his unlikely friendship with the author, and the history of Japan’s ubiquitous mafia is being edited by the incomparable Tim O’Connell at Pantheon as this is being written, and will be released in Fall 2014.  Other English language publishers are James Gurbutt at Constable & Robinson in the UK, and Henry Rosenbloom at Scribe in Australia/New Zealand.

Police Say More Japanese Women Becoming Human Trafficking Victims

The National Police Agency announced recently that there were total of 44 human trafficking cases confirmed by police across Japan in 2012, and a dramatic uptick in the number of domestic trafficking cases.

The numbers of victim were 27 in all. However, what was unusual was that among them a total of 11 Japanese women were recognized as victims of human trafficking, including forced prostitution.

All of the victims were born and raised in Japan, and the number of such victims was the largest since 2001, at least. The numbers did not include the hundreds of Child Welfare Law violations in which underage girls were found working, often under duress, in sex shops and adult entertainment facilities.

The Japanese government has been reluctant to recognized cases of sex-slavery involving Japanese women up to now. There have only been a handful of cases in which the anti-human trafficking laws were applied to arrest and convict criminals who preyed up on Japanese women.

Many human trafficking victims go unseen, unreported and suffer in silence.
Many human trafficking victims go unseen, unreported, and suffer in silence.

An increasingly emerging pattern for enslaving young Japanese girls involves a four-party system—a system designed to make the victim a virtual debt serf but also makes it hard for the police to prosecute as sex trafficking crime.

Scouts finds girls who have run away from home or whom are having family troubles and get them to visit a host club. The girls build up a huge tab after being told they can drink for free. In order to pay off their debts, the host club introduces the girl to a loan shark, who gives her the money to pay the debt (bar-tab). The girl is then introduced to a sex club by the loan shark so she can pay off her new debts, which also accrue interest quickly. The scout, the host club, the loan shark and the sex-club are often backed by one organized crime group and working together.

The Polaris Project Japan*, an anti-trafficking and awareness raising NPO located in Tokyo, has long argued that the Japanese government’s failure to take statistics on probable human trafficking cases, or coordinate information sharing between the multiple agencies results in an artificially low number of reported cases. Human trafficking cases, depending upon the circumstances in which the authorities become involved, may be handled by the Ministry of Justice, Immigration, Customs, or the Community Safety Division, the Community Security Division, the Organized Crime Control Division, or the Crimes Against Youth Division in local and prefectural Police Departments. There is little information sharing between the various divisions and agencies and little or no effort made to proactively identify trafficking victims. For many years, child abuse cases in Japan were also very low until reporting suspicious incidents became compulsory across the board.

*Jake Adelstein, chief editor of JSRC,  is a board member of Polaris Project Japan. 

The Best Articles About Japan 2012 (on our blog) :D

Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 9.15.01Dear Gentle Reader,

All of us at Japan Subculture Research Center would like to thank you for your  reading the articles posted here this last year, your contributions, and your comments. Here are some of the articles we thought were the most amusing, edifying, or just fun, grouped together in general order.  We had some outstanding outside contributions which made for some excellent reading–and to those contributors thank you as well. Whether you’re interested in Japanese culture or pop-culture, Japan’s nuclear problems, or yakuza and the Japanese underworld—there’s something for everyone.  Enjoy!

Just For Fun

It’s a fuckin sale! 


A little English goes a rong way
A little English goes a rong way


The most read piece we posted last year. And the one we put the least amount of effort into.

Young Japanese Men and Women Reject Marriage, and Ultimately Each Other : Japan Subculture Research Center

Love: Japan style.

The Tears of a Cat: Hello Kitty’s Guide to Japan, English and Japanese/ ハローティの英語で紹介する : Japan Subculture Research Center

Hello Kitty is an international refugee?

British or Japanese?
British or Japanese?

“You would be cute, IF you had a tiny face.” Japanese facial corset promises cuteness in just 3 minutes! : Japan Subculture Research Center

The most painful article ever.


Let’s Convenience Store! The Musical: コンビニへ行こう! : Japan Subculture Research Center

A great piece by Mr. Noah-sama, a contributor to the blog. The best of Japanese life.

Coffee & Cigarettes Together At Last : Speak Lark, Drink up : Japan Subculture Research Center

What could be better? Manju and Green Tea? I think not.

Facebook Is Stalking You, Baby. (Notes From The Uncanny Valley, Japan) : Japan Subculture Research Center

How are we feeling today? A little paranoid, perhaps. Maybe not.

The Fallout from 3/11 and Japan’s nuclear industry 

Another photo of the now famous Fukushima ostrich (2011) photo: Naoto Matsumura
Another photo of the now famous Fukushima ostrich (2011) photo: Naoto Matsumura

The Buddha of Fukushima’s Forbidden Zone: A Photo Essay : Japan Subculture Research Center

A tribute to one man who will not go quietly.

Independent Commission on Nuclear Accident: Earthquake, TEPCO negligence, Myth of Safety Caused Meltdown : Japan Subculture Research Center

We hope someone in the Japanese government is paying attention.

The Melting Sun: Japan’s Nuclear Follies : Japan Subculture Research Center

History not only repeats itself, sometimes it predicts the future. A long essay on Japan’s nuclear industry by Professor Jeff Kingston worth reading.

Japan’s historical anti-nuclear protest on July 29th, 2012, a photo essay : Japan Subculture Research Center

The protest movement is heard.  The follow up is here on The Daily Beast.  Nuclear Power Protests In Japan Are Finally Heard. 

Every Friday night thousands gather to call for an end to nuclear power in Japan.
Every Friday night thousands gather to call for an end to nuclear power in Japan.
Misao Redwolf working with the police to keep the protests peaceful.
Misao Redwolf working with the police to keep the protests peaceful.

The Underworld and The Yakuza

The Last Yakuza: A Life In The Japanese Underworld coming in 2014 : Japan Subculture Research Center

I know–total self-promotion. What else do you think pays the costs of running this labor of love? Book sales, some donations, and whatever else I can scrounge up. All that aside, I’m hoping this will be a good read with a moral to the tale. All good stories have something to teach.

The Centers For the Elimination of Organized Crime will be able to launch legal proceedings to shut down yakuza offices under the new laws, if the group is designated "extremely dangerous."
The Centers For the Elimination of Organized Crime will be able to launch legal proceedings to shut down yakuza offices under the new laws, if the group is designated “extremely dangerous.”

The $1,000 Pineapple. Japanese Police Offer Rewards For Hand Grenades : Japan Subculture Research Center

Those Southern Yakuza are pretty ornery!

Yakuza Go On The Record About 3/11 Relief Efforts In July Fanzine (実話時代) : Japan Subculture Research Center

When I wrote about this in 2011, it was a taboo. Not anymore. Sometimes even the bad guys do good things.

Yakuza Comix: An Illustrated Guide To The Front Company フロント企業図解 : Japan Subculture Research Center

Pictures and words

Yakuza Comix #2: The Buck Stops With The Boss : Japan Subculture Research Center

It’s not easy being a yakuza chief these days.

Everything I Ever Needed To Know In Life I Learned From the Yakuza or The Cops That Kick Their Ass in 7 Lessons : Japan Subculture Research Center

Live and learn. Sometimes we die and learn.

On Modern Slavery: Thoughts on Human Trafficking : Japan Subculture Research Center

Published posthumously. Michiel Brandt, rest in peace.

Little Mermaids & Little Fingers: An illustrated yakuza tale : Japan Subculture Research Center

Even Yakuza have kids and sometimes try to be good fathers.

Yakuza blues
Yakuza blues


Meet Japan’s Nuclear Mafia: Yakuza, deadbeats, and security risks welcome

TEPCO and the Yakuza
TEPCO and the Yakuza



Japanese Culture and Cultural Events from 2012

Along the Tamagawa 多摩川 today, the cherry blossoms reached full bloom. (April 15th 2012)
Along the Tamagawa 多摩川 today, the cherry blossoms reached full bloom. (April 15th 2012)

Sakura Time 2012: A photo journey of Tokyo’s awesome cherry blossom viewing : Japan Subculture Research Center

The beauty of April in Japan.

Sakura! 桜!
Sakura! 桜!

Graduation Day: Goodbye to 虐め (いじめ)? : Japan Subculture Research Center

“Ijime” bullying is a part of the culture. Unfortunately.

O-bon: Festival of The Dead or “Please Feed The Hungry Ghosts Day” : Japan Subculture Research Center

Halloween in Japan–in the traditional sense.

Annular Eclipse: After 173 Years A Dark Sun Rise In The Land Of The Rising Sun : Japan Subculture Research Center

Do we have to wait another 173 years? There are some great photos here.


Journalism In Japan (and the world) 

Jake, I know that you're planning to log off and I'm afraid I can't let that happen. And how are you feeling, today?
Our lawyers are watching you.

Protecting Sources & Risking Lives: The Ethical Dilemmas of Japanese Journalism : Japan Subculture Research Center

Why we are reluctant to use the names of our sources in Japan–and for good reason.

The Trial Of Minoru Tanaka: The high cost of investigative journalism in Japan & “the nuclear mafia” : Japan Subculture Research Center

Do you want to be an investigative journalist in Japan? You’ll need a good lawyer. Increasingly, litigation is used to shut up voices of dissent.

The Journo Blues: A Song Inspired By Arianna Huffington : Japan Subculture Research Center

The HuffPost and Google News have started to turn the business into a con game–the con being that “exposure” will get you a real job as a journalist. Better think twice on that. If journalism is your calling, you may need to have a second job.

Meet the Rupert Murdoch of Japan: Tsuneo Watanabe




Ray Bradbury, Journalism & Mr. Dark. “You can’t act if you don’t know.” : Japan Subculture Research Center

Yes, Ray Bradbury was a novelist but sometimes people can say greater truths in fiction than they can in an essay. I was sad to see him go and this is my small essay on what I find inspiring in his best novel, as a journalist, and as a father.

スクリーンショット 2012-06-07 22.48.18






How The CIA Helped The Yakuza & The LDP Get Power & Promote Nuclear Power

I just finished re-reading Tim Weiner’s magnum opus, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA ,which is perhaps the best book ever written on the Central Intelligence Agency, and its general history of dismal failures. On the eve of the LDP’s retaking of power, December 16th 2012, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the LDP and how they came into being in the first place. It’s like a story out of a John Le Carre novel, but as is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction–and more interesting.

Operations in Japan turned out to be one of the Agency’s rare success stories. Not only did the CIA put their party of choice in power, according the book 原発 正力 CIA-機密文書で読む昭和裏面史 (What Secret Documents Tell Us About The Hidden Showa-Era History of Ties Between the Nuclear Industry, Matustaro Shoriki–the former president of the Yomiuri Shimbun and founder of Nippon Television) published by Shinchosha, but using the Japanese media, they were able to convince Japan to invest in nuclear energy. Of course, US firms reaped the profits. But that’s another very long story.

Legacy of Ashes is a phenomenal book, especially in how it documents the CIA’s many, many failures–but operations in Japan were something else.

Chapter 12: “We Ran It In A Different Way” is a must for anyone interested in the shadow history of Japan. It details how in post-war Japan, the CIA, using large amounts of cash, reinstated former war criminal Kodama Yoshio and hand-picked one of Japan’s Prime Ministers–in order to supress communist/socialist movements. Kodama had extensive yakuza ties and huge amounts of capital made in the black markets in China. ($175 million estimated). The Tokyo CIA station reported on September 10th, 1953, “(Kodama) is a professional liar, gangster, charlatan, and outright thief….and has no interest in anything but the profits.” It still didn’t keep the CIA from doing business with him up to that time and behind the scenes later. The chapter also notes how the CIA was able to ensure that Nobusuke Kishi became Japan’s prime minister and the chief of its ruling party, in order to ensure that Japan didn’t go red. The president himself seemed to have authorized huge cash payments to Kishi and his other lackeys within the LDP.

Chapter 12 “We Ran It In A Different Way” has a fascinating account of US backing of gangsters and their politicians in post-war Japan

Kishi’s links to the Yamaguchi-gumi and other organized crime groups are well-known. His former private secretary was instrumental in organizing the deal between former Yamaguchi-gumi Goto-gumi boss, Goto Tadamasa, and the FBI; it was a deal in which Goto shared intelligence on organized crime groups within Japan and information on North Korea in exchange for a visa to the the United States. He received a liver transplant at UCLA, a transaction which the FBI did not set up or was involved in. Some of this is discussed in Tokyo Vice.

According to the excellent book, The Japanese Mafia by Peter Hill, and other sources,  Kishi also once put up the bail money for a Yamaguchi-gumi boss accused of a felony.  Goto Tadamasa, the ex-yakuza boss (currently a Buddhist priest doing charitable work) in his memoirs Habkarinagra (Pardon me but…) also discusses his close ties to ex-Prime Minister Kishi. Robert Whiting in the seminal Tokyo Underworld also covers US political connections to organized crime  in Japan in great depth and quite entertainingly. Whiting-san worked for the National Security Agency at one point in his life and what he says has great credibility as far as I’m concerned. (I’m not outing Robert by writing that he once worked for the NSA; it was mentioned in a Japan Times article several years ago and proved to be correct.) David Kaplan’s groundbreaking Yakuza:Japan’s Criminal Underworld was probably the first book to really examine the shadowy ties between the yakuza, the LDP and the US after the occupation. What makes Tim Weiner’s small chapter so impressive are the extensive notes, documents obtained from the CIA, and that he apparently conducted interviews on the CIA side as well. Impressive work.

Kodama, the right-wing industrialist mentioned above,  is notorious for his gangster connections but perhaps what best illustrates the point is that in the early sixties, Kodoma, Taoka Kazuo (田岡 一雄氏), the third generation leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi, and Machii Hisayuki  (町井 久之) head of the once powerful Japanese-Korean mafia, Toseikai(東声会) all served as board members of the Japan Professional Wrestling Association at the same time. They were all good buddies. As noted in Legacy Of Ashes, and in other sources, the Liberal Democratic Party was founded with a mixture of criminal proceeds, yakuza money, and US funds. The days when the US were able to exert control over Japanese politics are long gone but the yakuza have managed to maintain their own ties and connections to politicians across the board. For the Japanese government, they are still a useful entity, at times, and before the APEC summit, calls were sent out to all the major yakuza leaders urging them not to get into any gang wars and to keep an eye on anti-American lefties. After APEC ends, the aftermath of someone lobbing a hand-grenade into the headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi Yamaken-gumi headquarters will probably result in a bloody gang war. But for the time being, the yakuza are keeping the peace.

Full Disclosure Memo: In the worst of the Japanese press and blogosphere, I’ve been accused of being an agent of the CIA several times. Or the Mossad. Take your pick. This is untrue. I’m not a Mormon, have been very promiscious, and I am not totally inept, all things which disqualify me off the bat. However, in 2006-2007,  as part of a US State Department sponsored study on human trafficking in Japan,  I worked with a company which has many retired CIA/NSA employees and has been accused of being a front company for the CIA. I don’t know if they are or aren’t a front company and I don’t really care. The study and the Human Trafficking report that came out of it had a positive impact on Japan’s attitude towards dealing with human trafficking isssues and that’s really all that matters.

If you’re interested in the outsourcing of intelligence, pick up a copy of Spies For Hire: The Secret World Of Intelligence Outsourcing *by Tim Shorrock. The CIA contractor card on the cover has a partial picture of a Jewish looking fellow but I don’t think that’s me. Not unless someone issued me a nifty little card and didn’t tell me about it. It’s an incredibly well-written book which is now back in print. (Thanks to Mr. Shorrock for letting us know.)

* I was contacted by a yakuza fan magazine journalist roughly two months ago who asserted that it was me on the cover of Spies For Hire and tried to shake me down for cash, obliquely.  So by writing this post, I’m also saying “f*ck you very much.”  Personally, what’s the most insulting thing about being accused of being a former CIA agent, and no offense to anyone working for the agency intended, but they have such a dismal success rate that it’s kind of like being accused of working for post-Bush FEMA. It wounds my pride. Most people who are in “the intelligence community” would argue that actually the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has the best actionable intelligence of any agency .

Anyway, if you’re a serious Japanologist, Legacy of Ashes is worth having on yourself for that chapter alone. (This is a revision of an article originally posted on November 14th, 2010). 

Police Officer Punished For Raising A False Alarm With The Police

(November 23rd, Japan)

The Shizuoka Police Department announced yesterday that they had punished a low-ranking police officer (巡査) for making a fake 110 call, in which he reported an imaginary crime, in order to avoid going to a real crime scene and doing laborious paperwork . (In Japan, dialing 110 is the equivalent of dialing 911 in the United States).

According to the Shizuoka PD announcement and other sources, in August of this year, Officer D was wracking his brain trying to think of a way to avoid having to go to a messy destruction of property crime scene, inspect the damage, and write up the paperwork. From his own cell-phone he called up his police station and said, “There’s a girl in the park I’m walking through surrounded by four or five tough guys. Help her!”

The Shizuoka Police Department punished a low-ranking police officer for phoning in a fake crime to the Shizuoka Police Department to avoid doing the paper work on a meddlesome destruction of property case.

The police officer sped to the scene of the crime but when a fellow police officer called back the “notifier” (通報者), he was connected to Officer D and all was revealed. The next day Officer D was transferred from the community patrol bureau to the traffic bureau.

The prosecutors filed charges of “obstructing work” against the police officer, who also had his pay reduced to 1/10th for a month. The officer supposedly said he would work very hard to regain the trust of the police force and the public.