Thanks to the True Story Award, a new prize for written reportage, from 30 August to 1 September 2019, over 60 reporters from right around the world will come together in Bern, Switzerland. Nominate the best journalists and stories in Japan.
Today, submissions open for the True Story Award, the first global award for reporters writing for newspapers, magazines and online publications. The prize recognises written reportage from all countries and in 12 of the world’s most widely spoken languages. The prize will be awarded to work that stands out through in-depth research, journalistic quality and societal relevance.
The prize seeks to motivate journalists from across the world and to support their work. In many places around the world, the loss of diverse and independent media coverage of events and developments is damaging the ability of the public to freely form critical opinions. Which makes it even more important to have courageous and innovative reporters – in all societies and countries. It’s for these reporters that the True Story Award has been created. To begin with, a jury representing 29 countries will nominate a total of 42 reporters. Following this process, an eight-person jury will determine the winners.
The nominees and selected members of the international jury will be invited to attend the prize ceremony in Bern, Switzerland. But it doesn’t end there. At a three-day festival, they will share stories about their work in various contexts around the globe. At some 50 public events, they will provide insights into the conditions under which their research was carried out, will discuss some of the obstacles and resistance they faced, tell stories, and provide the public with new persepectives on contemporary events. It will be the first festival of its kind in the German-speaking world. Apart from the award ceremony, entry to all events will be free.
The prize was conceived and launched by Reportagenmagazine, and the True Story Award and the accompanying festival will be carried out in close collaboration with Bern Welcome. The prize is funded by the newly founded True Story Award Foundation.
Marcel Brülhart, Chairman of the Board, Bern Welcome, bruelhart (at) recht-governance.ch, +41 (0)79 359 59 66
Bern Welcomebrings together city marketing, tourism and local activities in the city of Bern. This merger is the first of its kind in Switzerland.
The organisations Bern Tourismand Bern Meetings & Eventsare both included under the umbrella of Bern Welcome AG, and share a joint strategic and operational structure.
Bern Welcomeis primarily funded by the city of Bern, the business network BERNcityand the associations Hotellerie Bern+Mittelland andGastroStadtBern.
Reportagenis an independent magazine for contemporary storytelling. Outstanding authors tell fascinating stories from around the world. Researched in the field, with the protagonists themselves, and off the beaten track. A new edition every second month. In a sleekly designed paperback and a digital format.Reportagenis available in bookstores and from newsagents, in the App Store and by subscription.
Reviving Japan’s Imperial glory and rewriting history to exorcise Japan’s war atrocities has always been an Abe obsession. But teaching ‘Mein Kampf’ in the schools? Modelling a new Japanese constitution after the Nazis? Japan joins the roster of threatened democracies. (Originally published in May of 2017)
The recent article in The Daily Beast opens as follows: Imagine a world in which the Nazis and Imperial Japan won the second world war—that’s the premise of the critically acclaimed TV series The Man In The High Castle, which is science fiction. But as a matter of fact, the grandson of a war criminal, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seems intent on turning that dark fantasy into something more like a reality TV show. The premiere is scheduled for 2020, and he’s drawing on some classics for the scenario: Mein Kampf recently was approved for Japanese classrooms, and the suggestively titled Hitler’s Election Strategy is popular with some members of the Abe Cabinet.
…..In the summer of 2013, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, famous for his verbal gaffes declared in a speech to his political supporters, “Germany’s Weimar Constitution was changed into the Nazi Constitution before anyone knew. It was changed before anyone else noticed. Why don’t we learn from that method?”
Two of Abe’s Cabinet appointees were associated with Japan’s Nazi Party and several of his comrades wrote laudatory blurbs for a book called Hitler’s Election Strategy, published in 1994, and written by a member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The book was banned after international criticism.
Comparisons with the Nazis are hard to brush off if your Cabinet members are looking up to them as role models…..
For the whole article please go read this below. Under the link we will be posting a few more things to consider, mostly in Japanese
Hitler did exactly what he said he would do. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Vice Prime Minister are doing exactly what they said they would do, change the constitution just like the Nazis did. And create the Imperial Japan that once ruled over the people without any democratic restraints or worries about “human rights”.
But Hitler surprised everyone by doing exactly what he had been preaching for more than a decade: turning Germany into an ethnically pure, nationalistically-driven economic machine for making Germany great again. And he thought he could do it fast.For that, Hitler had Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels. In 1933, they were not yet the monsters of history that they later became. But they were ambitious political operatives with a radical agenda and a charismatic leader. They acted with speed and force.The Abe Government Borrows From The Nazi Party↙
Here would be the modern day Japan rewrite of Mr. Range’s article:
But Abe surprised everyone by doing exactly what he had been preaching for many years: turning Japan into a Japanese first, Shinto-worshipping, Imperial and nationalistically-driven economic machine for making Japan great again. And he thought he could do it fast. For that, Abe had Cabinet Minister Suga, the right-wing Shinto cult, Nippon Kaigi, and The Yomiuri Shimbun and a timid press core. In 2012, they were not yet the monsters of history that they later became. But they were ambitious political operatives with a radical agenda and a charismatic leader. They acted with speed and force.
Below is a chart in Japanese of ways in which the LDP and Prime Minister Abe have stolen from the Nazi playbook. It’s not much of a surprise but the similarities are striking. Perhaps because the LDP really did learn from Hitler’s Election Strategy, a book written in 1994 by an LDP member, and blurbed with great praise by several past and present members of Prime Minister Abe’s Cabinet at the time it came out.
Here are the key things Hitler did to consolidate power, as noted by, Mr. Range.
—let loose the police against Jews and Communists to a degree never seen before;
—won emergency powers to govern by decree following the incredibly well-timed February 27 arson against the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building;
—begun the shutdown of dissent and diversity in German publishing and culture through a policy of Gleichschaltung, or forcing everybody onto the same page.
And here is what Prime Minister Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party are attempting to and have done
—let loose the police against dissenters, critics, and protests to a degree never seen before with the passing of the Conspiracy Laws this week (May 2017)
—win emergency powers to govern by decree in their new constitution as soon as they can find a suitable emergency (by 2020)
—continue the shutdown of dissent and diversity in Japan publishing and culture through a policy of Gleichschaltung, or forcing everybody onto the same page, passing a Special Secrets Act, and gradually crushing press freedom. (Japan was ranked #11 in the World Press Freedom Index in 2011 before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power. It is now #72).
Wiser men then myself said a few years ago that the much vaunted Abenomics was just a sexy smokescreen for Abe’s nationalist agenda–and like every great big lie, everyone has fallen for it. While the investors and true-believers of the world wait for the 4th arrow that will never come, Prime Minister Abe and his cronies are quietly getting Japan prepared for their vision of the 4th Reich.
Rural depopulation is a serious problem in Japan, so much that for the past decade, media fiction has devoted an entire genre into telling its stories. Bankrupt shops with their shutters permanently closed, desolate mountain and sea landscapes, no one out on the streets but a handful of old people. These are both metaphors for, and the hard facts of, most Japanese rural areas. Regional governments have been desperate to bring in new residents and to this end, they’re offering stipends, free housing, even matchmaking parties – on the governments’ dime. Rumor has it that since the early nineties, rural towns have been recruiting parolees to become part of the local populace. This information cannot be verified. The people involved will never admit to such a program even existing. But it’s there, and “The Scythian Lamb” is a brilliant fable about what happens when this program kicks in (pun fully intended) on a sleepy little coastal town. A town where, “the people are kind and the seafood is delicious.”
With its slow burning violence and small town melodrama, “The Scythian Lamb” is mindful in many ways of “Fargo” (the TV series) but without the broad streak of snarkiness and splashy bloodletting. Most of all, the dystopian despair that make up much of “Fargo” (and like-minded others) is missing from “Scythian…”
This isn’t a spoiler but the ending is hopeful, even happy. The final scenes close on a rural town whose residents are marginally more joyous than they were last year and there is absolutely no mention of the violence that erupted briefly like fireworks, then disappeared into the night sky. However, the journey to the peaceful end is not easy.
Six ex-cons, all who had served time for murder and now on parole, are selected to live in a fictional seaside town called Uobuka (which means ‘fish deep’). One by one, they arrive – four men and two women between the ages of early 30s to mid-60s – and are given a welcome by the city hall worker Tsukisue (played with breezy finesse by Ryo Nishikido). They are allowed to live in the town, on the condition that they take jobs provided them by city hall, and that they stay for 10 years. In other words, they’ve exchanged a shorter prison sentence for another kind of penance. Already, one of them (Kazuki Kitamura), who represents Japan’s new breed of criminal, has started to complain that he will be “bored to death” here.
Tsukisue is still young, lithe and naive though his high school pal Sudo (Satoru Matsui) assures him that living out in the boonies ages everyone twice as fast. “In your case, it’s four times as fast,” Tsukisue jokes to the noticeably overweight Sudo. But Tsukisue may be envious of the fact that fat or not, at least his friend has a wife and daughter to go home to. Tsukisue on the other hand, looks like a guy who has been celibate for a long time, which is fast becoming the norm for many single Japanese men. But (and this is the thing about Tsukisue) the guy is NOT bitter. He’s gentle, kind and above all, conscientious. He does his job, and then goes home to take care of his dad who is recovering from a stroke. Not much of a life for a good-looking dude. But when he discovers that the newcomers he had chaperoned were each convicted for murder or manslaughter, Tsukisue’s equilibrium is shattered. Will they, you know, like, do it again? His supervisor intones to Tsukisue not to dwell on the past. “And don’t go telling people they’ve just gotten out of prison,” adds the supervisor, because this project could well have a bearing on “Japan’s future.”
Based on the award-winning manga by Tatsuhiko Yamagami and Mikio Igarashi, “The Scythian Lamb” is directed by Daihachi Yoshida. As one of Japan’s last old-school filmmakers, Yoshida has a solid reputation for churning out crime/suspense blockbusters like “Pale Moon” in 2014. “Scythian…” shows Yoshida in an unusually political mode, exploring the many woes of Japan’s rapidly shrinking, super aged population and the general feeling that ours is a no-hope, claustrophobic society. Which is probably true, but in “Scythian…,” the suggested silver bullet is violence. No one is excited about Uobuka being, in the words of Tsukisue, “a nice place with kind people and great seafood.” But when a dead body turns up on the pier, everyone seems to get a glint in their eye. A cloudy sky turns blue. An old man even gets laid.
All this is cause for celebration, considering that most of the Uobuka populace acts half-dead most of the time. Even Tsukisue’s high school crush Aya (Fumino Kimura), the supposed heroine of the story, hardly speaks and never smiles. Aya, Tsukisue and Sudo had once played in the same rock band and Tsukisue tries to rekindle their friendship by inviting them to practice again. Aya reluctantly agrees. Big surprise for Tsukisue when he learns that she has started dating one of the ex-cons: Miyakoshi (Ryuhei Matsuda) who comes off like a bullied victim but actually hoards menace like a grandmother with yarn. You know those skinny, quiet guys who may or may not be a serial killer in a Netflix series? That’s Miyakoshi, right down to his discount sneakers. (Editor’s note:And if you’re a student of true crime in Japan, he channels all the skinny sociopaths who have been responsible for some of Japan’s more horrendous mass murders in recent years–but of course, he’s not one. Not quite)
The others are as compelling if not as troublesome. Still, whenever one or the other is in the frame you sense a storm brewing: Min Tanaka as the ex-yakuza who did eighteen years for killing another boss and feels that it may be too late to start afresh. There is Kazuki Kitamura’s Sugiyama who really enjoys stirring things up, and seems like a refugee from the dismantled gang, Kanto Rengo, which won fame for beating their enemies to death with baseball bats. His confrontation with the ex-yakuza rings surprisingly true. And there’s Shingo Mizusawa as Fukumoto, an ex-barber who slashed his boss’s throat with a razor. The women are given less to do but Mikako Ichikawa and Yuka try to make the most of their roles. Yuka is in her usual hot-chick mode, but Ichikawa manages to steal some scenes as a woman who had routinely been beaten by her boyfriend until one night she cracked his skull as he slept, with a large bottle of sake. “I’m a scary woman,” she tells Tsukisue and it’s moments like these that Uobuka morphs from a nice place with great seafood, to somewhere real.
Opens February 3rd.
Editor’s note: In my opinion, one of the best Japanese films in recent years. The story is subtle, the acting restrained, the quiet violence is convincing. The movie also has a hypnotic, ethereal soundtrack that matches well with the buried mystical theme that pulls the film together. (Jake)
The Yamaguchi-gumi had posted a sign around October 20th, that they would be refraining from having the annual Halloween Party this year, due to “various circumstances”.
It was an oblique reference to the violent gang wars between factions of the group. There was an attempted assassination of the leader of the Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi, a splinter faction, in September. His bodyguard ended up taking the bullet. It seemed like a good call not have the event–no one wants kids caught in the crossfire.
The media reported the non-event, including this reporter. Tensions were low, the children who looked forward to the event, which was restarted last year after a one year hiatus, were unhappy.
Suddenly at around 4pm on October 31st (Japan time), gangsters opened the shutters of their headquarters and began distributing bags of candy to the neighborhood kids, as they have done for over a decade. A gangster dressed as a giant jack-o-lantern waved children inside the compound. The yard was garishly decorated with Halloween lights, blow-up pumpkins and ghosts, and a cotton candy machine according to those who attended.
The neighborhood children were delighted. Each garish bag was decorated with jack-o-lanterns and “Happy Halloween” in English. The bags had cookies, crackers, and chocolate filled koalas.“They did celebrate after all,” rejoiced one local woman. “Not only were the decorations great and the gift bags full of tasty stuff, there were two big lines for cotton candy. And the gangsters were super nice.”Some members were in costume distributing bags saying “Happy Halloween!” while others were in white jumpsuits and bullet-proof vests patrolling he area as the police looked on. “Security was top notch,” stated one mother who attended.
One father in the area of Indian descent wrote me, “The kids got one bag each, worth about 800 yen ($7) worth of stuff. My wife said it was a really fun event.” Many in the large Indian community in Kobe were convinced that they played a role in the tradition, recounting stories of visiting the headquarters in their youth. One woman remembers that eventually Japanese school children began following their lead on Halloween–making costumes out of black garbage bags and tagging along. This year, as a special bonus, the Cotton Candy was packaged in a Pretty Cure (Glitter Force) Anime bags. My daughter Beni would have been delighted–if she was still five years old.
No Masks Necessary
For the rest of the world, the Japanese mafia, even the well-organized Yamaguchi-gumi are frightening creatures. They don’t have to hide in Japan. They don’t wear masks but many of them wear sunglasses and are covered in ornate tattoos, often with violent images, and have a characteristic scowl. Some members cut off a finger in atonement for their own mistakes or on behalf of their friends to settle a dispute. A chopped off finger to atone for your mistakes is known as a shiniyubi (死に指) “a dead finger”. When a pinkie is sacrificed for another person, it’s the more honorable ikiyubi (生き指) or “living finger.” Many yakuza also have facial scars. This dates back to a time when instead of killing a rival, some thugs would just cut the person’s face and let them live. A small number of yakuza deliberately cut their own faces, to give the impression that they had survived a deadly confrontation.
In Japan, to discreetly discuss the yakuza, some people still use their index finger to pantomime cutting their face.
The yakuza derive their revenue from racketeering, gambling, fraud, insider trading, blackmail and other unsavory acts. Many members though, also run legitimate businesses. The Yamaguchi-gumi ostensibly forbids its members from engaging in theft, robbery, and drug dealing. They claim to be a humanitarian organization and are regulated under Japanese laws but not banned outright.
The police were less than delighted with today’s “trick.” An organized crime control detective from the Kansai area said, “We weren’t completely caught off guard but it was a risky move in light of the current gang war. I think their rivals (Kobe-Yamaguchi-gumi and the Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi) were snow-jobbed but now I get the ‘trick-or-treat’ thing’ now.” He went on to explain that the party was good PR for the organization. The false cancellation may have been an effort to stave off trouble and the press, he speculated.
Local press has also noted that many people in Japan are now bringing lawsuits against yakuza groups to force them to vacate their local offices. It appears that this year’s Halloween Party was the gang’s way of forestalling this, while gaining the goodwill of the community. Much of the media came late to the party, but the local newspaper, Kobe Shimbun, posted a slightly critical story around 7:30 pm. They also removed from their website an October 21st article stating that the Halloween party was going to be cancelled, “Probably due to the influence of the gang war.”
I hastily updated my own article—which was hard to do from the scene of the multiple murders at Zama City. One former Kabukicho talent scout was arrested that day for desecration of a corpse, after police found nine severed human heads and body parts in his apartment. They were looking for a missing woman–they probably found her. It was a grisly Halloween indeed. All things being equal, I wish I’d stuck to my original plans to go to Kobe.
In the end, the Yamaguchi-gumi tricked us all. But in some ways, it was the highlight of my dark Halloween.
The police were pissed and so were some of the media. The kids were just happy to get their candy. And it may be the only time in their little lives that they get to turn the tables on the yakuza and safely extort something from them. Trick or treat!?
“I think that the reason the general public identified with the roles I played, was that they were struck by my stance as a man who unrelentingly stands up to absurd injustices. It wasn’t just that I was just going off to a sword fight, but that my character was willing to sacrifice himself in order to protect the people important to him.”–Ken Takakura, August 2013
In honour of Japan’s Celebration of Cinema Day, December 1st, we’ve reposted some reviews and articles on classic films. Some good, some bad, some epic. This was originally published shortly before his death.
Japan’s best actor Ken Takakura has died of lymphoma, at age 83. The actor passed away at a Tokyo hospital on 10 November, his office said on Tuesday. He has been called the “Clint Eastwood” of Japan. Takakura was renowned for his stoic roles in scores of action films and yakuza movies–he was also adept at playing tough but caring men, clumsy in expressing their emotions. He played alongside Robert Mitchum in Paul Schrader directed film, The Yakuza in 1973. He also starred as a by-the-book, honourable and ultimately brave Japanese police officer alongside US actor Michael Douglas in the 1989 Ridley Scott film Black Rain. One of his lines in the movie, probably inspired millions of Japanese men to later study English conversation: “(I’m ) Assistant Inspector Matsumoto Masahiro, Criminal Investigation section, Osaka Prefecture police. And I do speak fucking English.”
Mr. Schrader told me in March of 2011 that Takakura was one of the most impressive actors he’d ever worked with and that his Kendo (Japanese fencing) ability seemed top-notch. He had once offered Takakura the role of Yukio Mishima, the literary genius turned right wing extremist, in his bio-pic film Mishima and Takakura had seriously considered it. However, in the end for reasons he only obliquely hinted at, he politely declined the role. The film Mishima has never been shown in a film festival in Japan.
Among his well-known films were “The Yellow Handkerchief”. He won the best actor prize at the Montreal World Film Festival for “Poppoya” (The Railway Man). He also appeared in some the final “real-life” yakuza bio-pics including 3rd Generation Leader of The Yamaguchi-gumi. During the filming, the former head of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Kazuo Taoka, actually visited the set and spoke with Takakura. Ken Takakura was the consummate professional and even in supporting roles such as in Mr. Baseball, he brought dignity to the Japanese characters that seemed to embody many of Japan’s virtues.
In August of last year, we were able to interview him via FAX and his polite and short responses give a good sense of the man. They are here in both English and Japanese.
originally posted on January 31st 2014
Ken Takakura, 82, aka “the Alain Delon of Japanese cinema” was awarded one of Japan’s greatest honors on November 3rd 2012. The Order of Culture was given to him by the Japanese Emperor at a ceremony held at the imperial palace. Four other notable people, such as researchers and literature academics also received the award.
Known as to be very quiet and tough, Ken Takakura (高倉健氏） rarely gave interviews to the media throughout his career. He is known for having stayed silent nearly for 13 seconds (a record for Japanese TV programs) after a famous television caster asked him a question that he did not want to answer. “In Japanese show business, only a tough and well respected celebrity is able to stay silent during a live show and have that tolerated by the producer,” explained a newscaster for one of Japan’s largest broadcasters.
Ken Takakura became an icon of the so-called ninkyou eiga, (任侠映画) or yakuza chivalry movie, inaugurated in 1963 by Toei Production. In the 1960s, as Japan was still recovering from its lost war and musing over the the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Japanese audience wanted to see heroes in the black market making justice in the streets and feeding the dismissed hungry people, right after the war. The movie that kick started his career was Abashiri Prison. He also gained international recognition with the war movie Too Late The Hero, in 1970, and The Yakuza, in 1975. His role in Black Rain with Michael Douglas 1989, made him even more well-known in the West.
Takakura-sama, agreed to answer few questions for JSRC. We carefully translated it and have posted the entire interview. We are also posting it in Japanese, for our Japanese readers.
Interview with Ken Takakura, in August 2013
JSRC: At present, many film fans in the world see you as the personification of the yakuza on screen, almost a symbol. What are your feelings about this?
Ken Takakura: It’s true that I did many yakuza films in the past, but whether or not I’m a symbol or not, I don’t know. I have done many other roles besides those of a yakuza.
JSRC: What led you to join the world of cinema?
Ken Takakura: I had to make a living.
JSRC: What kinds of movies do you like?
Ken Takakura: As I get older, my tastes changed, but I like movies that pierce the human heart and linger with me.
The Deer Hunter, 1978.
The Godfather 1 & 2.
Posta Pappi Jaakobille (2009).
JSRC: Do you have any interest in the modern yakuza films?
Ken Takakura: None whatsoever.
JSRC: Mr. Takakura, you have been called the Clint Eastwood of Japan, what do you think of that?
Ken Takakura: It’s what someone else thinks, so I have no thoughts on the matter.
JSRC: Why did you leave Toei Production in 1976?
Ken Takakura: There is no short answer (to that question).
JSRC: After leaving Toei, people were able to see you in many different roles? Was that your goal?
Ken Takakura: (My goal) was to meet people.
JSRC: Directors Takeshi Kitano and Miike are said to be geniuses of yakuza film but what do you think?
Ken Takakura: I’ve never worked with either director so I can’t answer.
But the most striking explanation Ken Takakura gave us was worth mentioning here.
Ken Takakura: You seem to be very focussed on the yakuza films I did while at Toei. If you want to understand, why the yakuza films were endorsed by the (Japanese) people, you can’t do it without thinking of the social situation at the time.
When low budget films (picture programs) were at their peak production in Japan, I’d have a schedule where I’d be doing in 4 or 5 films a months. That doesn’t leave much room to really put your heart into a role. But I think that the reason the general public identified with the roles I played, was that they were struck by my stance as a man who unrelentingly stands up to absurd injustices. It wasn’t just that I was just going off to a sword fight, but that my character was willing to sacrifice himself in order to protect the people important to him.
The thing that really changed after achieving independence from Toei was that I could choose which films I wanted to be in. I had my own standards for what films I would act in. Who would I meet? The words and lines written in the script. But the most important thing to me was this: would I be able to like the person I was going to play?*
*Portions of this interview were originally published in a French film magazine
In honour of Japan’s Celebration of Cinema Day, December 1st, we’ve reposted some reviews and articles on classic films. Some good, some bad, some epic.
AVN: Aliens Versus Ninja (エイリアンvs 忍者）released in 2010 is a camp classic for both lovers of Alien films and Ninja films. I was delighted to find that the super-deluxe release of AVN included on the second disc a 15 minute short-film エイリアン Vs 極道 (Alien Versus Yakuza), a Yuji Shinomura film . If you find the movie in the bargain bin at the local Tsutaya, it’s worth picking up. The plot is simple. Young yakuza and his older brother–in the yakuza sense–accidentally run over an Alien while on their way to late-night Karaoke in the boss’s car. They aren’t quite sure what to do with the body. They don’t even realize it’s an alien, believing that they’ve just run over an unlucky foreigner. “Maybe half?”
After a short debate, they decide to dismember the body and get rid of the evidence. Young yakuza goes to scour the glove department for a big knife, buried amidst piles of trashy magazines, but when he comes back the trunk is empty and his older brother (兄貴/aniki) is acting strangely. Could it be that Older Brother realized younger brother had slept with his girlfriend or has something stranger happened? Even when younger brother confesses and makes a peace offering; “Only once! Only slept with her once. I saved you a seat at the speed-dating thing （合コン・gokon)–can we call it even?” –Aniki’s anger is not quelled. What happens next is almost totally predictable but even after the young yakuza confronts the ousted alien, accusing him of being an 当たり屋 (atariya), a con man who shakes people down by throwing themselves in front of a car and suing for damages–the fight isn’t quite over. Because this Alien has a driver’s license.
I wouldn’t want to spoil the rest of the film for our readers but it does solve the ancient question: in a battle between an alien and a yakuza, who would win? Note: Some may argue that this question was settled in the masterpiece Predators, where the lone Inagawa-kai member in the film faces down a Predator with an ancient samurai sword, but Predators are really not your standard aliens. The film is bloody, silly, and probably unrealistic* but in the short yakuza film genre, it’s in a class by itself.
*For instance, I don’t think it’s possible to catch a bullet in your teeth but I’m not a war reporter so I’ll reserve judgement.
In honour of Japan’s Celebration of Cinema Day, December 1st, we’ve reposted some reviews and articles on classic films. Some good, some bad, some epic.This was originally posted on March 10th 2011. (Wow, who would have guessed what would happen a day later.) It has been reposted to commemorate the passing of yakuza movie icon, Ken Takakura, on November 10th 2014.
The film festival opened with a bang or rather the swoosh of a katana (刀) slashing through the air with the showing of Sydney Pollack’s overlooked 1975 classic gangster film, The Yakuza, which starred Toei Yakuza film regular Takakura Ken and film noire/hardboiled action star, Robert Mitchum. “Mitchum, in one of his best roles of the 1970s, is drawn to the Orient by an army buddy (Brian Keith), whose daughter has been kidnapped. But when he gets to Japan, Mitchum finds that her kidnappers are the shadowy Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia–an organization that is as vicious as it is tradition-bound. He must call on friends he made after World War II for favors and finds himself unintentionally trampling on issues of honor, even as he battles for his life and that of the girl he is seeking.” (from Amazon.com)
The script was written by Paul Schrader, better known for writing such classics as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. It is probably one of the most unique yakuza films ever made, in which an American and an ex-yakuza form an uneasy alliance. Takakura Ken would later go on to play the stiff, rule-bound but honorable organized crime control division detective in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain. In the genre, the only thing that comes close to having the same components is Kitano Takeshi’s Brother. (PS. If you can find a copy of the Japanese original version which is 40 minutes longer than the cut released in the west, watch it instead of the US version. It makes it a much better film.)
The tag-line for The Yakuza when released on DVD is an eloquent summary of the yakuza code. “A man never forgets. A man pays his debts.” While the movie is not as close to approaching the realism of 鬼火 (Onibi: The Fire Within) which has its US debut tomorrow (March 10th), it is an amazing film and the sword fighting scenes at the climax are breathtakingly done and some of the tensest action scenes you’ll ever see in any film.
After Paul Schrader did the introductions, I was lucky enough to have dinner with him, and Stephen E. Globus who made the event possible. During his prefatory remarks, and before and after dinner, Mr. Schrader shared the story of how he became interested in the yakuza and the background to the film and his other still-banned-in-Japan masterpiece, Mishima, which depicted the life of famous Japanese novelist and late-blooming right-wing idol Mishima Yukio. Mishima committed seppuku, or hara-kiri (ritual self-embowlment), at Japan’s Self-Defense base in Ichigaya as his final literary statement. According to Mr. Schrader, he intended to write a final poem with a brush-pen dipped in the blood flowing from his guts. Unfortunately, his subordinate botched the job of lobbing off Mishima’s head and other things left that final poem unwritten.
When I was a student at Sophia University in the 90’s, I taught English to one of the doctor’s who performed the autopsy of Mishima. He told me that his shoulders had three or four deep cuts where his disciple had clearly missed the target: Mishima’s neck. This evening while drinking Otokoyama (男山, Man-Mountain), my favorite sake, with the screenwriter, Mr. Globus and members of the Japan society, was the first time I ever knew that there was more botched in that final act than just the decapitation. In his closing remarks, Mr. Schrader also noted that originally Takakura Ken had been offered the role of Mishima but politely bowed out later saying obliquely and apologetically, “There are certain forces that do not want me to do this film and as part of that subculture, I must decline.”
Schrader’s original reason for being interested in the yakuza and film about them came from his brother, who was living in Japan, and wrote him of those amazing Toei studio yakuza films, and the splendor of Japanese life. Schrader expressed his fondness for the rigid rules and politeness of Japanese society, noting, “If I had grown up under those rules, I would have probably hated them. But as a foreigner, I benefit from them but yet am not expected to obey them.” His own daughter was born in Japan in the 80’s on a particularly auspicious day. He hopes someday to be invited to the Tokyo Film Festival but as of yet, since the making of the controversial Mishima and the refusal once of the film festival to show it, he hasn’t been invited to Japan as a speaker for any film festival. The reality of the yakuza (and their hold on Japan’s film industry) are not the only taboo subjects in Japan.
Tomorrow, March 10th, I will be lecturing on Yakuza In Popular Media & Real LIfe: Cracks and Chasms from 6:30 pm. This will be followed by the U.S. premiere of the fantastic Onibi: The Fire Within. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet Mr. Schrader who was funny, humble, and even accommodated my request for the obligatory commemorative photo.
The underworld has its own language, and its own idioms.
Yakuza are not the exception to the rule. For example, instead of saying “going to jail” (刑務所に行く: keimusho ni iku), they say “going to university” (大学に行く : daigaku ni iku). This phrase has a special meaning and is not used randomly. First, yakuza consider that jail is informative, a required kind of rite of passage to become a true gangster. Then, because prison is actually, for the yakuza, an educational place, in a scholastic sense. If they are rich enough (and it is often the case, or their oyabun’s position, given that one of his duties is to provide assistance to his subordinates), they can learn calligraphy, painting, but also the art of haiku, among other things. They get books from other clan members, but others are provided by the Government within the prison. One can find in these prison libraries masterpiece of literature, but more surprisingly, economic or even law books. In fact, the yakuza often get out jail with a better academic level than they had at the time of their incarceration. This “Prison University” is even more important to them than the majority of yakuza has never graduate, and many of them have even stopped attending school before the end of high school.
To talk about jail, yakuza also use terms such as “slammer” (豚箱 : butabako)–literally “pigbox” or “hard labor” (懲役に行く : chōeki ni iku); despite its few advantages (when you have the money to afford them), prison remains a detention center, not a holiday club.
Some of the less bright yakuza spend so much time in jail that they are mostly yakuza in name only. Amongst themselves, they are referred to a ”prison yakuza” (懲役ヤクザ: choeki yakuza).
Le monde criminel possède souvent son propre langage et ses propres expressions. Les yakuza ne font pas exception à la règle. Par exemple, plutôt que de dire « aller en prison » (刑務所に行く : keimusho ni iku), ils diront « aller à l’université » (大学に行く : daigaku ni iku). Cette expression a un sens bien particulier et n’est pas utilisée au hasard. D’abord parce que les yakuza considèrent que la prison est formatrice, une sorte de rite de passage obligatoire pour devenir un vrai gangster. Ensuite, parce que la prison est effectivement, pour les yakuza, un lieu de formation et d’éducation, au sens scolaire du terme. S’ils sont assez riches (et c’est souvent le cas, ou bien le cas de leur oyabun, dont l’un des devoirs est de prodiguer à ses subordonnés une assistance), ils peuvent apprendre la calligraphie, la peinture, mais aussi l’art des haiku, entre autre choses. Ils reçoivent des livres de la part d’autres membres du clan, mais d’autres sont mis à disposition par le gouvernement au sein même de la prison. On peut trouver dans ces bibliothèques carcérales des grands classiques de littératures, mais, plus surprenant, des livres d’économie ou même de droit. De fait, les yakuza ressortent souvent de prison avec un bien meilleur niveau scolaire que celui qu’ils avaient au moment de leur incarcération. Cette « université de la prison » est d’autant plus importante pour eux que la grande majorité des yakuza n’a jamais fait d’études supérieures, et que beaucoup d’entre eux ont même cessé de fréquenter l’école avant la fin du lycée.
Pour parler de la prison, les yakuza emploient également d’autres expressions, comme « la taule » (豚箱 : butabako), ou encore « aller au bagne » (懲役に行く : chōeki ni iku); malgré ses quelques avantages (quand on a l’argent pour se les offrir), la prison n’en reste pas moins un centre de détention, et pas un club de vacances.
In her support, Kazuo Kasaoka, the leader of the yakuza group, Matsurua-gumi (Kobe), submitted a statement to the court which details the time he spent employed by the head of Burning Production, doing his own dirty work for the firm, he says, and watching the sinister activities of others.
When there is a response from the individuals named in the statement and accused of criminal behavior, we will post it here. The statements made here are the opinions of Mr. Kasaoka and not the views of Japan Subculture Research Center.
A Daily Beast reporter (Jake Adelstein) obtained a copy of the statement and then interviewed Kasaoka to ask him why he would put his neck on the line to testify on the beauty queen’s behalf. One might speculate that Kasaoka is motivated by feelings of revenge because he feels he was ripped off by Suho in their past dealings, but he gives different reasons.
In a document, dated Nov. 13, Kasaoka begins by admitting that he is the leader of a right-wing group and the second-generation leader of the Matsura-gumi, with a criminal record.
“Based on my experience working for the CEO of Burning Productions, the harassment that Ms. Yoshimatsu has received is very similar to what I’ve seen and heard while working there,” the yakuza veteran wrote. “[For example], the threats Taniguchi [the alleged stalker] made to Yoshimatsu, ‘If you don’t work for us, we’ll make sure you can’t get a job in the entertainment industry,’ and the harassment that took place after she refused, such as stalking, the use of the media, bothering her family, applying pressure on sponsors [not to hire her] … I feel outrage that a group of so-called men would band together and bully a woman, and this is why I have come forward to make a statement.”
The rough English translation of the document is below, as reference—it has been augmented with material from a ninety minute interview. The original Japanese was also vague in some areas so we have clarified it to the best of our ability. For the full Japanese statement please click the following link. 笠岡和雄・松浦組長の証言
Statement of Facts
Tokyo District Court
Overview of Personnel
I am the Kazuo Kasaoka, the president of Dai-Nihon Shin-Seikai, and the second leader of Matsuura Gumi.
I have been in the world of Ninkyo-Doh since my early days, and I am not of the respectable “Katagi”(honest living) world. I have a history of arrests and a criminal record, however what I write here are all things that I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears, it is all true, none of it is fictional. I plead the judge to read my statement without judgement.
Reason for Submission
I heard about the plaintiff Ms. Yoshimatsu and defendant Genichi Taniguchi and the sequence of events leading up to this litigation from the plaintiff ‘s attorney Mr. Norio Nishikawa at his office on October 16th.
I decided to submit my statement since the incident that triggered this litigation, in which Mr. Taniguchi requested and threatened Ms. Yoshimatsu that she will “not be able to work in the entertainment industry unless you sign with us” and the extreme measures he took after she declined the offer such as stalking and pressuring her, is something that overlaps in many ways with what I have experienced through my interactions with Ikuo Suoh, President of Burning Productions. I also feel a strong indignation towards their tactic, a group of grown men bullying one woman, which lead to myself agreeing to submit my statement.
Furthermore, I would like to add that I have not received any kind of reward or honorarium for submitting this statement.
My Personal Standpoint
For 10 years I served as Mr. Suoh’s Yojinbou(bodyguard) by request of Mr. Suoh via a certain person. During those years, I held an office on the 5th floor of a building Mr. Suoh owned and I had a unit in an apartment building in Kantoh as my residence. The direct renter was a monk of a temple who had agreed to sublet the place out to a yakuza like me by request of Mr. Suoh.
After this period, there were unforgivable actions of betrayal towards me taken by Mr. Suoh and since then, I have been condemning his many wrongdoings centered around facts that I saw and heard during my time as his bodyguard on the blog of “Shin Nihon Shinsei-Kai”, the patriotic group I organize.
It should be noted that the relationship between Mr. Suoh and Mr. Genichi Taniguchi is that of a boss and his henchman. This is a widely known fact to anyone in the entertainment industry. I will later elaborate on this but I can say that I have been in a situation that will clearly prove this fact.
Testimonies Related to Litigation
The fact that Mr. Suoh has been using yakuzas
The fact that Mr. Suoh and Mr. Genichi Taniguchi would use the yakuza and extreme right wing parties to intimidate and pressure talents, productions and TV networks if they saw them as insubordinate.
Regarding A, the fact that I was Mr. Suoh’s bodyguard is the most credible evidence. If Mr. Suoh says “I do not know of a man Kazuo Kasaoka, the second generation leader of Matsuura Gumi and have never requested assistance with any matters to him”, I will directly fight him in court, I do not mind, if anything I would wish to do so.
Regarding B, there is an entry on the blog of Dai Nihon Shinsei-kai I wrote, that depicts the scene of when Mr. Suoh ordered Mr. Genichi Taniguchi to “erase (Miki Mizuno an actress) from the industry”
“Erase Miki Mizuno” Mr. Suoh’s Orders to Mr. Genichi Taniguchi
(Quote from Dai Nihon Shinsei-kai Blog)
Suoh: “(Kasaoka) President, is there any way you could destroy this website? I must kill it now that these things are written up so shamelessly.”
Kasaoka(Note:Stater):”What do you mean please kill it, Boss? You can’t say those things in vain to people in our business, we’ll take it the wrong way, you know?”
President Suoh was quiet again.
Suoh:”Erase her from the entertainment industry, please make Miki Mizuno disappear.”
Suoh:”No, President. If Mizuno decided to become independent, Burning will lose face. I don’t care how much money it takes, please destroy her. Please. Erase her.”
Kasaoka:”Boss, you better not use words like kill or erase.”
I warned him.
After that, Kasaoka mediated the reconciliation between Suoh and the counterpart(Note:Miki Mizuno) but Kasaoka having being concerned, recorded the conversation.
The events that followed after the talk, with only Suoh left in the room, was also caught on tape.
Suoh:”Taniguchi(K-Dash), call the producers of all the networks right now, notify all of them that they are not to use Miki Mizuno under any circumstance! No project, show, paper, none. Tell them if they disobey, we will take away any talent belonging to the Burning Group from their networks, erase them! Tell them we’ll send in propaganda vehicles and the right wings!” (end of quote).
This is the content of the Dai Nihon Shinsei-kai blog entry, that recalls the scene when I as a bodyguard of Suoh, received direct orders from Suoh himself, to erase Miki Mizuno who was his ex-mistress and a former actress at Burning Productions.
I decided to mediate between the two parties, while calming Mr. Suoh down, who was excited and blurting out abnormal things such as “please kill her” “please erase her”. Superficially Mr. Suoh accepted my persuasion and reconciled on the condition that Miki Mizuno, his ex-mistress, would not expose his secrets to the world.
However, Mr. Suoh only pretended to reconcile and he notified producers at each network that “Miki Mizuno is not to be used” through his orders to Mr. Taniguchi.
This is a base betrayal that disgraces myself and all involved parties. He could not take actions himself to keep up his appearances towards me, so he made orders to Mr. Taniguchi. This means that Mr. Suoh and Mr. Taniguchi are acting as one and that the producers at each network cannot go against orders from Mr. Taniguchi such as “don’t use this or that talent” when they know it is coming directly from Mr. Suoh.
Next is the reason why Mr. Suoh was afraid of Miki Mizuno. The reason is that she knew secrets of Mr. Suoh that he was terrified of the world finding out. I will quote furthermore from the Dai Nihon Shinsei-kai blog about the outcome of Mr. Suoh ignoring the conditions of the reconciliation and ordering Mr. Taniguchi to notify the network producers “ not to use Miki Mizuno”. Once you have read this, you will understand why Mr. Suoh was so intent on banishing one actress from the entire industry and medias.
The Reason Ikuo Suoh Ordered the Banishment of Miki Mizuno
From Dai Nihon Shinsei-kai Blog
⚫︎Exposing drugged SEX! The misplaced rage and abomination of Suoh ordering the “banishment” of ex-mistress Miki Mizuno!
There was a revealing statement from ex-mistress that exposed Ikuo Suoh himself as a regular user of drugs. Actress Miki Mizuno, was formerly signed with Burning Productions.
She exposed Suoh and the malicious sex he would have using drugs that she experienced as his mistress on a website run by writer Manabu Miyazaki.
This was a remark she made during a round table talk between Miyazaki, Takagi and Mizuno. Suoh was enraged once he read the talk once it became an article. He came to President Kasaoka, who was in charge of solving any of his altercations at the time, begging him in his deranged state to “please erase Miki Mizuno from this industry, no, kill her!”
After all, a direct testimonial from Mizuno his ex-mistress was made public on the internet. Suoh’s panic is understandable but the request to “erase Mizuno” was rather unsettling. Moreover, Suoh having lost face, would become white as a sheet every time Miki Mizuno appeared on TV and would act in an unmanly and undignified manner such as taking his anger out on his entourage. Losing control over an exposition from an ex-mistress is unfit behavior for a man known as the “Don”(boss) of the entertainment world. Suoh himself should have accepted this as a lesson in life and kept stories between the sheets to himself but in deranged state of anger, his actions caused even more problems of more magnitude. Especially in the world of men, and the world of Ninkyo(way of the yakuza), it would never be acceptable for people to be betrayed and made such fools of by this double faced Suoh. I would like to make it clear that this is the extent of frivolousness that has been displayed time and again by this man.
⚫︎ The battle between Suoh, who betrayed all of his firm promises with President Kasaoka, and Nishiwaki Gumi who was enraged by his actions, declaring revenge! “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” was thus started!
There are many in the entertainment industry who hold grudges against Mr. Suoh for the way he ruthlessly climbed to the top of the industry. Kasaoka President was summoned to serve as his bodyguard by request of the Big Boss’ wife in Kantoh. He would try to see things in his favor. However, after Mr. Suoh went against every condition that was agreed upon when reconciling with Miki Mizuno, President Kasaoka had very little patience for the man. The sequence of events are as follows.
After the separation with Burning Productions, Miki Mizuno was side-lined from the industry for a while and laying low until she was taken under the wing of Nishiwaki Gumi in Kansai. Perhaps Mizuno was encouraged to make these expositions with the intense presence of those backing her up. Being on amicable terms with the Nishiwaki Gumi, President Kasaoka was chosen as the best mediator and after further discussion with Manabu Miyazaki who was the spokesperson, they concluded as follows. According to President Kasaoka, “Mizuno was side-lined from the industry once but was now independently back on her feet and it’s too late to erase her from the industry. However, her side of the deal was that going forward, she would never speak out about Suoh’s secrets including the fact that she was his mistress.” This was Mizuno’s proposal. After hearing these conditions Suoh accepted saying “he understood” and gave his word to President Kasaoka.
Nevertheless, Suoh’s words were makeshift lies. Unable to contain his wrath, Suoh called upon Taniguchi from K-Dash, a group company of Burning, to destroy Miki Mizuno by threatening producers at various TV networks.
“I won’t allow hiring Miki Mizuno on any of your shows!”.
This incident was naturally leaked by the producers who were tired of Suoh’s crude threats. The entertainment industry is a small world. One of the President members of Nishiwaki Gumi, Yamashita had always supported Miki Mizuno and he showed his disgust and rage towards Suoh breaking his word. Yamashita howled “This is not a joke. I will make Taniguchi regret! I will let him know that a man’s word is worth more than his life!”.
This threat took Suoh by surprise and scared him immensely. Suoh would not stand a chance against the Nishiwaki Gumi, widely known as the gang of alpha male warriors within the Yamaguchi Gumi, if they targeted him.
Hearing reverse orders such as “Destroy Suoh! Erase him from the industry!”, Suoh, with no Boss on his side left, came back to Suoh with his tearful apologies.
President Kasaoka, pitying Suoh who begged “They will kill me. Please stop them with your power”, brushed aside his doubts and warned Suoh once again.
“Look, never go after Miki Mizuno again. Let Taniguchi too”. He made sure Suoh understood and was completely under control.
“I understand. I will forgive Mizuno, I truly will this time “
President Kasaoka believed his words and notified Yamashita who was preparing an attack on Suoh. Yamashita stepped away since he could not go against the President’s mediation, and the conflict was resolved. However, after a while, attacks against Miki Mizuno to erase her from the industry was still very much alive, in forms of discreet threats to the TV networks.
President Kasaoka let out a deep sigh, after recalling the intense rage against Suoh’s repeated betrayals and how he came to sever their relationship.
“No matter how far we go, Suoh’s traitor mentality will not be cured. Nevertheless, this is the last warning”.
Ikuo Suoh, take in and reflect upon these words of the President.
Suoh is a pitiful man, indulging in drugged up sex with his mistress, becoming hysterical over an online expose article, running from the hands of Nishiwaki Gumi in fear of revenge like a coward, begging help from ones that he has already betrayed once, then repeating it all over again. His life will end in a lonesome tragedy! The amount of drugs(Cocaine, Heroine, Crack) that permeated the entertainment industry over the last 20 years is unfathomable. Ikuo Suoh has committed an unforgivable crime for polluting this industry with drugs.
One prominent example is that Suoh’s group initiated the induction of drugs at concert halls. I will warn repeatedly that Suoh must pay himself, for the sin of spreading drug abuse in the industry!
“Dai Nihon Shinsei-kai” Press Department
Neither Mr. Suoh or Mr. Taniguchi have the means to sue, protest or explain themselves to defend themselves against the condemnations and criticisms I have made public to the world on the internet.
They cannot do so since all these things are based on facts.
Mr. Genichi Taniguchi was able to carry out such actions toward Ms. Yoshimatsu as a result of the two of them using any means, including the yakuza, to make their way to the top of this small industry. They used the K-1 producer and promoter Mr. Noriyoshi Ishii to bring Ms. Yoshimatsu to Mr. Suoh’s office, introducing him as the man who “decides the rules of the industry”. They promised her support for going independent, in return requesting her to belong under the umbrella of Mr. Suoh and Mr. Taniguchi’s group, forcing her to see Mr. Taniguchi, which is simply put, a threat. A normal person would be intimidated by Mr. Ishii’s looks and physicality alone and be pressured to listen to his demands.
I was also used by them for a period of time.
It may come across as an excuse but the entertainment industry will never see the end to altercations with the local yakuza regarding profit. When I was requested to be the bodyguard, I initially thought that I would serve as the fixer for yakuza issues. In actuality, Suoh asked me to work for him after the shootings targeting him, which later turned out to be staged by nobody but Suoh himself. I did not for a second imagine that I would be asked to “destroy” or “kill” an actress when I first took the job.
“Join our group, otherwise we will side-line you from the industry”. This kind of statement would only come out of their mouths because they were full of themselves, and arrogant enough to think they were the ones to define the rules of this industry.
I strongly believe that the court should rule in favor of Ms. Yoshimatsu, so that they will no longer be able to put pressure on or prevent Ms. Yoshimatsu from enjoying a successful career in the entertainment industry. I believe this because from my own experience I can say, that as long as there are people like Mr. Taniguchi and Mr. Suoh allowed to stay in power in the industry and the media, things may temporarily seem to calm down but Ms. Yoshimatsu’s career in the Japanese entertainment industry will suffer from their obstruction in the future again.
Furthermore, I hope that there will be a severe ruling brought upon Mr. Genichi Taniguchi who has abused the power of Mr. Suoh “the Don of the industry”, manipulating many yakuzas including myself with no integrity whatsoever. This is because people like Mr. Suoh and Mr. Taniguchi are the ones that prevent the healthy growth of the Japanese entertainment industry and interfere with the truly talented young people pursuing their full potential.
I do not have much longer in this life, and I agreed to submit this statement as my final act of service to Japan, the country I love.
憚りながら懲りないし、懺悔しない邪悪な人間もいる。 Some people never repent.
Action Targets Yakuza’s Global Criminal Operations
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated Tadamasa Goto, an individual associated with the Japanese Yakuza criminal network, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13581, which targets significant transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and their supporters. Today’s action is part of the Treasury Department’s ongoing efforts to protect the U.S. financial system from the malign influence of TCOs and to expose persons who are supporting them or acting on their behalf.
“Tadamasa Goto possesses deep ties to the Yakuza and has been instrumental to its criminal operations around the world,” said OFAC Acting Director John E. Smith. “Today’s action denies Goto access to the U.S. financial system and demonstrates our resolve to aggressively combat transnational criminal organizations and their supporters.”
Tadamasa Goto began working in the Yakuza as a member of the Inagawa-kai. The Inagawa-kai is the third largest Yakuza group and was designated by OFAC pursuant to E.O. 13581 on January 23, 2013. Goto subsequently joined the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest and most prominent Yakuza group, which OFAC designated pursuant to E.O. 13581 on February 23, 2012. Goto served in several senior leadership positions within the Yamaguchi-gumi before becoming the head of the Goto-gumi, which was a powerful Yamaguchi-gumi faction. The Goto-gumi was responsible for setting up a network of front companies on behalf of the Yamaguchi-gumi.
Goto headed the Goto-gumi until October 2008, when he was expelled and forced into retirement from the Yamaguchi-gumi and relocated to Cambodia. Despite his retirement from mob life, Yakuza figure Tadamasa Goto reportedly still associates with numerous gang-tainted companies that he utilizes to facilitate his legitimate and illicit business activities. He continues to support the Yamaguchi-gumi and remnants of his semi-defunct Goto-gumi by laundering their funds between Japan and Cambodia. Additionally, Goto has reportedly established links with the notoriously violent Namikawa Mutsumi-kai group, formerly known as the Kyushu Seido-kai, which is recognized by Japan as a Yakuza group.
Tadamasa Goto, one of Japan‘s most notorious underworld bosses, is to enter the Buddhist priesthood less than a year after his volatile behaviour caused a rift in the country’s biggest crime syndicate.
As leader of a yakuza – or Japanese mafia – gang, Goto amassed a fortune from prostitution, protection rackets and white-collar crime, while cultivating a reputation for extreme violence.
Tomorrow, his life will take a decidedly austere turn when he begins training at a temple in Kanagawa prefecture south of Tokyo, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper said today, citing police sources.
The 66-year-old, whose eponymous gang belonged to the powerful Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate, was expelled from the yakuza fraternity last October after a furious row with his bosses over his conduct.
Known as Japan’s answer to John Gotti, the infamous mafia don, Goto reportedly upset his seniors amid media reports that he had invited several celebrities to join his lavish birthday celebrations last September.
Several months earlier he had attracted more unwanted publicity following revelations that he had offered information to the FBI in return for permission to enter the US for a life-saving liver transplant in 2001.
At an emergency meeting last October the Yamaguchi-gumi’s bosses – minus their leader, Shinobu Tsukasa, who is serving a six-year prison term for illegal arms possession – expelled Goto, splitting his gang into rival factions.
According to the Sankei, Goto will formally join the priesthood on 8 April – considered to be Buddha’s birthday in Japan – in a private ceremony.
The former gangster was quoted as describing the occasion as “solemn and meaningful, in which Buddha will make me his disciple and enable me to start a new life”.
In his deal with the FBI, Goto reportedly gave up vital information about yakuza front companies, as well as the names of senior crime figures and the mob’s links to North Korea.
Underworld experts have pointed out, however, that the bureau could have gleaned the same information from yakuza fanzines.
Goto’s transplant was performed at UCLA medical centre in Los Angeles In the spring of 2001 by the respected surgeon Dr Ronald W Busuttil, using the liver of a 16-year-old boy who had died in a traffic accident.
The grateful don, who was suffering from liver disease, later donated $100,000 (£68,000) to the hospital, his generosity commemorated in a plaque that reads: “In grateful recognition of the Goto Research Fund established through the generosity of Mr Tadamasa Goto.”
Jake Adelstein, a former crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, received death threats before he went public with the transplant story last spring, and has been living under police protection ever since.
When it was assigned to cultivate the Tokyo area in the late 1980s, the Goto-gumi stuck to what it knew best: drugs, human trafficking and extortion, before new anti-gang laws forced it to move in to more lucrative areas such as real estate and the stockmarket.
At the height of their powers, Goto’s henchmen were capable of unspeakable acts of violence, including bulldozing businesses that refused to pay protection money and administering beatings to victims in front of their families, reports said.
A 1999 leaked police file noted that “in order to achieve his goals, [Goto] uses any and all means necessary or possible. He also uses a carrot-and-stick approach to keep his soldiers in line. His group is capable of extremely violent and aggressive acts”.
I wrote a little about this several months ago. Actually, I was surprised to see someone catch it in the Japanese version of the blog, because it was a very subtle thing.
Anyway, there are several reasons that the police cite for Goto entering the priesthood. One of them is that he’s facing another trial on real estate fraud charges and would like to make a good impression on the judge. Another is that he plans to use the tax exempt status of a temple or Buddhist priest to launder yakuza money. However, on the underworld side there is a great deal of speculation that Goto is simply trying to stay alive. Everyone who was closely associated with him has now been driven out of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest criminal organization in Japan.
There are people worried that Goto will once again try to make a deal with US or Australian law enforcement/intelligence agencies to trade information for a new liver. He certainly seems to be trying. He knows too much; the attacks his group have made on civilians over the years have so alienated the general public and the police that in many ways he can be blamed for Japan’s gradually harsher anti-organized crime laws.
Of course, a lot of his former pals would also like to see him dead so they can steal his assets. He allegedly has close to a billion dollars saved away in stocks, property, and foreign bank accounts. If I was a hyena, I’d be wanting to strip his bones as well.
Joganji, the temple where he will be staying has a long history as a sanctuary for criminals. It’s a good choice for a safe haven.
Well, maybe he really does regret the way he’s lived his life. For a long-time gangster like Goto, getting kicked out of the Yamaguchi-gumi is like being dead, or becoming a zombie. Maybe he really does feel bad for all the misery his organization has caused via human trafficking, murder, extortion, and violence.
I kind of doubt it.
Buddhism is a wonderfully harsh religion at times. If he’s looking to escape from his enemies, the priest ploy might work. It won’t work for everything.
Neither in the sky, nor deep in the ocean, nor in a mountain-cave, nor anywhere, can a man be free from the evil he has done.
Neither in the sky, nor deep in the ocean, nor in a mountain-cave, nor anywhere, can a man be free from the power of death.