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Japan Subculture Research Center

A guide to the Japanese underworld, Japanese pop-culture, yakuza and everything dark under the sun.

Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From the Yakuza or the Cops That Arrest Them #3: If you love your family, don't shoot yourself to death


Sep 18, 2010

A few weeks ago, a yakuza boss who I only knew vaguely shot himself to death. He was badly in debt and facing charges of extortion. I’m sure he was guilty.  I knew his son from a story I did years ago on a Korean-Japanese Savings and Loan Bank that had folded  (Saitama Shogin).

When I read the article about his death, I called the son and expressed my condolences. He was relatively calm about it all. He ran a pachinko parlor in Saitama and unlike his father had stayed out of organized crime.

“Yeah, I was sad. He owed a lot of money. He couldn’t pay his association dues and kept borrowing money from another yakuza loan shark. In the end, with the trial coming up and chances of having to pay a penalty, he did what he thought was best. I respect that. But he left behind a huge debt and not much money.”

I asked if they were going to hold a funeral but he said it wasn’t usually done for suicides. As we were talking, he said there was one thing that bothered him a lot about his Dad’s death.  I asked what it was.

“He shot himself with a really expensive gun. He should have sold that gun. It was a great gun. A Sig Sauer. Relatively new model. Worth at least $20,000 on the black market. He should have sold the gun and gave Mom the money and stabbed himself to death or jumped in front of a train or something.  Blowing his brains out may have been the easiest way to die but it was a little selfish.”

Of course, there was no irony as he was saying this. I guess that’s the lesson to be learned: if you’re a yakuza with a family and you’re going to kill yourself, don’t use a gun. Sell the gun, leave something behind, then whack yourself by other means. It’s the courteous thing to do.

There is a slightly happy end to this story. The old man had taken out a life insurance policy for a substantial amount two years previously. In Japan, after two years of paying life insurance, there is a pay-out for suicide. Even for yakuza. (It used to only require one year but it was made to two years to discourage suicides and murders disguised as suicides and loan sharks pressuring deadbeats to make themselves dead so they could collect their loans).

The son called to tell me the good news and I wished him well, but as I was about to hang up, he had to add, “I guess Dad really did think about us. It was a nice gesture. Still, it’s a shame about that gun.”

Note: Portions of this were first “tweeted.” I have altered some details as to avoid causing trouble to the family or his replacement in the organization. 許してください。

5 thoughts on “Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From the Yakuza or the Cops That Arrest Them #3: If you love your family, don't shoot yourself to death”
  1. I like that so much is said without irony. For an indirect culture, Japan is sometimes VERY direct. Excellent post, Jake!

    ps—couldn’t sleep for days after finished your book

    1. I like that about Japan as well. Thanks for writing into the blog!
      PS. I couldn’t sleep well for years after some of the events in the book and I still can’t. LOL. But my apologies for affecting your sleep. A good night’s rest is important. :)!

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