• Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Japan Subculture Research Center

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

Yakuza Terminology: Updated With Weasels and Monsters


Apr 15, 2012

We’ve updated the yakuza terminology section here and there. If you’re interested in the Japanese underworld and anti-social forces, have a read. Brush up on the Japanese you shouldn’t know. By the way, if someone knows how to play itachi-gokko the correct way (like young kids used to play it), please teach me how. It sounds sort of fun.

itachi (鼬・いたち): a weasel, but in the yakuza world also slang for a very good police detective. いたちごっこ(itachgokko) “to act like a weasel” refers to a game that Japanese children play in which it is impossible for either side to win. The police versus the yakuza war which has been going on since 1965 is often referred to as itachigokko.

bakecho (化け調・ばけちょう): A shady private investigation firm, or a supposed corporate investigation that is carried out under fraudulent pretenses or with the goal of blackmailing the target, and/or illegally obtaining information for the yakuza or other anti-social forces. Private investigation firms are often used as front companies for the yakuza, and since they also collect information, they are wonderful vehicles for collecting intelligence to extort money from people or silence investigators. Recently (February 2012)  the Private Investigation firm,  Galu Agency, which has 150 offices nationwide in Japan, had their  Yokohama bureau chief convicted for fraudulently obtaining the personal records of an organized crime cop—on behalf of the Yamaguchi-gumi Kodo-kai. Yakuza Private Eye–it’s a scary combination.

Private Investigation Agencies are popular front companies for the yakuza. The companies and/or their operations/investigations are sometimes called 化け調, from 化ける/bakeru (to become a monster) and 調査 (chosa)to investigate. Illustration by @marikurisato


For even more  yakuza slang, press here with your remaining fingers.



Managing editors of the blog.

2 thoughts on “Yakuza Terminology: Updated With Weasels and Monsters”
  1. My wife said that itachi-gokko is just an expression or sort of a kotowaza, not a game, but then she looked it up in the dictionary and it says it’s where kids will pinch each other back and forth with no clear end or goal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *