Hard times for hard men of Japan’s mafia
When you think of ‘Yakuza’, images of grim-faced tough guys in sharp black suits and dark glasses probably spring to mind. While gangsters in Japan’s mafia are often portrayed as merciless professional killers in films, the reality is somewhat different.
Meet Mr. Makoto, a tubby tattooed Yakuza mobster and ‘old-fashioned guy’. He agreed to speak openly about his life and job with RTD’s film crew. Mr. Makoto admits that he joined the Yakuza because he was too lazy to work a real job. The crime syndicate was once a powerful organization. It could operate so openly that it had its own office with a sign on the door. Since legislation against organized crime was adopted in 1992, police can arrest Yakuza at the drop of a hat. Mr. Makoto complains that now he can’t even get a credit card or rent an apartment.
To make matters worse, Chinese gangs have moved in on the Yakuza’s territory. Mr. Makoto says most of the time intergang conflicts are solved peacefully, but if talks fail, turf wars do break out… though it’s a little difficult to imagine Mr. Makoto emulating Jackie Chan in a street fight.
Being a gangster under such tough conditions can take its toll, especially on family life. Mr. Makoto has been married three times, but is now divorced and raising his son on his own. “I wouldn’t want my son to become a Yakuza, because nowadays being a Yakuza in our society is very hard. When he grows up, it will be even harder,” he says.