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Old 2012-03-20, 01:27   Link #1
Applette
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Culture discussion: Yakuza; Japanese high school delinquents

Hello!

New to the forum and so, "Hello, everyone! Nice to meet you!" and please bear with me if there are any mistakes or ridiculousness with this thread.

I'm in the middle of putting together a pet project which requires me to study/observe crime lords and mafia organizations, plus high school gangsterism.

So, I'm here to ask for your input on Yakuza customs/culture/behavior/member ranking/social norms and whatever else you want to add to it. Anything that you could probably find in Wikipedia, I know them as well, so there isn't any need to repeat on that, yeah? Unless you have more to add? Or an opinion or two to throw in?

I'm not just looking for hard facts. The lesser known facts and personal information/experience/opinions/rumors are very much appreciated too. Basically, I'd like to know, on a personal level - what is the Yakuza to you. I believe they have their own customs and social behavior - what do you know about those? How do you feel about those? Anime depicted versions of them pale drastically in comparison to the real thing - what do you think? Even drama series couldn't capture exactly what they're like in flesh and blood. I'm told by a fellow Japanese pen-pal that they have special 'greeting etiquettes' - what do you know about them? When you see them in practice, how does that make you feel? Etc etc...

Lesser known stuff, opinions some might think aren't important - basically anything you think/feel/have opinions for, on a personal level, even if you don't have anything to back them up... I'd love to hear them. All of them.

Plus anything you can tell me about Japanese high school delinquents and their social habits. Just how much of a problem are they compared to the stereotypical American high school bullies? How are they different from their American counterparts? How do they torment students? Etc etc etc...

I am very open to discussion!

Now, LET'S DISCUSS, PEOPLE AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR INPUT!! *bows*

Last edited by Applette; 2012-03-20 at 02:07.
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Old 2012-03-20, 01:48   Link #2
TinyRedLeaf
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Welcome to AnimeSuki.

It takes a while to navigate the forum and bulletin-board technology unfortunately doesn't offer the same level of indexing convenience you'd find in blogging platforms like WordPress, so it's understandable that you don't know where else we've discussed yakuza before.

mystique first posted a link to a fascinating set of BBC photos of yakuza here, which led to some discussion about the Japanese mafia. The most recent mention of yakuza was by SeijiSensei, also in the same thread.

For further reference, I highly recommend the gut-wrenching autobiography of Shoko Tendo, who grew up a daughter of a yakuza boss and lived in a world of vice, drugs and full-body tattoos before she finally turned over a new leaf for her daughter's sake. Her account also offers a great deal of insight into teenage delinquency, for she was once a yanki herself, during which time she was usually knocked out on either drugs or alcohol, and was raped more than once.

Last edited by TinyRedLeaf; 2012-03-20 at 02:00.
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Old 2012-03-20, 01:59   Link #3
Applette
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
....it's understandable that you didn't know where else we've discussed yakuza before.

mystique first posted a link to a fascinating set of BBC photos of yakuza here, which led to some discussion about the Japanese mafia. The most recent mention of yakuza was by SeijiSensei, also in the same thread.

Ah, didn't know that. *le sheepish*
But, what I'm most interested in aren't just the facts about Yakuza life and culture. I'm interested in the lesser known facts too. Like how do they behave/stand/talk etc etc. And the differences between then and other mafia gangs. Basically not just the fact facts, if you get what I mean but opinions (personal ones), personal experience, rumors, stories etc etc... information usually passed down by word of mouth or by passing or rumors or experience.

I might have been a tad unclear about that in my main post, I suppose - I apologise for that. I'll try to re-word certain things.

But thank you so very much for pointing out the other Yakuza thread! I appreciate the kind gesture a lot! I'll definitely check that out for sure! You're awesome!
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Old 2012-03-20, 02:04   Link #4
TinyRedLeaf
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No apologies needed. It's not your fault that old topics easily get buried here. And the previous discussions weren't in a "yakuza" thread so much as they were in the general "Japan Culture" thread.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Applette View Post
But, what I'm most interested in aren't just the facts about Yakuza life and culture. I'm interested in the lesser known facts too. Like how do they behave/stand/talk etc etc. And the differences between then and other mafia gangs. Basically not just the fact facts, if you get what I mean but opinions (personal ones), personal experience, rumors, stories etc etc... information usually passed down by word of mouth or by passing or rumors or experience.
Then I would highly recommend Shoko Tendo's autobiography once again. It's as close as outsiders can get when it comes to having an inside look into Japan's unsavoury underbelly.
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Old 2012-03-20, 05:23   Link #5
warita
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Uhm.... let me ask something first.... do you expect a bunch of teenage otakus, who probably never even were in Japan to have a complex opinion on Yakuza?
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Old 2012-03-20, 05:55   Link #6
TinyRedLeaf
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Originally Posted by warita View Post
Do you expect a bunch of teenage otakus, who probably never even were in Japan to have a complex opinion on Yakuza?
I don't see myself as an otaku... but it's flattering to be thought a teenager.
(*looks at number under my avatar* *I can still boogie, ah yeah!*)

As for the questions, why not? I mean, people are already using Wikipedia as the launching point of serious research (bye bye Encyclopaedia Britannica), something that would have been unthinkable 15 years ago. It means that youth today have unequivocally embraced the wisdom of crowds over that of established experts. That being the case, AnimeSuki is no worse a place to ask about Japanese culture than, say, Yahoo! Answers.

Besides, we've got professional animators, voice actors, musicians, journalists and historians in our midst, not to mention doctors, nurses, financial managers, a former political scientist and even an ex-Nasa engineer! I say we're in good company for directions to credible sources, if not the requested information itself.
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Old 2012-03-20, 08:05   Link #7
Vexx
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This probably belongs in the Japanese Culture thread... (welcome to the forums, be sure and read the rules) but...

one thing I see that often confuses outsiders is how the Yakuza are *part of the community* as well as being crime families/gangs. They participate in the Shinto festivals, they assist in emergencies, etc. The more traditional gangs model themselves like the samurai class of old, exchanging local protection for a fee. Of course, if you're in their territory your business isn't really able to avoid the fee :P (protections racket).

Also, in the last few years, the 'honor code' seems to be wearing a bit thin the gangs seem to be losing some sense of culture, the violence and the illegal trade is getting less tolerated -- so the authorities are actually cracking down on the groups, possibly abandoning the longstanding 'status quo'. I *speculate* its a result of the flagging economy. There's not enough jobs, youth at the margins will tend to gravitate to those who can help them survive. The government isn't doing a great job of encouraging a better jobs environment but as with governments every where they find it easier to crack down. And in a perplexing way - by making it illegal for victims to pay protection money to the criminals. o.O
So great, the business owner can either lose his business to the criminals if he doesn't pay or lose it to the authorities if he's caught paying.
Fabulous, especially since the authorities are doing a lousy job of actually reducing the yakuza population (see -> lack of jobs for youth).

Yes, information about yakuza from anime depictions are about as superficial and inaccurate as trying to grab useful information about American society from an American movie --- that is, to say, very little. I had one friend who taught math in Africa for the Peace Corp. He was from Chicago and his students managed to simultaneously assume he was American CIA and Chicago gangster. They just assumed he had an arsenal of tommy guns and a hidden closet of pinstripe mobster suits as well as secret James Bond gear stashed everywhere... just like in the movies!
=====
Yeah, I see warita's point (it isn't automatically clear that most of the member population has any credibility at all when it comes to Japanese culture)... but as TRL says, we do have some members who, for example, actually live in Japan or have studied it extensively enough to perhaps know something that can't be instantly Googled.

Last edited by Vexx; 2012-03-20 at 08:17.
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Old 2012-03-20, 08:16   Link #8
Applette
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Quote:
Originally Posted by warita View Post
Uhm.... let me ask something first.... do you expect a bunch of teenage otakus, who probably never even were in Japan to have a complex opinion on Yakuza?

It doesn't need to be complex. I've done my factual research on the topic . And yes, now that I know about the existence of such interesting biographies - I'd hunt those down too. What I'm interested now is the public's opinion on them and not necessarily the Japanese public, if you know what I mean. I have my reasons why I'm directing this question in forums. I did ask the same question in other appropriate communites and I do have answers from there but now I'm interested to hear what people here would say. Does that make sense?

Please don't make it sound so condescending. Take it as a random question tossed at you, yeah? Thanks.
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Old 2012-03-20, 08:29   Link #9
Applette
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Quote:
Originally Posted by warita View Post
Uhm.... let me ask something first.... do you expect a bunch of teenage otakus, who probably never even were in Japan to have a complex opinion on Yakuza?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
This probably belongs in the Japanese Culture thread... (welcome to the forums, be sure and read the rules) but...

one thing I see that often confuses outsiders is how the Yakuza are *part of the community* as well as being crime families/gangs. They participate in the Shinto festivals, they assist in emergencies, etc. The more traditional gangs model themselves like the samurai class of old, exchanging local protection for a fee. Of course, if you're in their territory your business isn't really able to avoid the fee :P (protections racket).

Also, in the last few years, the 'honor code' seems to be wearing a bit thin the gangs seem to be losing some sense of culture, the violence and the illegal trade is getting less tolerated -- so the authorities are actually cracking down on the groups, possibly abandoning the longstanding 'status quo'. I *speculate* its a result of the flagging economy. There's not enough jobs, youth at the margins will tend to gravitate to those who can help them survive. The government isn't doing a great job of encouraging a better jobs environment but as with governments every where they find it easier to crack down. And in a perplexing way - by making it illegal for victims to pay protection money to the criminals. o.O
So great, the business owner can either lose his business to the criminals if he doesn't pay or lose it to the authorities if he's caught paying.
Fabulous, especially since the authorities are doing a lousy job of actually reducing the yakuza population (see -> lack of jobs for youth).

Yes, information about yakuza from anime depictions are about as superficial and inaccurate as trying to grab useful information about American society from an American movie --- that is, to say, very little. I had one friend who taught math in Africa for the Peace Corp. He was from Chicago and his students managed to simultaneously assume he was American CIA and Chicago gangster. They just assumed he had an arsenal of tommy guns and a hidden closet of pinstripe mobster suits as well as secret James Bond gear stashed everywhere... just like in the movies!
=====
Yeah, I see warita's point (it isn't automatically clear that most of the member population has any credibility at all when it comes to Japanese culture)... but as TRL says, we do have some members who, for example, actually live in Japan or have studied it extensively enough to perhaps know something that can't be instantly Googled.
That was awesome, thank you! Please trust that I have my reasons why this question is directed to members of this forum. Maybe it should have been in the Japanese Culture thread but to be honest, it doesn't need to be. I'm interested in the opinions of those outside of the Japanese sphere too. If that's a personal pet peeve of yours, I sincerely apologize for the mistake *bows*

It's pretty much a secret side project I'm compiling at the moment with a small group of researchers and therefore I'm not at liberty to explain too much but basically... the yakuza has often been misrepresented/misinterpreted terribly, especially by publics outside Japan. I'm interested to know the why-s, how-s, what-s when that happens.

This discussion doesn't necessarily need to be complex. I just want to know what people think. It's find if certain people have really complex views on the topic but it's also fine if others have a much simpler take on it. It's only natural, isn't it?
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Old 2012-03-20, 08:37   Link #10
Vexx
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Its not a pet peeve... its how information is organized on the forum. The mods are pretty keen on posts landing in the most appropriate subforum. Questions about Japanese culture go in the Japanese Culture thread. It isn't restricted to those "inside the Japanese sphere" (whatever that means ).

General Chat is simply for those threads that don't fit somewhere else (like suggestions for anime/manga go into the Suggestions thread; anime questions that don't address a specific series go into the General Anime thread; and so on).

If you browse the forum structure, it isn't too hard to figure out. It also makes it more likely you'll get answers from people with a clue -- a lot of us just stay out of General Chat, for example, because many threads tend to erupt in polarizing arguments

edit: heh, oh and double posting is a rules violation - it is encouraged to edit one post and extend it.

I'm not poking at you... just helping you avoid having your posts deleted and a possible ban if you violate too many rules.

Last edited by Vexx; 2012-03-20 at 08:49.
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Old 2012-03-20, 09:16   Link #11
Sumeragi
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Hmmm....... Here's some food for thought, which comes from the game "Yakuza 4": "The police and yakuza helped rebuild Japan after its defeat in World War II, but we did so, in the background. The police kept order and protected citizens from the crime that directly affected their lives. Meanwhile, the yakuza preserved Japan's independence by keeping foreign threats out."
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Old 2012-03-20, 09:19   Link #12
Vexx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumeragi View Post
Hmmm....... Here's some food for thought, which comes from the game "Yakuza 4": "The police and yakuza helped rebuild Japan after its defeat in World War II, but we did so, in the background. The police kept order and protected citizens from the crime that directly affected their lives. Meanwhile, the yakuza preserved Japan's independence by keeping foreign threats out."
o.O I'm sure the Japan Occupation Forces veterans found that an amusing idea. Sounds a bit self-serving but then most mythologies are - one likes to romanticize one's behavior.

Maybe that translates as "we offered bars and brothels to the foreign occupiers so they'd leave the regular people alone"
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Old 2012-03-20, 09:28   Link #13
Sumeragi
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We could go into how ultranationalist organizations are intertwined with the various criminal organizations, with Yamagata's connections to the Yamaguchi Gumi, but that probably would take a whole lot digging through my notes which I rather would not do.

We can simply summarize things like this: The modern yakuza has been working with society as much as it worked against it. Unlike most other criminal organizations, the yakuza is an integrated part of Japanese society, to the point which is uncomprehensible to non-Japanese. In addition, the earlier ones have been the bastion of ultranationalism, which cannot be ignored.
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Old 2012-03-20, 09:59   Link #14
Vexx
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I'd cookie that, Sumeragi, but it says I have to wait ... yeah, ultranationalists and the yakuza could be considered joined at the hip by some accounts. The closest Western concept I've ever been able to come with is the old idea of a Thieves Guild that the King's Guard knows about, sometimes works with, and lets alone as long as they don't interfere with the King's business or over-terrorize the merchantile class. Each one needs the other for a purpose to exist in some way.
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Old 2012-03-20, 10:10   Link #15
MakubeX2
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It's time like this, I'll like to differ the discussion to the experts, such as one Jake Adelstein and his memoir Tokyo Vice. His blog cum website on Japan is equally informative as well. He can be contact on Twitter here.

According to him, the Yakuza of old is no more as the younger generation takes over the old guards. The burst of the bubble economy has changed the Yakuza into a true mob where only money matters. Hell, the old Yakuza will never deal with drugs, unlike the new ones. They only kept the facade of the old honour and loyalty only because they recognize the importance of PR and the need of new recruits for the ranks of chinpiras amongst others.
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Old 2012-03-20, 10:18   Link #16
Bri
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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
I'd cookie that, Sumeragi, but it says I have to wait ... yeah, ultranationalists and the yakuza could be considered joined at the hip by some accounts. The closest Western concept I've ever been able to come with is the old idea of a Thieves Guild that the King's Guard knows about, sometimes works with, and lets alone as long as they don't interfere with the King's business or over-terrorize the merchantile class. Each one needs the other for a purpose to exist in some way.
A western example would be the mixing of organized crime and nationalist/ultra right wing political parties among football fan-bases in parts of Europe and South America.
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Old 2012-03-20, 10:19   Link #17
Solace
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I think this topic is complex enough to stand on its own, as it will likely draw comparisons to other cultural mafia type organizations....inevitably. However do mind the double posting.
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Old 2012-03-20, 16:06   Link #18
warita
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I didnt mean to sound condesensing, I was actually really interested in what exactly you expect to hear from us.

I wasnt aware that yakuza is such a well known subject. Frankly I couldnt say more on it other than "yakuza exists".
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Old 2012-03-20, 16:39   Link #19
Sumeragi
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It's time like this, I'll like to differ the discussion to the experts, such as one Jake Adelstein.
I'm not a particular fan of him when it comes to the pre-bubble burst Yakuza.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MakubeX2 View Post
According to him, the Yakuza of old is no more as the younger generation takes over the old guards. The burst of the bubble economy has changed the Yakuza into a true mob where only money matters.
This is partly true, more often than not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MakubeX2 View Post
Hell, the old Yakuza will never deal with drugs, unlike the new ones.
The old Yakuza did deal with drugs. The main difference was that the focus was outside of Japan, whereas now it has come home.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MakubeX2 View Post
They only kept the facade of the old honour and loyalty only because they recognize the importance of PR and the need of new recruits for the ranks of chinpiras amongst others.
At the same time, society expects them to keep to the old traditions. Without society's support, then the crackdown that is happening these days would be stalled from the roots.
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Old 2012-03-20, 17:16   Link #20
MakubeX2
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Quote:
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I'm not a particular fan of him when it comes to the pre-bubble burst Yakuza.
How many other people do you know, especially one who is fluent in English and knows how how the system works, had survived Yakuza threats and attacks first hand and lives to tell about it in a book ?

Quote:
This is partly true, more often than not.
Tadamasa Goto betrayed his own organisation to the FBI in order to save his own life. How's that for honour ?

Quote:
The old Yakuza did deal with drugs. The main difference was that the focus was outside of Japan, whereas now it has come home.
Why then did they choose to harm the society they were sworn to protect ?

Quote:
At the same time, society expects them to keep to the old traditions. Without society's support, then the crackdown that is happening these days would be stalled from the roots.
You know, if the Yakuza today targets an individual, that individual's friends and family suffers first before the Yakuza kills that individual. From my view, the Yakuza of old will go directly for their target, without involving anyone else.
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