LAWS AIMED AT FIGHTING THE YAKUZA

LAWS TO FIGHT THE YAKUZA


police versus yakuza
The laws that have been created to fight organized crime are relatively weak. In some cases the laws intended to fight them are part of administrative law rather than criminal law and takes the form of injunctions, with arrests taking place only after the injunctions have been violated. When asked why they don’t crack down more on organized crime one policeman told Jake Adelstein, “We don’t have a RICO Act. We don’t have plea bargain, a witness-protection program. So what were end up doing most of the time is just clipping the branches...If the government would give us the tools, we’d shut them down, but we don’t have them.”

At various times, people in Japanese cities have launched anti-yakuza campaigns with mixed and varied success. In March 1995, the Japanese government passed the Act for Prevention of Unlawful Activities by Criminal Gang Members which made traditional racketeering much more difficult. Anti-gang laws was enacted in 1992 made it easier to close down gang offices, search gang properties and arrest bosses and senior members for crimes committed by their underlings. In 2000, the police were given the power to use wiretaps to investigate organized crime.

In 2006, a number of initiatives were implemented to exclude organized crime groups from various sectors, including stock markets, sporting circles and public works projects. The measures are designed mainly to prevent the flow of financial resources from crime groups. Organizations in a number of sectors were encouraged to get police help in their battles against the gangsters. Investigators weeded out groups and companies with yakuza affiliations and cut off government funds to these groups, with particular attention paid to public works projected connected with the Construction and Transportation Ministry.

Anti-gang legislation passed in 2007-2008 defined harassing and extorting government officials as an “an act of violent demand” and made gangs liable to “economic damage” caused by their actions. The laws were enacted in response to an increase in attempts by gangs to pressure officials to win contracts and an increasing number of cases in which third parties and innocent bystanders were victims of gang activity.

The Law for the Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds and Other Matters says that illegal proceeds from prostitution, and drug and weapons sales may be confiscated as crime-related profits. The law is only applicable to a limited number of criminal activities and does not fully cover all organized crime.

The National Police Agency and other government departments are pressuring businesses of various sorts to severe ties with the yakuza. The country’s finance ministry, for example, has directed banks to step up safeguards to prevent money laundering, cut off loans to mob-related companies and deny bank accounts to individuals with known gangster ties.

A new gun law passed in October 2007 includes a maximum fine of ¥30 million and a prison sentence of five years to life for firing a gun on behalf of an organized crime group.

New Laws Aimed at Punishing People Who Do Business with the Yakuza

New laws threaten to name, fine and jail ordinary citizens who knowingly do business with established crime syndicates Financial institutions ban transactions of not only gang members, but also citizens who have close contact with them. Life insurance companies have established a clause in their contracts that allows them to cancel contracts of members of crime syndicates. The association of auto dealerships set up a policy clause that bans vehicle sales to gangsters. Some municipalities refuse to rent public housing to mobsters. At the end of 2011 all 47 prefectures in Japan had ordinances making it illegal to have ties with gangs.[Source: Kenji Ogata, Asahi Shimbun, September 8, 2011]

Justin McCurry wrote in The Guardian: After decades of tacit acceptance, Japan's yakuza gangs are facing their biggest challenge: not from the police, but from ordinary citizens who are under pressure to shun the mob or be named and shamed. Tokyo recently became the last of Japan's 47 prefectures to introduce local laws aimed at depriving crime syndicates of income by targeting firms that knowingly do business with them. Under the nationwide ordinances firms that help the yakuza earn money will be warned, and their names made public if they refuse to sever their ties. Repeat offenders face fines of up to 500,000 yen (£4,200) and company officials can face jail terms of up to a year.[Source: Justin McCurry, The Guardian , January 5, 2012]

The prospect of being shamed in public, as well as losing potential customers and bank loans, has prompted some legitimate businesses and groups to sever their yakuza ties. Last year Enryakuji, a prestigious Buddhist temple near Kyoto, said it would refuse to allow members of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the country's biggest crime group, to pay their respects there.

The entertainment world was rocked by revelations that one of Japan's most successful TV celebrities, Shinsuke Shimada, had ties to organised crime. Shimada's immediate resignation was followed by vows from TV executives and a film studio in Kyoto to steer clear of the mob. A company that prints business cards said it would no longer accept orders from gang members.

Details of New Laws Aimed at Punishing People Who Do Business with the Yakuza

McCurry wrote: The idea, say law enforcement officials, is to shame businesses into turning their backs on the mob. "It is going to be more difficult for the yakuza to collect funds," said Akihiko Shiba, a former police superintendent who is now a lawyer specialising in corporate compliance. "Police once concentrated on the gangs themselves, but the new approach is clamping down on those who help the gangs make money."

An antigang ordinance that had gone into effect in all prefectures by October 2011 prohibits ordinary companies and individuals from extending favors to criminal organizations.The ordinance stipulates that the public safety commission will admonish companies and people for using gangs for their own purposes or assisting them in their activities. This stipulation could be applied to restaurateurs who pay protection money to gangs and hotels leasing banquet rooms to them. Members of criminal organizations also are punishable under the ordinance if they demand money or favors. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 7, 2011]

The names of the companies that do not heed such admonishments will be publicly identified as having close relationships with gangs. These companies would find it impossible to get new bank loans, society would lose confidence in them and their businesses would be endangered. The ordinance has placed additional heavy responsibilities on companies.

The biggest aim of the ordinance is to choke off the funds criminal organizations collect. It is obvious the ordinance will have no effect without the cooperation of companies. The main question is how much protection the police can guarantee if companies and individuals take a tough stance toward gangs. It is not easy for ordinary citizens to tell whether a person is a member of a criminal organization or not. Quite a few gangsters continue their activities through front companies that appear to have no relationship with criminal organizations.

Often people become deeply involved with them before realizing they are members of a criminal organization. If they try to sever these ties, the gangs could threaten or cause trouble for them. Many of the gang shootings in the country this year have targeted companies that have tried to cut their ties with criminal organizations. Gangs use deplorable acts of violence to stop public efforts to exclude them from society.

Jake Adelstein on the New Laws Aimed at Punishing People Who Do Business with the Yakuza

Jake Adelstein wrote on the The Atlantic Online: Today on October 1st, both here in Tokyo and in Okinawa, the boryokudan haijojorei or organized crime exclusionary laws, go into effect, thus making all of Japan a lot less yakuza friendly; it’s the start of the Big Chill. The laws vary in the details, but they all criminalize sharing profits with the yakuza (aka the Japanese mafia) or paying them off. [Source: Jake Adelstein, The Atlantic, October Oct 1, 2011]

In other words, if you pay protection money to the yakuza, or use them to facilitate your business affairs, you will be treated as a criminal. You may be warned once, but if you persist in doing business with the yakuza, you may have your name released to the public, be fined, imprisoned, or all of the above.

What is particularly vexing to the yakuza, however, is that any payments to the yakuza are criminalized. For example, if the yakuza are blackmailing you or extorting cash from you and you pay them off, you are no longer a victim under the new laws--you are also a criminal. Thus, for most people the benefits of throwing yen at the yakuza to keep them quiet has faded. Blackmail and extortion are huge money makers for the mob in Japan. Last year roughly 45 percent of all the people arrested for the crime of kyokatsu in Japan were yakuza members. But hush money can be a big business only when people will pay you to hush up. When they start going to the police as soon as you try to shake them down, the business model falls apart.

To explain the new laws, the Tokyo government has put together this illustrated guide. A retired police detective explains the law very simply: “The new laws will make the price of paying off the yakuza, in loss of face and in penalties, much more expensive than the actual cash payments to the yakuza. It highly incentives firms not to cooperate or collude with organized crime, much as the revisions to the commerce law in December 1997, made it unacceptable for large listed companies to pay off sokaiya, a/k/a racketeers. After a few major company executives were arrested along with the bad guys for riekikyo the pay-offs drastically declined, as did the number of sokaiya.”

The price for being publicly linked to the yakuza are not only public humiliation, increased police scrutiny, and possible punishment, but for businesses it can mean a huge loss of revenue, cash flow problems when banks refuse to loan money, revocation of licenses, and possible termination of rental agreements for office space. For any small business, being outed as a yakuza front company is more than likely to result in bankruptcy or eviction. On an individual level, it means being fired or forced to resign from your occupation, as was the case of popular comedian and TV host Shimda Shinsuke in August.

The new ordinances do not have exceptions for foreign firms. They obligate all companies operating within Tokyo to follow the ordinance by inserting organized crime exclusionary clauses into their contracts,and making an effort not to do business with the yakuza and/or other anti-social forces. The Tokyo ordinance is unusual in that it includes, a “do tell, and we won’t ask” escape clause. If you go to the police, before they come to you, and tell them that you have been working with the yakuza, the police will exempt you from the ordinance and help you sever relations. (This does not apply if you have been using the yakuza to threaten people.)

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has assembled a cross-divisional team of over 100 officers to put the new laws into effect. As one police source puts it, “There’s only one daimon that’s allowed in the Tokyo now. That’s the sakurada-mon."

Yakuza Response to New Laws Aimed at Punishing People Who Do Business with the Yakuza

Justin McCurry wrote in The Guardian: But Japan's most powerful yakuza don ridiculed the latest crackdown. Depriving large numbers of gang members of their livelihoods could damage public safety, Kenichi Shinoda, head of the Yamaguchi-gumi, said in a rare media interview. "If the Yamaguchi-gumi were to be disbanded, public order would deteriorate immediately," he told the Sankei Shimbun. [Source: Justin McCurry, The Guardian , January 5, 2012]

The result, he warned, would be the creation of a population of dispossessed mobsters who could turn to violent crime to make a living. "Yakuza gangs are amazingly gentlemanlike," he said, citing the traditional respect for seniority that binds gangs together. "[We] adhere to those values more than ordinary people do."

The gangs themselves have produced manuals showing members how to sidestep the new laws. Some of the measures border on the banal: faxing documents rather than using made-to-order stationery, and cancelling contracts with outside caterers. The Yamaguchi-gumi is reportedly considering a ban on sending traditional gifts to business associates, and holds weekly meetings to discuss its response to the new ordinances. Other groups have distributed in-house guides to the legal changes, and even hold funerals for members on their own premises rather than risk entrapping privately run crematories. "These moves demonstrate an awareness among gangs of how businesses they are associated with might fall foul of the law," an unnamed investigator told the Mainichi Shimbun. "We want to cut off the gangs' funding sources."

But innocent citizens, too, risk having their livelihoods ruined by unwittingly providing services to the yakuza, said writer Atsushi Mizoguchi, Japan's foremost expert on organised crime. "Some companies have already been named and shamed," he said. "They can't get bank loans, or lenders have cancelled existing loans. In a few cases they have even gone bankrupt. Before, it used to be the police v the yakuza; now it's the people v the yakuza. The police have taken a step back and put more pressure on companies themselves to confront the yakuza."

Despite this the yakuza remain a powerful force in Japanese society. The the new ordinances will make it more difficult for gangsters to earn a decent living bu other forces are also at work. "The penalties for breaking these ordinances are quite light, but as the economy worsens, yakuza finances will weaken, so I at least expect to see more people dropping out of these organisations."

Explaining a recent wave of violence that struck close to ordinary citizens the Yomiuri Shimbun reported in February 2012: The underlying reason why the crime syndicates have become more violent is public momentum to get rid of antisocial groups, which was heightened by prefectural ordinances aimed at the ultimate elimination of crime syndicates. The ordinances were put into force in all prefectures by autumn.[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, February 28, 2012]

New Anti-Gang Law in Japan

The authorities' fight against organised crime took another step forward when the national police agency unveiled a new bill enabling officers to step up surveillance of the most violent gangs and take pre-emptive measures if necessary. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, February 28, 2012]

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported in February 2012: The government plans to soon submit a bill for amending the Antigang Law to the current Diet session, after obtaining Cabinet approval. The bill would allow authorities to label certain designated crime syndicates as posing a grave danger to citizens, and immediately arrest members if they engage in unlawful activities. Punishments under the Antigang Law would also be stricter.

Under the current law, when crime syndicate members demand shops to pay protection money, public safety commissions must first issue administrative orders demanding the extortion stop. Police are allowed to crack down on syndicate members only if they ignore the orders. The bill would allow police to arrest such members of labeled crime syndicates without administrative orders.

The revision would also allow organizations jointly established by police and local communities to expel crime syndicates from their communities by filing lawsuits to make them leave their offices. The idea is to prevent ordinary citizens from having to directly face off against crime syndicates.

New Legislation to Protect Citizens Against Organized Crime

At the end of 2011, the National Police Agency established a measure that enables police officers to offer strong protection to citizens seeking to cut off relations with crime syndicates. The measure has already been implemented in Tokyo and Fukuoka Prefecture. In February 2012, NPA Commissioner General Yutaka Katagiri instructed prefectural police headquarters to actively appoint police officers to guard citizens under the new system.

New legislation passed in February 2012. Kyodo reported, calls for newly designating gang groups that are engaged in gang wars and may put citizens in physical danger through fighting. In such cases, public safety commissions which supervise prefectural police forces will be allowed to establish "caution zones" covering those gangs' territories so they would be able to act swiftly when problems occur. [Source: Kyodo, January 5, 2011]

The revision bill also calls for designating gang groups that engage repeatedly in such dangerous acts as gun and firebomb attacks. If such gangs make unjust demands of citizens in the designated zones, the police would be allowed to crack down on them immediately, the officials said. The law strengthens penalties for gangsters who violate the law by imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 5 million yen. Before the law sets penalties of imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 1 million yen.

The police agency said it is considering placing a ban on gangsters from becoming hired bodyguards, noting that many gangsters use violence in such jobs and gain protection money from businesses. It is also planning to ban gangsters from making unjust demands of business firms, mainly in the financial and real estate sectors, and also to urge such companies not to provide benefits to gangs.

The agency envisions including five groups under the new designation. Among them are the country's biggest gang group, the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, and the Kudo-kai group which is based in Kitakyushu, a major industrial city in Fukuoka Prefecture, agency sources said.

Revised Gang Law Put into Effect in October 2012

The revised Antigang Law took effect in October 2012, allowing authorities to label certain designated crime syndicates as repeat offenders against companies and shops, and immediately arrest members who make unlawful demands. The Yomiuri Shimbun: “The success of the revision will depend on whether police can build and maintain the trust of local citizens. The efficacy of the revised law will be tested in terms of curbing gang activities such as illegal fund-raising--particularly in Fukuoka Prefecture, which has been hit by a series of brutal incidents involving gang members. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 31, 2012]

Recently, in Kokura-Kita Ward, Kitakyushu, police officers have regularly patrolled the streets in an entertainment district that is often visited by gang members. "These days, gang members aren't as showy as they were before," a local restaurant owner said. "But we've heard they still frequent certain bars and restaurants.” [Ibid]

Two years ago, the Fukuoka prefectural government pioneered implementing an ordinance that prohibits companies and individuals from providing crime syndicates with any benefits. It also enacted another ordinance this past August under which gangsters are barred from entering eateries that display a sticker issued by the Fukuoka Public Safety Commission. Violators of the ordinance will be ordered to stop their behavior or be fined. The ordinance is expected to be effective in fighting gang organizations--the sticker has been posted at about 3,700 bars and restaurants in the prefecture.

Under the original Antigang Law--as well as the Fukuoka ordinance on the sticker--gang members can be arrested only if they are found not in compliance with orders to cease illegal activities. Therefore, some have called for improvements regarding this approach. Many people said they feel "uneasy" at the thought that gangsters are nearby. The revised law enables prefectural public safety commissions to impose strict regulations on the activities of designated crime syndicates that have been labeled as repeat attackers of businesses or that have taken part in fierce battles with rival gangs. These organizations may express their opinions during the screening process when being labeled or file complaints afterward. [Ibid]

If a designated crime syndicate is labeled as a repeat attacker, their members can be arrested as soon as they extort contributions in the form of protection money, demand participation in public works projects or make other unlawful requests. However, police can only do so after being informed by companies or eateries. "Whether Fukuoka Prefecture's sticker scheme and the revised Antigang Law will be effective depends on if we can earn the trust of citizens," a senior National Police Agency official said. NPA Commissioner General Yutaka Katagiri said the outcome of the fight against crime syndicates in Fukuoka Prefecture will be a "key factor in affecting gangs nationwide.” [Ibid]

As a result, the NPA has deployed about 8,000 riot police and other officers nationwide to Kitakyushu. It will consider drastically increasing the number of officers tasked with guarding potential targets of gangs. To aid the fight against gangs, the Kitakyushu municipal government has replaced about 30 street lights with brighter light-emitting diodes. It will also install an additional 180 security cameras with the help of the prefectural government. [Ibid]

Resistance by Yakuza to the New Gang Law

The Yomiuri Shimbun: “Soon after the ordinance was enacted, however, eight cases of arson or assault at eateries that displayed the sticker were reported. In some cases, restaurant owners were attacked by a knife-wielding assailant. Additionally, about 120 eateries in and around Kitakyushu have received threatening calls demanding they remove the sticker. "I'd like to kick out crime syndicates [from our community]. But I'm scared that I might become a target of their attacks," one female restaurant owner said. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 31, 2012]

In the five years up until 2011, crime syndicates nationwide attacked 101 companies and restaurants that tried to cut off ties. Thirteen such attacks have been reported from January through September. "Fewer people visit our city's entertainment districts," Mayor Kenji Kitahashi said. "We want to make these areas safer so people can enjoy themselves without fear.” [Ibid]

One restaurant owner said he bears high costs to protect his employees, mainly by arranging for taxis to take home staff working the late shift. "We'd be playing into the hands of crime syndicates if we give in now," he said. "I don't want them to do whatever they like in our community. I think this is a crucial moment for us.” [Ibid]

Legislation to Ban Gangs from Offices

In October 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: The National Police Agency unveiled proposed revisions to the Antigang law that would allow police to prohibit an organized crime group from using its office if it is deemed likely to have been involved in an attack against a business firm. The revised law would authorize the police to take such action even if they have not identified the perpetrator of the crime. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 15, 2011]

Police investigations of attacks on business firms tend to become drawn out, as such attacks often occur late at night and involve a stolen vehicle, leaving little evidence behind. In a bid to prevent a perpetrator from launching another attack, the agency decided to impose such restrictions as banning the use of the group's office. The police would have the power to impose the ban even if they have not identified the perpetrator but are close to identifying the crime group involved through such means as tracing threatening phone calls.

Specifically, the police would designate a crime group that has repeatedly been involved with shooting attacks as "a particularly dangerous organization" and keep a close eye on them. If such a crime group is found to have been involved in an attack, the police would issue an order to prohibit the group from using its office. Under the current Antigang Law, such an order can be issued only when a group is found to be involved in gang warfare.

The revised law would also prohibit a gang member from prowling about a targeted firm or the residence of a senior executive of the company, as well as pressuring a firm to sign a business contract. The agency is also considering the idea of having prefectural centers for the elimination of boryokudan (an organized crime group) file lawsuits on behalf of local citizens seeking the removal of such groups from their offices. The agency has begun talks with the Justice Ministry on the matter.

As prefectural governments have already put into force ordinances that prohibit offering illegal benefits to a crime group, the momentum for driving out crime groups has been gaining pace. "The revision of the law is necessary to protect citizens and those business firms trying to sever ties with criminal organizations," said a senior NPA official.

Arrest of Executive in a Construction Company Extortion Case

In October 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Michimasa Kikuchi, 63, president of Kikuchi Kogyo, a construction firm in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, over attempted extortion and violation of the Company Law. Kikuchi was arrested on suspicion of trying to extort 100 million yen from Tokyu Construction Co. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 20, 2011]

It is the first high-profile case of a listed company being threatened over its attempts to end a business relationship with a criminal organization since the introduction of ordinances prohibiting such ties in all prefectures. Fukuoka Prefecture's ordinance took effect in April last year. Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture were the last to enact such ordinances, doing so on Oct. 1.

According to an MPD official, Kikuchi's brother is a former senior member of a gang linked to the Dojinkai organized crime syndicate. Kikuchi himself has allegedly had dealings with several crime groups in the Kyushu region, the official said. According to sources close to the police investigation, Kikuchi allegedly became angry when Tokyu Construction's Kyushu office tried to sever its business ties with his company in February. The general contractor, based in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, did not want to be in violation of a prefectural ordinance prohibiting business dealings with gang groups.

Kikuchi allegedly demanded Tokyu pay him a "retirement allowance" of 100 million yen in cash. "I asked [Tokyu] for work, but I never demanded money from them," a police official quoted Kikuchi as telling investigators.

In February, Tokyu's Kyushu office in Hakata Ward, Fukuoka, notified Kikuchi Kogyo that it was terminating its business relationship with the company to avoid violating the ordinance. After Tokyu refused his demand for 100 million yen, Kikuchi purchased 1,000 shares in the firm in March, according to investigators. Kikuchi allegedly sent a letter to Tokyu in March or April, and threatened to announce at a Tokyu shareholders meeting that the general contractor had links to a criminal organization. Tokyu filed a complaint with the MPD.

Kikuchi attended a Tokyu shareholders meeting on June 24, where he reportedly said: "I've sent a letter to the [Tokyu] president. What's the problem with that?" His question reportedly went unanswered, and he made no further remarks.

Tokyu subcontracted construction-related work to Kikuchi Kogyo on 12 occasions from 2002 to 2010. A Tokyu official, referring to those cases, reportedly told investigators: "If we got Kikuchi Kogyo to do construction work, then we were able to avoid harassment from gang groups. This had been standard practice in the Kyushu area." According to the sources, Kikuchi asked Tokyu's Kyushu office to allow his company to participate in construction work on a nursing home in Kumamoto Prefecture. Tokyu rejected the request, in line with the prefecture's antigang ordinance. An MPD official said the head of a right-wing group is a senior official of Kikuchi Kogyo.

Blackmail of Construction Company After Firm Severed Gang-Related Ties

In November 2012, th Yomiuri Shimbun reported: A recent blackmail attempt targeting Tokyu Construction Co., a second-tier general contractor, revealed those closely linked to criminal organizations have skillfully penetrated the construction industry. Michimasa Kikuchi, 63, president of construction firm Kikuchi Kogyo in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department on suspicion of trying to extort 100 million yen from Tokyu Construction. Kikuchi had built close ties with Tokyu by allegedly helping the company avoid problems with gangsters on numerous occasions. He had also allegedly arranged bid-rigging among local construction firms, and his company was also awarded many contracts as Tokyu's subcontractor on public works projects.[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 5, 2011]

Tokyu broke ties with Kikuchi in March, to avoid violating an ordinance prohibiting business dealings with gangs. After Kikuchi was told by Tokyu Construction it would discontinue business dealings with him, Kikuchi reportedly openly expressed anger at a friend's office in Kumamoto. According to the friend, Kikuchi said: "[Tokyu Construction] didn't even apologize. I'll never forgive them."

Kikuchi allegedly showed drafts of his letters to Tokyu to the friend and others and complained, "I've been used for dirty work and abandoned." Kikuchi's friend said, "It seemed he never thought the company would sever ties with him." According to investigation sources, Kikuchi's father was a carpenter and Kikuchi began working in construction after graduating from middle school. Though he established Kikuchi Kogyo in Kurume, the company was not registered as a corporation and performed only consignment jobs on small, local construction projects.

Kikuchi Kogyo began engaging in large-scale projects thanks to a traffic incident in 2001. On a narrow, single-lane road near a construction site, a car carrying an executive of Tokyu Construction's Kyushu branch and Kikuchi's car met each other. Kikuchi gave way to the executive's car but was supposedly angry, yelling at the executive, "Don't you say even thank you?" The executive gave Kikuchi a business card. Kikuchi later visited the company's Kyushu branch to promote his company and himself.

In the Kyushu region, it had been customary for construction companies to negotiate with local gangs to avoid problems with local residents near construction sites. Kikuchi reportedly worked as a liaison between Tokyu and gangs. An investigator said their relationship was "mutually dependent." From 2002, Kikuchi Kogyo was subcontracted by Tokyu on 12 projects, including large-scale ones not suitable for his company, considering his firm's work history.

Kikuchi also allegedly interfered with the selection of other subcontractors and told them, "I arrange Tokyu's projects," the sources said. Tokyu was concerned as an increasing number of local governments had implemented ordinances to eliminate gang organizations' influence nationwide, and decided to end the relationship with Kikuchi.

Although Kikuchi allegedly tried to extort money from Tokyu, the company feared reporting the incident would reveal its past ties with gangsters. But if Tokyu paid Kikuchi, the company name could be tarnished if it were found in violation of the ordinances. In March, Kikuchi bought 1,000 shares of Tokyu stock, and the company feared he would disrupt its shareholder meetings. The company decided to report its relationship with Kikuchi to the MPD in June.

Jake Adelstein, Tokyo’s Trench-coated Yakuza Reporter

Peter Hessler wrote in The New Yorker: One of the foremost experts on Japanese organized crime is Jake Adelstein, who grew up on a farm in Missouri, worked as the only American on the crime beat for Japan's largest newspaper, and currently lives in central Tokyo under police protection. Japanese police protection means that the cops make daily visits to Adelstein's home, where they leave yellow notes that say, "There was nothing out of the ordinary." The notes feature the Tokyo police mascot, Pipo-kun, a smiling cartoon figure with big mouse ears and an antenna jutting out of its forehead. [Source: Peter Hessler, The New Yorker, January 9, 2012]

Some people in town have trouble taking Adelstein seriously. They dismiss him as a crank, a paranoid foreigner who talks obsessively about death threats from the gangsters known as yakuza. Others react with suspicion; a number of people in Japan claim that his journalism is a front for C.I.A. work. Adelstein does little to dismiss such rumors, apart from maintaining an image so flamboyant that it would shame any actual agency man. He's in his early forties, and he wears a trenchcoat and a porkpie hat, and he chain-smokes clove cigarettes from Indonesia. For a while, he dyed his hair bright red, claiming that this disguise would foil would-be assassins. He employs a bodyguard who doubles as a chauffeur, an ex-yakuza who cut off his pinkie finger years ago as a gesture of apology to a gang superior. Adelstein says he needs a car and a nine-fingered driver in order to avoid the subway, where a hit man might shove him in front of a train.

Adelstein and I both grew up in Columbia, Missouri, and although I met him only a few times, he was the kind of kid that you don't forget. Back then, his name was Josh, and he was tall and thin, with a spindly frame. He was so cross-eyed that he had to have corrective surgery. Even after the procedure, his expression remained slightly off-kilter, and you could never tell exactly what he was looking at. Years later, he was given a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome, a rare disorder of connective tissue that often causes serious problems for the eyes, the heart, and other major organs. But as a boy he simply seemed odd. His vision and coordination were so poor that he didn't get a driver's license, an essential possession for any high-school male in mid-Missouri, and he had to have classmates chauffeur him around town. He loved theatre, which also qualified as a rare disorder in a sports-mad school. The jocks teased and bullied him, until a teacher suggested that he take up martial arts. Karate led to a freshman-year course in Japanese at the University of Missouri, which went well until Josh fell down an elevator shaft while working at a local bookstore. Even this was a sort of distinction--there aren't all that many elevators in Columbia, Missouri. Josh spent a week in the hospital with a bad head injury, and although he recovered, he couldn't remember any Japanese. But the head trauma also erased many memories of high school, so it may have been a good trade. He could always learn the Japanese again.

He spent his sophomore year in Tokyo and never came back. He transferred to a Japanese university, and as a student he lived in a Zen Buddhist temple for three years. Somewhere along the way, he abandoned plans to become an actor, and he changed his name to Jake, for reasons that seemed to vary depending on when you asked him about it. He learned Japanese so quickly that within five years of studying the language he had passed the three-part exam to become a police reporter for Tokyo's Yomiuri Shimbun. Adelstein is believed to be the first American ever to make it through the newspaper's rigorous exam system.

The Yomiuri is the largest daily in the world. It prints two editions every day, and the total circulation is thirteen and a half million, more than ten times higher than that of the Times. Most stories are covered by teams of journalists. At the Yomiuri, rookie police reporters are assigned to cover high-school baseball, because the sport is supposed to be good training for crime journalists--the teamwork, the statistics, the attention to detail. Adelstein told me that he spent his training period longing for a major crime to be committed. "In the middle of the high-school baseball season, we were saved by the murder of this really beautiful girl who was killed and her body was found in a barrel," he said. "It's terrible to say, but I was happy to be doing something different."

In 2004, when I was living in China, I made a trip to Tokyo and contacted Adelstein. One evening, he gave me a tour of the red-light district in Kabukicho, telling outlandish stories about yakuza pimps. As part of his job, the Yomiuri provided a car and a full-time driver. Adelstein sat in back, dressed in a suit and tie; periodically, he instructed the chauffeur to stop so he could meet a contact at a pachinko parlor or a dodgy massage joint. The last time I had seen him, a high-school buddy was driving him around mid-Missouri in a station wagon, because his vision was so bad, but now he had transformed back-seat status.

As a foreigner, Adelstein moves easily between the yakuza and the police. Yet he follows strict rules. He says that the key to his work is the Japanese concept of giri, or reciprocity. He follows his strict rules of reciprocity and protection of sources, but otherwise Adelstein is willing to do nearly anything to get a story. By now, he’s played the stereotypical role of the crime reporter for so long that he can’t shake the life style his father, Eddie Adelstein, said. A lawyer familiar with Adelstein's work told Hessler:"Jake has got a high profile," he said. "That's his style." He laughed about the clove cigarettes and the porkpie hat, but then he said, "If I were to learn that he was murdered this evening, it wouldn't surprise me."

In the spring of 2011, Adelstein received a diagnosis of liver cancer, Adelstein’s driver, Teruo Mochizuki, an ex-yakuza, told Hessler. Adelstein is working on two more books about his adventures on the police beat and the yakuza.


Image Sources: Wikicommons, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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