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Today I read an essay in praise of the Yakuza by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers, a regular LewRockwell.com contributor.

Link: http://www.lewrockwell.com/rogers/rogers196.html

In it, Mr. Rogers wrote:
I doesn't make common sense. If the government really thought the Yakuza or Mafia were such a big problem, they’d decriminalize all sorts of victimless crimes and these organizations would disappear. But no, it doesn’t work that way. Like I said, the Yakuza and Mafia are decent, hard-working people; it’s the government that is full of crooks

I wrote to Mr. Rogers:
Dear Mr. Rogers,

I lived in Japan for two years in the early ninties. I had both good and bad experiences with the Yakuza. I agree that governments count as bigger criminals than so-called criminals, but the difference amounts to one of scale not kind.

You say that organized crime would disappear if governments repealed all laws against victimless crimes. I'd like to see such laws repealed, but I don't think that crime would vanish in a puff of smoke. Certainly all drug crimes would vanish in the absense of drug prohibition, but I've seen Yakuza thugs beat street merchants who failed to pay the local Yakuza boss for the priviledge of setting up a stall along the parade route in a rural holiday festival. I've seen multiple beatings in the streets of Osaka and Nagoya. I don't know the details behind those beatings, but the men doing the beating had permed hair and tacky clothing.[1]

On the good side, I lived in a building in Nagoya owned by the Yakuza. Unlike other landlords, they demanded no key money and rented the apartment to me at a most reasonable rate. Not only did they charge less than the going rate for the apartment, they threw parties for the residents of the building and supplied all of the food, beer, and sake for these events.

On the other hand, I sometimes spent sleepless nights in that apartment as the bosuzoku hoodlums on their motorcycles modified for maximum noise pollution paraded up and down the main drag in huge packs. These gangs of annoying punks always had an escort. Sometimes the pack had police cars at the front and back of the convoy. Sometimes expensive black sedans with tinted windows provided the escort.

I also had a low level Yakuza accost the woman I was with for dating a foriegner. When I told him to back off, he brandished his cell phone (possibly an inert prop as only very wealthy people had working cell phones in those days) at me and threaten to bring down a pack of his brethren on me. Although, now that I think about it, my good relationship with my landlord might have protected me from the viscious beating that punk promised me once he got his posse together.

I've written more than I planned to. I just wanted to say, "I know what you're saying, and I agree up to a point, but it requires particularly tinted glasses to view the Yakuza as blameless citizens who work hard and take nothing from anybody which they haven't earned."

Stay well.

-Kevin O'Connor

Fayetteville, Arkansas

1 [Only Yakuza types, when I lived in Japan, had permed hair. They also tended to wear rather tacky clothing compared to the conservative business suits favored by Japanese Salerymen. I figured Mike, living in Japan, would understand what I meant to convey with those observations about the men beating people in the streets.]

He responded with:

Thanks. Good points, all.

Well, I do think that the "traditional style gangs" (Yakuza, Mafia,) would disappear if victimless crimes were decriminalized (but, then again, what do I know?) For example, ever been to Amsterdam or Rotterdam? Drugs, prostitution, etc legal. Or how about one of America's safest big cities, Las Vegas? Perhaps the apt. you spoke of that the Yakuza owned was merely a money laundering operation and/or front for another business? Just a thought.

The other big point is that these traditional style of "mafia" don't tax people, don't usually screw with regular people (yes, they do kill each other it seems - sometimes), and are the only people who do stick up for the little guy in many cases.

The no tax deal is big.

Also, about the stalls on the streets, that is illegal, so the Yakuza get involved. It's a difficult problem to solve, for sure.

Thanks for writing. Take care,


[Signature Block] And now, may I embarrass myself by making a shameless sales pitch to you? Sorry, if I've asked before. But if you enjoy my writings, won't you consider buying my book? It's full of my cynical humor and stories about Japan and a look at America from here. The book is called, Schizophrenic in Japan: An American Ex-Pat's Guide to Japanese & American Society/Politics & Humor. I've been getting great reviews and I hit #1 in the "Political Humor" genre on Amazon.com on July 12, 2005 (The book went on sale on July 1 officially). And if you buy one through this link LewRockwell.com gets a small percentage:


I'd be very grateful if you'd at least look and consider it. That's all I could ever ask. -Thanks. Mike

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)

Sadly, what I've heard about Japanese law and society really has never inspired in me even a glimmer of desire ever to set foot there.
Jan. 24th, 2006 12:39 am (UTC)
never inspired in me even a glimmer of desire
I feel the same way about Saudi Arabia.
Jan. 23rd, 2006 05:50 am (UTC)
From my understanding of the situation, it appears that there are a lot of differences between the Yakuza in Japan and the Mafia in the US or Italy.

It seems that, in the present day anyway, they are "tolerated" by the government there more so than the Mafia here,and perhaps, the "agreements" between the Yaks and the Gov't are more clear and more respected on both sides.

Would you say that this is true? Are there large scale government efforts to take down the Yakuza lords operating at all times?

Japan, as you well know, is certainly a big fan of maintaining the "status quo" compared to America and it would seem that certain things will be accepted as the way things are so long as certain understood lines are not crossed.
Jan. 24th, 2006 12:48 am (UTC)
Japan and the status quo
It seems that, in the present day anyway, they are "tolerated" by the government there more so than the Mafia here,and perhaps, the "agreements" between the Yaks and the Gov't are more clear and more respected on both sides.

Would you say that this is true?

I don't know. The Yakuza certainly operate in plain sight of the police, but so do young black drug dealers in the hood. They operate in the open, and yet we have millions of them in prison. Does that mean that the police in the US tolerate open air drug markets?

The relationship between police and gangs in the US does not correlate all that closely with the relationship between Japanese police and the Yakuza. The Yakuza have their own prison culture, so obviously a number of them do get arrested, but I do think the Japanese police feel more of a shared sense of cultural identity with the Yakuza than US police do with the openly scape-goated and demonized sub-culture of non-white gangs in US cities.
Jan. 23rd, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC)
Lately I have been thinking a lot about syndicates, and I need to further research the idea. I wonder if he is contrasting the system of syndicalism with capitalism, not really aware that there is such a thing as a real criminal problem involved.
Jan. 24th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC)
contrasting syndicalism with capitalism
I really don't know how to answer your question. You could ask Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers. He does answer email from strangers.

Jan. 23rd, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
Completely off topic...
May I just comment and say how absolutely scrumptiously adorable you are in this photo??

Jan. 24th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC)
Re: Completely off topic...
Thank you, darling.

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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