Speaking of the yakuza with a certain fingering

Photo: Frank Zeller, Agence France-Presse
Jake Adelstein is some kind of phenomenon. He has spent twenty years covering organized crime in Japan, he is both a lover of single malt and… zen priest.

In many ways, Jake Adelstein is some kind of phenomenon. He has spent twenty years covering as a journalist the organized crime in Japan, he is both a lover of single malt and… zen priest.

 

Born into a jewish family in Missouri, it was built in the early 1990s, at the age of 24 years — after studies in comparative literature at the prestigious Sophia University, Tokyo, fascinated by the buddhist philosophy, the writing of one of the most important daily japanese, the Yomiuri Shimbun (with a circulation of 10 million copies).

 

There, he worked exclusively in japanese. Assigned first to various facts, it will quickly become of interest, with a certain fingering, the japanese mafia called the yakuza. The condition of gaijin having probably enabled them to approach more easily the universe of fringe, composed the third party of foreigners (most often the original japanese-Korean).

 

All this he told in 2016 in his first book, Tokyo Vice (recently re-issued in a pocket in the collection ” Points “), who is back on these twelve years past to cover the beat police officer and the activities of organized crime in Japan. Investigative book, novel, documentary, Tokyo Vice was a fascinating dive to raw in the shallows of Tokyo.

 

But these “frictions” have not been without consequence. In the wake of death threats, his wife and his two children had to be repatriated to the United States and placed under the protection of the FBI.

 

An occult power

 

The last of the yakuza, the new book of the journalist, 48-year-old, draws its origin in a promise made to a head yakuza repented, Saigo, who has served as driver and bodyguard starting in 2008, during the worst of the threats against him. Before his conversion, Saigo was the leader of a sub-branch of the Inagawa-kai, the third criminal group in the importance of Japan.

 

Through the fate of this criminal repented and dozens of first-hand testimony, Jake Adelstein, we brush also a history of the japanese mafia of the past hundred years. A history view of the interior, in which racketeering, extortion, prostitution, clandestine bets and drug trafficking form the daily bread.

 

“I already had a certain fascination towards organized crime in general, recognizes Jake Adelstein, reached by email in Japan. My uncle, that I will not name here, was presented as the dauphin of Meyer Lansky [a major business partner of Luciano, a famous family mafia in the United States]. It was even described as the last of the gangsters to be jews. “

 

If the yakuza are present in the popular culture (cinema, television, manga), their importance to the country of the rising Sun in the last hundred years is more than symbolic. It is an Open secret : japanese democracy and the organized crime, since the end of the Second world War, have advanced hand in hand.

 

“Japan has two governments, according to the reporter, who writes primarily today for The Daily Beast, a news website, american. But the links between the two are better hidden than ever. On the occasion, as in the case of the former minister of Education, Shinomura, these links are exposed in the full light of day. “

 

“The party is currently in power in Japan, the liberal democratic Party, has been founded with the money from the yakuza. It is essentially a group of yakuza, right-wing, ” says Jake Adelstein. With the same lack of moral qualms, the behaviour of bandits similar to those of organized crime. “These are people who are concerned by their own interests and those of their buddies. The cronyism is so yakuza. “

 

A necessary evil ?

 

Many Japanese, it seems, believe that organized crime is a kind of necessary evil. “I don’t think this is a necessary evil. I would say that only a Japanese four-today the believes. At a time when there existed in Japan a discrimination creeping towards the Koreans, the burakumin [one of the largest minorities in Japan] and other persons placed under the ban of society, the yakuza offered them a family, a purpose and a form of discipline. “

 

“But in the light of the racism and discrimination that are now tacitly approved by the government of Abe, I can understand the appeal of to new the yakuza on some excluded from society. People in Japan often say that they prefer organized crime to disorganized crime… “

 

Without surprise, The last of the yakuza may be interpreted as a form of provocation by some criminal gangs still in business.

 

“It is a bit like putting oil on the fire “, admits with clarity Adelstein, who has been a buddhist priest of the soto zen last march and that it is hard to imagine coming to blows. “But to finish with one thing, sometimes you have to take risks. It is necessary to be able to say that the day is over and move forward. But the yakuza are unpredictable and are capable of keeping a grudge for a very long time. More than most people. “

 

Because doing business with the yakuza or ex-yakuza, as he writes, it is a bit like ” walking through a mine field after being sent too much sake “.

 

It is a way of living permanently on a tightrope. Impossible to guard down. Even when we’re trying to stay zen.

 

“There is a simple reason why the yakuza were tolerated so long by the company. They had a code. […] Many Japanese believe that the worst thing that after the organized crime is disorganized crime, which involves theft-snatching, robberies, burglaries, assaults, rapes and petty theft. The yakuza maintain all of this from a distance, they give people the feeling of safety in neighborhoods and places that are under their control. “

The last of the yakuza

Jake Adelstein, translated from the English by Cyril Gay, Marchialy, Paris, 2017, 368 pages

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