“In yakuza families, domestic violence and child abuse are often common. However, since the parents are parents, it is difficult to protect the children. The world doesn’t want to get involved, and they don’t want to get involved with society either. What to do with the children of yakuza families is a very difficult problem in child welfare work.
These were the words of an employee of a child guidance center in western Japan. Similar voices can be heard in the field of education.
A crime syndicate is an organization that uses violence to terrorize people, bring them under their control, and forcibly siphon off their profits. In their principle of action, violence is everything. And their way of life often manifests itself as violence against their children as well as their spouses.
It is estimated that there are a total of 25,900 gang members and associate members in Japan. They may have children here and there, but even if each member had three children on average, the number would be over 70,000.
In my book, “Yakuza Children,” I wrote a report on what children born and raised in gangster families experience, what they are exposed to, and how they live their lives. In this report, I would like to show the situation in which children live side by side with violence.
There are three main types of cases in which horrific abuse occurs among gang members.
The father-in-law of the gang member abuses the child.
2. Cases in which the biological mother abuses the child.
3. Cases where the grandmother or mother-in-law abuses the child.
Case 1: Stepfather’s DV
The first case involves Hiko, who was born to parents belonging to a secondary organization of the designated gang A-kai in Shimoda City, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Her mother was a well-known local delinquent; in her late teens, she married a man who was also a member of the local A-kai and gave birth to their first daughter, Hiko. However, the couple soon divorced due to her mother’s infidelity. Unable to stay in her hometown, she moved to Nishinari, Osaka, as if to escape.
For financial reasons, her mother placed her in an orphanage. However, due to her gender identity disorder, Hiko acted like a boy even though she was a girl, and was severely bullied by the children at the orphanage. She put up with it for several years, but when she was in the fourth grade, she couldn’t take it anymore and ran back to her mother’s apartment.
At the time, the apartment was occupied by a man who was a member of the B-gumi, a designated crime syndicate based in the Kansai area, whom Hiko had met at night and had an affair with. Hiko met him at night on the street and they became involved.
The male member of the gang was enjoying sexual intercourse under the same roof, using methamphetamine, when suddenly a child who was not related to him came into his life. The man was so obtrusive that he beat and kicked Hiko every day.
Hiko said, “That man’s violence was just too much.
Hiko said, “The man’s violence was just terrible. He was always the type of man who needed to dominate others with violence, and he used domestic violence to control my mother. No matter how many times he beat me, threw me in the bathtub, or lit a cigarette on me, my mother would not stop him.
The worst part was at night, when my mother had to go to her business, so it was just me and the guy. He started drinking and using methamphetamine, and now he tried to have sex with me as well as violence. I guess he wanted to use us as a sex toy instead of my mom. Of course, I couldn’t tell her, and it was too painful.
What is troubling is that because the man was a regular user of methamphetamine, he thoroughly rejected any connection with the police or other public authorities. He changed his place of residence frequently and refused to connect with local residents. As a result, DV and abuse were overlooked.
“The yakuza never get involved in the public world and know how to hide their crimes.
They know how to hide their crimes from the public. So, even when they commit a single act of violence, they do it after controlling their surroundings and creating an environment where they will not be exposed. Furthermore, the general public, including the child guidance center, don’t want to get involved just because it’s a yakuza’s house, so it’s only natural that the actual situation in the home doesn’t come to light.
Fortunately or unfortunately, about six months later, the man and his mother were arrested by the police on methamphetamine charges, and Hiko was able to escape from the abusive situation. Conversely, if they had not been arrested by the police, Hiko’s tragedy would have continued until she left home.
Case 2: Violence by her own mother
The second case is that of a biological mother who abuses her child.
Women who marry gang members are often former delinquents or sex workers who have had problems before. Most of the time, these women meet on the streets at night and get dazzled by the good fortune and marry the gang member.
However, in this day and age, most of the young gang members who have money are involved in methamphetamine trafficking. They also make their wives learn to use methamphetamine as a tool for sex, and thus the women become more and more crazy.
This is exactly what happened to the wife of the leader of the A-kai, a third-tier gang in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture. By the time her daughter, S-e, was old enough to remember, she was so addicted to methamphetamine that she had lost her mind. There was never a time when she was not on methamphetamine, and her outrageous behavior and actions became worse day by day, such as embezzling the money of the gang and abusing the young members of the gang.
Eventually, her husband gave up on her and she was expelled from Chiba. She took S.E. and moved to Shikoku, where her parents lived. She took advantage of her ex-husband’s child-support payments and continued to do methamphetamine there.
SUE says, “My mother was always a delinquent.
“My mother was always a delinquent, so she had a rough temper. She married my father, a gang leader, while I was still young, so she had nothing to be afraid of, and would beat up anyone and everyone she didn’t like. Because of this, I was beaten from an early age, and the violence became more and more violent because of the stimulants.
When I was living in Shikoku, my house was a garbage dump. I never saw her do any housework, and she only had one or two clothes for me. They didn’t even pay for my school lunch. I was called “poor” at school and “trashy” by my neighbors. If I went home, I would be abused. I had nowhere to stay.
The mother was also involved with gangs to obtain methamphetamine and avoided connecting with the police, schools, and other public institutions.
From the age of 10 to 18, S. E. lived with such a mother, but when her sister, who could not stand this life, attempted suicide, she decided to run away from Shikoku. She turned to her own father, who lived in Chiba. For her, it was better to be with her father, a gang leader, than to live with her mother.
Case 3: Abuse by stepmother and grandmother
The third case is that of a stepmother or grandmother abusing a child.
Gang members frequently find themselves going to imprisonment or their separated wives abusing their children, as in the case of S-e mentioned above. Hence, when they go to imprisonment, they leave their children at home with their parents, or they take their children with their ex-wives and leave them with their wives. Abuse occurs there.
There was a man who belonged to the A-gumi-affiliated secondary organization in Tokyo and was involved in trafficking of stolen cars. He had four children with his ex-wife, but at the age of 40, he divorced and remarried another woman. He had two new children.
One day, the man hears a rumor that his ex-wife is a drug addict and seems to be losing her mind. When he went to see her, he found that she had hardly been home at all, and her four children were starving and emaciated. When I asked her about it, she told me that she didn’t even pay for their food, let alone do the housework.
The man couldn’t bear to see them go, so he took the four children and brought them home, but there was no way his wife would take kindly to this. Why should she have to raise four children that her husband’s ex-wife had abandoned when she was busy raising two of her own? She began to bully them, treating them as an obstacle.
One of her four children said
“At first, we were sent to my mother-in-law’s house, and after a while to my grandmother’s house. Every six months we would go back and forth between my mother-in-law’s and grandmother’s house.
In both houses, we were in the way and were abused. We ate only white rice with soy sauce or sauce, and were forced to sleep on the floor with a towel instead of a futon. I was beaten by my half-mother and half-siblings, who called me “disruptive” and “annoying” just for sitting around.
My stepmother and grandmother had no intention of sending us to an institution. I guess it was mainly because my father was a yakuza and was doing illegal things. So she couldn’t take care of us, but she couldn’t send us to an institution either.
The father was also unable to protect his four daughters as he went back and forth to prison.
None of the four were allowed to go to high school, and after graduating from middle school, they were sent to work in dormitories.
Looking at the three cases, we can see that there are many elements in gangster families that can easily give rise to abuse, but which are difficult for public authorities to detect and intervene.
If you read my book, “Yakuza Children,” you will see that many of the children raised in gang families are in an environment that clearly needs protection. In a sense, this is inevitable, given the principles of gang behavior.
It is not uncommon for children born into gangster families to be subjected to horrific abuse. However, the more the world avoids gangs, the less the events in the family come to light. So what can we do to protect the children of these families from abuse?
We need to think deeply about the nature of abusive families.
Interview and text： Kota Ishii
Born in Tokyo in 1977. Nonfiction writer. Graduated from Nihon University College of Art. He is active in reporting and writing about culture, history, and medicine in Japan and abroad. His books include "The House of 'Demons': Parents Who Kill Their Own Children," "Forty-three Killing Intentions: The Depths of the Kawasaki Jr. 1 Boys' Murder Case," "Rental Child," "Kinship Murder," and "Social Map of Disparity and Division.