“The yakuza are discriminated against by the world as ‘social evils,’ right? “Yakuza are discriminated against by the world as ‘social evils.’ The yakuza themselves chose to be yakuza, so it can’t be helped, but the children born and raised in their homes are subject to the same discrimination. The children of yakuza families are born with this discrimination and have to live with it without being able to complain.
According to a survey by the Metropolitan Police Department, there are 25,900 gang members and quasi-members in Japan.
The government has imposed severe restrictions on their activities through the Anti-Violence Law and anti-bullying ordinances, and has even prevented them from opening bank accounts, thus depriving them of their human rights. The general public also does not want to have anything to do with the gangs.
The general public also does not want to have anything to do with the gangs, which is only natural considering that the gangs are criminal organizations. But how many people can imagine that innocent children are living in such a discriminated family?
The members often live disorderly lives, remarry repeatedly, or have unmarried children, and often have as many as five or six children. Even if they have three children on average, the number of children of active gang members is 70,000 to 80,000. If former gangsters are included, the number would be far more than 100,000.
In my reportage, “Yakuza Children,” I documented what the children of gangster families saw, experienced, and carried with them.
I would like to introduce here some of the unheard voices of children living in the midst of the movement to eliminate gangs.
“I heard that your father is a gang leader.
There is a designated gang called the G-kai in Fukuoka Prefecture. The organization is based in Tagawa City, which was famous for its coal mines.
Since the 1960’s, the G-kai has been extremely powerful in Tagawa City, and there is a major leader who is known as one of the most martial artists in the organization. A man grew up as the son of this leader.
When he was growing up, his father was not around. He had been involved in a murder case in a gang war and had been in prison for a long time, but his mother had told him that he was sick and had been hospitalized.
His father was released from prison when he was in the sixth grade. Soon after, his father built a large mansion and opened a gang office right next to it. Five to six members covered in tattoos lived in the house at all times as scullery maids, and 20 to 30 members came and went from the office.
Because of this environment, the neighbors did not want to have anything to do with the family, and the parents at the school told their children, “Never associate with A-man. Even the teachers at the school blatantly ignored A-man. The only person who came close to the house was a Marutoh police detective who came to patrol several times a day.
When he went on to junior high school, all of his friends who had been close to him in elementary school drifted away from him. It was not that he had done anything wrong, but just because his father was a gang leader, he was regarded as untouchable.
The only people who approached him were a group of senior delinquents. The only ones who approached him were a group of senior delinquents.
“I heard that your father is the leader of a yakuza gang. That’s really cool. You should come join our group.
The delinquents were probably trying to gain prestige by having the gang leader’s kid as a friend, and taking in A-man was a way to expand their own power.
He had no choice but to join the circle of delinquents in order to make friends. It was natural for him to be fawned over there.
He says, “I am most happy to be a delinquent.
He says, “The people who were most happy to see me become a delinquent were the young guys in the gang office. It was as if the boss’s kid had come into the world with me. They introduced me to all kinds of bad people in the area and taught me how to commit crimes.
I even shot a gun at one of them. One day, one of the young guys said, “We’ve got a new gun, let’s go try it out,” so we took a boat out to sea and shot it up. The real gun was a toy.”
Having lived in such an environment, it is inevitable that A-man would find it easier to live surrounded by delinquents and gangsters. It was safer for him to be lured into the underworld than to be subjected to unwarranted discrimination in general society.
However, the more A-man deepens his relationship with people in the underworld, the more the police are eager to follow him around. They would arrest him for trivial matters and send him to probation or juvenile training schools, or use his delinquency as an excuse to break into his house. The police probably tried to put pressure on the organization by cracking down on A-man.
Man A says, “The world knows me as a yakuza.
“When I was a teenager, I felt like I was in hell no matter where I went.
When I was 18, I was almost sent to a juvenile detention center for the second time because I was wanted for something trivial. At that time, I decided I didn’t want to live like this anymore, so I ran away from Fukuoka and started my life as a fugitive. I ran away to Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, sometimes living like a homeless person. But I felt more free when I was away from Fukuoka because I was not bound by the yakuza or the police.
Having been given life as the child of a major gang leader, he was burdened with a heavy burden both in the front and the back of society. That is why, paradoxically, he felt free for the first time in his life as a fugitive.
Masculinity in demand
In addition to this case, there are times when a father tries to get a child to take over a yakuza family business.
There is an organization called M-kai, based in Hyogo Prefecture. It is a non-designated gang, so it is less restricted by law and ordinance than designated gangs.
Near a shipbuilding factory in Chiba Prefecture, there was a ship painting company run by an executive of the M-kai. The job of this executive was to unite members of various organizations from all over the country and get them to work on painting ships.
Some of the various gang members from all over the country make mistakes and leave the organization temporarily or are unable to stay in their hometown. They are forced to live cowering in the “custody” of another organization for a few years.
An executive who runs a ship painting company accepts such members from all over the country as “custodians” and provides them with food, clothing, and shelter. After working there for a few years, the members would return to their original organizations.
Bya was born as the second son to this executive. The eldest son was transgender and had been acting as a girl since he was a child. His father, who was a gangster, could not accept the fact that he belonged to a gang that flaunted its “manliness,” and he demanded excessive “manliness” from his second son, Bya. He never allowed him to lose a fight and taught him that strength was everything.
After graduating from junior high school, his father ordered B-ya to work at his ship painting company. There, he was given the task of managing and facilitating dozens of members to complete the work by the deadline.
This job was much harder than he had imagined. Most of the employees were people who had been kicked out of the gang. At the age of 16, B-ya was put in charge of organizing them and mediating their fights and troubles.
B-ya says, “The yakuza who work for me are my friends.
At 16 years old, he was put in charge of organizing them and mediating their fights and troubles. “The yakuzas who work for me take me for granted,” he says. That’s why I was so desperate not to let them get the better of me. I had to make myself look stronger than the yakuza, and I had to be more scary than the yakuza. As I acted in such a way, I became a yakuza myself.
I think my father wanted me to be his successor. My older brother was working at a transsexual bar at the time, so I think he wanted me to have the manliness or the style of a yakuza. I thought that was the way I could live up to my father’s expectations.
Unintentionally, B-ya acquired the ideas and behavioral principles of a gangster.
Even after quitting his job at the age of 18 due to a problem with his boss, he could not abandon the habits he had developed there and voluntarily accepted a cup of sake from the Y-kai, a designated gangster organization. He probably wanted to make a name for himself as a member of the gang and be recognized by his father and the employees of the ship painting company.
However, a few years later, the organization he was in was thrown out of the Y-kai after a murder case. From there, he got involved in a long war, and he was so exhausted that he had to wash his hands of the gangster world.
I was in my father’s company,” B-ya says.
“When I was in my father’s company, I longed to be a yakuza. That was my dad’s way of life, and I wanted to live like him.
But when I actually became a yakuza, it was different. Everything was about money, money, money. And betrayal. All the fights were about money and betrayal. I got fed up with it and made the decision to get out of that world.”
Currently, B-ya is running his own pest control company.
Looking at it this way, we can see that when children are born to gang members, they are sometimes forced to stray from the path because of blatant discrimination from the public, or they are dragged into the world of gangs by their parents.
In my book, “Yakuza Children,” I introduce the tragic reality of these children, and one of them told me this.
One of them said, “In our society, there is an atmosphere that discriminating against yakuza is the right thing to do. It’s natural because that’s what the laws and regulations say. Discrimination against yakuza is the right thing to do, even though discrimination against Dowa and foreigners is wrong.
However, it is the children of the family who suffer the wrinkles of this discrimination. Children cannot say, ‘Please don’t discriminate against yakuza. They can’t say, “Please don’t discriminate against yakuza,” and they can’t say, “Please accept yakuza children. So they have no choice but to either give up living in the public sphere and go to the underworld, or hide their origins and live their lives. It’s really painful.
It is true that discrimination against gangs has been recognized by the state. But isn’t it also the responsibility of the state to ensure that this discrimination is not passed on to children?
I hope you will listen to the cries of these children through this book.
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.