Former Organizational Crime Countermeasures Division police detectives and gang leaders reveal the surprising secret story of yakuza and tattoos | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former Organizational Crime Countermeasures Division police detectives and gang leaders reveal the surprising secret story of yakuza and tattoos

Why do yakuza get tattoos? Police officials and gangsters talk about it.

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Gangs and tattoos are inextricably linked (Photo for reference only)

Tattoos have become popular among young people as a part of fashion. Tattoos are not the same as the tattoos that gang members have on their backs, but in Japan, tattoos have an inescapable image of anti-social forces. Even in recent years, a popular boxer who did not cover his tattoos in the ring has been called into question.

Unlike tattoos, the tattoos that gang leaders have on their backs are sometimes referred to as wabori. The preferred designs include dragons, carp, and Kannon statues. Some say that the reason is because they are conscious of upward mobility and career advancement, such as “ascending dragon” and “carp climbing waterfall. As for the reason for getting a tattoo, one of the gang leaders said, “I want to break away from the society of katagi (ordinary people) and go on with my life as a yakuza.

However, according to some gang leaders, there are some big-name gang leaders who do not have tattoos but are well known in the industry, so the traditional custom varies from person to person. Although it is said that tattoos are unique to gangsters, a senior police official told us that he was once very surprised to see a magnificent tattoo on the back of a sheikh he had arrested in a corruption case.

What is a “tattoo exhibition”?

In tattooing, the skin is scratched with a needle and the designated design is drawn on with colorant. This is naturally a very painful process. A gang leader who has a tattoo on his entire back talks about the pain.

The pain was almost unbearable, about two hours a day, two or three days a week. I’ve heard that some people even get a fever and fall asleep after getting the tattoo.

As tattoos as well as the so-called “wabori” (Japanese carving) done by gangsters are popular among young people, “I heard that tattoo carvers are very busy with many young customers,” said a gangster.

Another old gang leader in the Tokyo metropolitan area said, “Prison baths are like an exhibition of yakuza tattoos. In the prison baths, everyone is naked, of course. There are not a few yakuza who are in prison. Some of them have magnificent tattoos all over their backs, while others have only part of their upper body. Tattoos are easy to spot.

Yakuza who have tattoos and those who don’t

While many yakuza gang leaders have tattoos, one of the oldest members of the gang revealed an episode that he found surprising.

He said, “There was a rumor going around that a big gang leader, who is known to everyone in the yakuza industry, was coming to the prison. When I saw him in the bath, he had no tattoos and had a beautiful back. I thought it was unexpected, but he was a big man who everyone knew, and he had a dignified appearance, regardless of whether he had a tattoo or not.

At the same time, even if he was not a gang leader, he said, “It is certain that there are people who have the same dignity and are highly regarded.

In prison, there is a natural pecking order from old bosses to newcomers. In a prison, there is a natural hierarchy from the old bosses to the newcomers. In some cases, there are only seven or eight people in a cell, and even those who have nothing to do with the yakuza are treated in a certain way because they have a certain air about them. Of course, they don’t have tattoos because they are Katagi.

In response to these comments, a veteran police official who has been investigating gang crimes for many years said, “Whether you are a yakuza or a katagi, a person of a certain caliber has a certain amount of character. There are many yakuza who have tattoos, but there are also yakuza who do not. Having a tattoo does not mean you are a great yakuza,” he said.

Yuichi Sakurai, a former Organizational Crime Countermeasures Division police detective. He has photographed the tattoos of many gang members.

Try arresting a sheik: ……

In police organizations, there are departments that specialize in investigating gang crimes. For example, in the Metropolitan Police Department, the Organized Crime Department’s Organized Crime Division 4 is in charge of investigations. In the Metropolitan Police Department, for example, the Organized Crime Countermeasures Department’s Organized Crime Countermeasures Division 4 investigates gang crimes.

Yuichi Sakurai, who was involved in investigating gangster crimes for nearly 40 years at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Kumitai Department and recently published a book titled ” Maru-Riot: Detectives in Charge of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gangsters” (Shogakukan Shinsho ), looks back on his tenure at the department and says, “Section 4 makes a case out of any crime against the yakuza. At the time, it was called the “Section 4 brand. At the time, we used to call it the ‘Section 4 brand. At that time, we used to call it the ‘Section 4 brand,’ and we were taught to take pride in the fact that we were Section 4,” he said.

Apart from Section 4, which mainly deals with gangsters, there is another section called Section 2 of the Criminal Investigation Department, which investigates intelligent crimes such as election violations by politicians, corruption by public officials, fraud, and embezzlement. A former senior investigator who has worked for many years in this and other divisions investigating intelligent crimes talks about his “unique experience.

He said, “We arrested a sheikh on bribery charges who had been accepting bribes from a certain contractor. As part of the procedure after his arrest, we asked him to take off his upper body clothes to check his physical characteristics, and he had a fine tattoo on his back. All the investigators at the time were surprised to see this.

It turned out that the sheik was a former yakuza. The former senior investigator mentioned above said, “This was a truly unique experience in my many years of investigating.

  • Reporting and writing by Masahiro Ojima

    Nonfiction writer. Worked at the Sankei Shimbun, where he was in charge of the National Police Agency Press Club, the Metropolitan Police Department Cap, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Cap, the Judicial Press Club, and the National Tax Agency Press Club, before going freelance. Author of "Kaizaiya to Bubble" (Bunshun Shinsho).

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