Home > News > Regional
Thursday April 3, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday April 3, 2014 MYT 7:09:42 AM
TOKYO: Japan’s biggest organised crime syndicate has launched its own website, complete with a corporate song and a strong anti-drug message, as the yakuza looks to turn around its outdated image and falling membership.
The clunky-sounding “Banish Drugs and Purify the Nation League” website is an offering from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza grouping.
It includes shakily-shot footage of members making their New Year pilgrimage to a shrine.
The soundtrack is a traditional folk-style song with lyrics extolling the virtues of the “Ninkyo” spirit – an ideal of masculinity that battles injustice and helps the weak.
“Nothing but Ninkyo, that is the man’s way of life,” say the lyrics. “The way of duty and compassion, bearing the ordeal for our dream.”
Another video shows men with crew cuts pounding sticky rice for a New Year festival, and there are galleries of pictures showcasing the clean-up work members did in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
The website is not the Yamaguchi-gumi’s first foray into media – the crime syndicate last year began publishing a magazine for its members that includes a poetry page, senior gangsters’ fishing diaries and a message from the boss.
Like the Italian mob or Chinese triads, yakuza syndicates are involved in activities ranging from prostitution to extortion and white-collar crime.
But unlike their underworld counterparts elsewhere, yakuza groups are not illegal and each of the designated groups, like the Yamaguchi-gumi, have their own headquarters, with senior members dishing out business cards.
They have historically been tolerated by the authorities, sometimes with corrupt police overlooking their violence, and are routinely glamourised in fanzines and manga comics.
But periodic crackdowns have gained momentum and there is evidence the mob’s appeal is waning.
The number of people belonging to yakuza groups fell to an all-time low in 2013, slipping below the 60,000-member mark for the first time on record, police said last month.
An increasingly poor public image and Japan’s flaccid economy have made the lives of the gangsters difficult, which has made membership less attractive for potential recruits, experts said.
The website, which looks outdated, is an attempt to counter the yakuza’s image as “anti-social forces” – the police euphemism for them – by showing how neighbourly its members are, experts say.
One page shows men collecting litter along the banks of the Toga River near the Yamaguchi-gumi’s headquarters in Kobe, western Japan, with a nearby sign reading: “Purge yakuza.”
Jake Adelstein, a journalist and author who has written extensively on organised crime in Japan, said the Yamaguchi-gumi’s online offering was an effort to prove its humanitarian credentials.
“By presenting an anti-drug theme, it shows concern for social welfare, it shows pictures of the group doing emergency relief after the (2011) and Kobe earthquakes,” he said.
Adelstein, whose account of his life working the crime beat for a Japanese newspaper is being made into a film starring Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, said the site was an attempt to whitewash an unsavoury truth. — AFP
Tags / Keywords:
Rio Olympic dream kept alive with France win
National Juniors will have their plate full for the next five months
RM3.7bil vessels will be used as a deterrent, says official
Minister apologises to flyers forced to make way for him
Modelling dinosaurs in two hours
Ecuador, first stop on Pope tour, highlights environment exhortation
Syrian army bombards rebels trying to seize Aleppo
Greeks deeply divided heading into crucial vote
Iran nuclear talks in endgame, negotiators push on sticking points
Celebrate Raya in style with GEMFIVE
The 3 unexpected life events that leave us in debt
Peanut butter days were special for Charley Hull
Ignite your digital marketing skills with Google
Group all for protecting dogs
Copyright © 1995-2015 Star Media Group Berhad (ROC 10894D)(Formerly known as Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad)