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Japan's historic yakuza leaders wax philosophic, with selected memorable quotations

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In 1855, John Bartlett, who ran the University Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, privately printed a "A Collection of Familiar Quotations." The book, which contained 258 pages of quotations by 169 authors, became a standby in the pantheon of English-language reference books. Known today as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, its current edition, the 18th, came out in 2012.

A writer for Asahi Geino (March 31) set out emulate Bartlett, albeit on a smaller scale, and wound up compiling a six-page article titled "30 Famous Yakuza Quotations." Viewed objectively, the quotations provide some telling insights into the thoughts and feelings of the men who headed some of Japan's largest syndicates during the 20th century.

Heading the list is the almost legendary Isokichi Yoshida (1867-1936), a Fukuoka native active from the Meiji Period, who is regarded as the originator of Japan's yakuza in their modern-day form.

Yoshida is remembered for his self-deprecatory remark that went, "Just as every house has a waste basket, I serve as the waste basket."

Other quotable quotes from the article follow below.

"A man is not a man without a Buddha's heart (i.e., merciful heart)." (Susumu Ishii, 2nd-generation head of the Inagawakai.)

"I do things based on my own beliefs and the responsibility is mine alone. My subordinates just follow my orders. Any blame is completely on me." (So said by Yamaguchigumi 4th-generation oyabun Masahisa Takenaka, whose assassination in 1985 set off the prolonged gang war between his gang and the breakaway group the Ichiwakai.)

"At the top, you know, everyone has got to be lonely." (Attributed to Kazuo Taoka, who preceded the aforementioned Takenaka as head of Yamaguchigumi.)

Along with the section of basic yakuza philosophy shown above, more quotes are segmented into three parts: the "teamwork" section; the "negotiation" section; and the "boosting motivation" section.

Here are some choice statements about teamwork:

"Unity; retribution; silence." (This was said by Yamaguchigumi's 5th generation leader Yoshinori Watanabe, clearly a man of few words.)

"Everyone eats meals together. We all eat together. Otherwise, how can people who are not blood relatives be sent out to kill on behalf of others?" (Masayoshi Takahashi, head of the Musashiya Ikka.)

"One man by himself cannot do anything." (Seijo Inagawa, founder of the Inagawakai.)

"Men are weak and lonely, so they don't stay alone. That's why they band together and try to augment the happy things and mitigate the sad things." (Kazuo Taoka, 3rd-generation head of Yamaguchigumi).

"My wish is to become the best henchman in Japan, under the best boss in Japan. (Said by Ken'ichi Yamamoto, head of a major affiliate of Yamaguchigumi under Taoka.)

About negotiating:

"When there are a lot of opponents and you are alone, and you are not winning at all, then of course you are going to get clobbered. In such a situation, you should never cry 'Ouch' or 'Help me, please help me,' That's the sole time things matter most to us. It's only our attitude at such times that speaks to others." (Tatsuo Deguchi, a sub-head in the Inagawakai)

"Do not retreat from what is right, and if you are righteous, do not waver on your convictions. Do not retreat, but fight with consistency and reason." (Uichiro Fujita, founder of the Matsubakai)

"I always go to fights alone because if I make a bad move, it won't leak out. Fortunately, I have never gone alone and made a bad move." (Kotaro Tanigawa, second-generation head of the violent, Osaka-based Yanagawagumi)

The next quote is unattributed, but too good to leave out: "Even if we were really in a bad situation with a 70/30 ratio in the other side's favor, we never back down. The world of the mob is an interesting one, and before you know it, the odds become 50/50, or even 40/60. And before you know it, you are on the right side. I make them apologize and even get paid."

And last but not least, some yakuza quotes about boosting motivation:

”I may have quit the yakuza, but I don't remember ever having stopped being a man." (Noboru Ando, founder of the Andogumi)

"A man must fall when he must. If you try to flee from it, you will suffer even more." (Moriyuki Hadani, founder of the Hadanigumi)

"It's alright to die. In fear or in pain, it doesn't matter; you just die. That's all there is to it." (Saizo Miyazaki, aka "the tiger of Kanmon," of the Kyushu-based Onagagumi)

"He was a coward, so in the end he didn't get killed." (Kingo Yoshinaga, a sub-head in the Inagawakai)

And finally this one: "There are no second chances in life." (Shinobu Tsukasa, sixth-generation head of Yamaguchigumi)

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
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Really? The Yakuza philosophy? Brutal, criminal thugs who were used to undermine democracy after the Great Asian War. Who belong in prison. Individuals with absolutely no redeeming social value, dealing in  extortion, protection rackets, sex trafficking, gambling, real estate, and construction.  Let alone murder and violence.

You deign to glorify them in the least, as an act of journalism?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Rather dull quotes. Better off as criminals than as authors.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Richard Gallagher

You deign to glorify them in the least, as an act of journalism?

Whether you like it or not, they served a purpose... Keep your feelings to yourself and stick with facts and stuff you can control in your daily life...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The Yakuza was a very efficient underworld organization, necessary in the nightlife of big cities, keeping order in prostitution and in the criminal world. Since their persecution by the media and public opinion, random criminality has grown in Japan drastically.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Oh my, that's a righteous screed @Richard. Maybe JT readers should organize a demonstration and go throw rocks at Asahi Geino's office in Shimbashi.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

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