Japan Today



The dismay of discovering you're working for organized crime


The year 2003 is remembered as the "Ice Age of employment," when only 60.2% of university seniors managed to line up jobs prior to graduation. But the recruitment picture for the class of 2011 is currently looking even more dismal, as the figure is down to 57.6%.

Some increasingly desperate students, reports Shukan Taishu (Dec 20), are reflexively grabbing whatever they can get. But alas, it appears growing numbers are discovering to their dismay that their new employer is a front company controlled by an organized crime syndicate.

Such companies have been popping up unexpectedly all over. It was only last year that it was discovered a Nagoya-based publisher of a guide to the city's nightlife had received an infusion of capital from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest gang.

"It's not always easy for police to designate a yakuza front company, which will appoint 'dummy' managers with no known ties to organized crime," the reporter for a nationally circulated newspaper tells the magazine -- adding that in addition to long-term infestation into money lending, construction, real estate, building demolition and the sex industry, the gangs have quietly branched out into more respectable areas.

"Front businesses with gang involvement on the rise include food and beverage establishments, IT (information technology) and welfare-related services," the reporter says.

According to freelance journalist Tomoyuki Ueno, several years ago, a list of businesses serving as fronts for the yakuza was circulated by one of the prefectural police organizations.

"The list came to about 50 A4 pages," says Ueno. "It included florists, coffee shops, esthetic treatment parlors and a lot of businesses one wouldn't ordinarily expect to see.

"In many cases, such businesses are operated by the wives or girlfriends of gang members, but the regular employees often have no idea what they're involved in, they just think it's an ordinary job. And quite a few of them had bitter experiences as a result," Ueno adds.

Aiko Inoue (a pseudonym) tells Shukan Taishu of her own harrowing experience at a florist. "It was located near an entertainment area, and I expected that we'd get lots of orders from cabaret clubs and host clubs," she relates. "One day, I was asked by the manager to personally deliver a floral tribute to the funeral of a gang boss.

"I showed up on time, but one of the organizers snapped at me, 'You're late!' He also complained that the display's right and left sides were slightly mismatched. I just bowed and scraped. By this time, I was surrounded by several hundred hoods who showed up for the ceremony, and began wondering if I'd get out alive."

A man named Sakashita with a certificate in nursing care was in for a rude awakening when he went to work for a company running a rest home for seniors.

"But the president told me, 'All I need you for is driving.' Once on my day off I was called into work, and the vehicle I wound up driving was one of those right-wing sound trucks.

"So there I was driving around the streets with stirring martial music blasting from the speakers, and the boss directed me to drive toward a foreign embassy. When he got into a shoving match with the police, I noticed for the first time that he was tattooed all over."

This is not to imply that employment in such firms is entirely bad. For one thing, they are known to pay higher remuneration than other companies, and staff recreation may even include an expenses-paid romp in a soapland. But typically their working conditions are demanding. And even those who work up the courage to resign are likely to be told their resignation wasn't accepted. "Then they have no choice but to disappear," says the aforementioned reporter.

Unfortunately, that won't solve the problem, as the company will track down their guarantor (typically the parents) and shake them down for compensation, claiming that the abrupt resignation caused them losses.

Hideki Sugawara, a personnel management consultant, warns that as students become more desperate to land jobs after graduation, predatory recruitment by such front companies may increase. To avoid trouble, he advises, candidates need to refrain from insisting on a position with a major firm and should instead carefully investigate the business field they hope to enter, as well potential employers.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I don't know, is there not a "police force" anywhere to close down these sham companies and a court system with laws and statues to protect workers who leave?

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I don't think the police force is that good.

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This article must be so true that they are hiding the author's name. He/She must be so scared. And for as bad as the police force is they certainly didn't even give their officers who specialize in organized crime the chance to comment about the validity of what the author is saying. Yes another article worth it's weight in gold.

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I discovered this sad situation from personal experience, and it's difficult to extract oneself from it. Be careful.

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i was working for the government ..until i realsied it behaves more like the mafia than the real mafia

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The government should really outlaw and enforce this practice of having a guarantor for getting a job. Is simply rediculous.

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staff recreation may even include an expenses-paid romp in a soapland

The dividing line between what some staff do for recreation and what they do for remuneration is fairly elastic.

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Most of the fronts run legitimate businesses and serve mainly to launder the "dirty" revenue through the banks. Unless it can be proven the businesses knew the money was tainted, there's not much the police can legally do about the fronts.

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there have been several front companies opened up in the nice neighborhood i live in recently. one is a dry cleaners, staffed by women who would appear to be retired sex-workers. they put the normal dry cleaner i have been using for years out of business, in part due to the recession. but that shop serves many purposes for these criminal groups. they provide jobs for their members, displace legitimate businesses, and enable them to gain a foothold in places that they target to sort of colonize with their alien ethos. funny thing about the other two is that they are trying to front some junky, disposal mass hysteria like american culture, and stick out like a sore thumb. what's that about??? one of them is so ridicules that there has not been one legitimate customer in the place since it opened.

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... am I the only one reading these examples of the "difficult" situations that thee people found themselves in and thinking, "Hey, that could happen anywhere".

I mean seriously, an angry grieving customers who's unreasonable? Welcome to dealing with grieving people, they're not at their best, and they can be quite unpleasant. Driving a right wing sound truck? Well that's a bit dodgy, but sure beats being stuffed in a mascot suit and sent out to hand out pamphlets.

If these businesses are paying good salaries and employing people and the police can't actually prove any crime committed then it strikes me as a bit insane to just shut them down because they suspect something might be going on. There's a global economic recession and people are desperate for work.

Also, if the companies are owned by "gangsters" then surely the correct solution should be to arrest the gangsters... unless they have no proof against the gangsters either, in which case you can't really label these people as gangsters, and the police should just back off.

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ridiculous article. Thanks JT!

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You'd have to be pretty naive not to know who hired you. Its like not knowing she was actually a he..........

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frungy - "the police can't actually prove any crime committed then it strikes me as a bit insane to just shut them down because they suspect something might be going on. There's a global economic recession and people are desperate for work"

Youre being naive matey. These businesses launder gang money gained from their criminal activity. That criminal activity is huge and holds the legit economy back. If the police can suceed in restricting gang money being turned into legit money it effectively makes their illegal works less profitable.

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I would say the dismal situation occurs when, if you're a foreigner, your government closes in on you, to get your contacts, despite just doing an honest days work. Then proceeds to not give back your address book, nor do anything about the implications they made about 'laundering money'. If you make a good contact it is dismal cause you learn the government is no better.

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I knew a friend, a long-term resident here, whose company was sold. The new management slashed his salary and when he complained the "personnel manager" made threats against his life. My friend made transcripts of the conversations and correspondence with names, dates and other details, and arranged leave them with several trusted friends, who had instructions to send them to his embassy if anything bad happened to him. Eventually he left Japan.

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Frungy: you haven't seem the whole picture, or you wouldn't think that way. One BIG, SERIOUS problem is them making a troubling employee vanishing from the face of the earth. You doubt that? I don't. My Brazilian boyfriend once told me of a mate of his that worked in a Izakaya (and was friends with "the guys") who just disappeared, to this day. His family keeps publishing "missing" ads in Brazilian newspapers, after more than 10 years since last hearing from him.

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There is a list of businesses that are classified as high risk for money laundering. They are mainly high ticket price items such as jewelry store. Also, purchasing expensive items in cash raises flag as well. In simple terms, police and banks need ways to trace the origin of the money to prove that the money is legit. All those coffee shops..... I would suspect those are contact places rather than actually being used for money laundering. They are just not fast enough unless the group owns many of those, then that's is another case.

Now, what would make things more interesting if a poor soul finds out the wife he married to for years is actually the daughter of a mafia boss. That would make a nice comedy movie.

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If they know the businesses, they should simply pass a law saying every Yakuza owned or run business has to have a sticker on their front window labeling them as such. And taking down that sticker is life in prison. Problem solved.

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The Yakuza are no bigger thieves than the politicins in power now! Ozawa and Suzuki are only two politicians who have been busted! The majority of Japanese politicians are crooked as corkscrews! They just haven`t been caught! Pff! the Yakuza: No worse than some, but better than most!

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Nova was the largest company controlled by the yaks that employed foreigners. Hahahaha !!!! Very funny !!!! No big suprise

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"Dismay" ? MOST of the companies I worked for while in Japan were Mob run. They PAID BETTER than most, and I was treated FAIRLY well. The ONLY place I DIDN'T realize was OUTRIGHT ILLEGAL, was someplace in Shibuya, that was a NON-Japanese Staff "Hostess Bar", and when I WITNESSED something going on UNDER a TABLE, in plain/open view one night, I WALKED OUT....JeezzzzUs.

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