On May 30, the front page of the Los Angeles Times was emblazoned with the headline, "Japanese gang figures got new livers at UCLA."
The story revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had facilitated the entry of four members of Japanese criminal syndicates into the U.S. -- despite their criminal records and known gang ties -- in exchange for information on money laundering which, as it turned out, did not prove especially useful in nabbing crooks.
"The U.S. considers Japan's syndicates to be the world's largest, and is more wary of them than are the Japanese themselves," Shukan Jitsuwa (Aug 21-28) is told by a Japanese journalist on familiar terms with the inner workings of the FBI and CIA. "There is always the notion over why the Japanese government lets this vicious 'mafia' run rampant. Americans are also of the impression that the gangs will act as a hindrance to their economic activities in Japan."
"Of several hundreds of billions of yen in investments, even if just 1% were to flow into the yakuza's coffers, their crookedness would stand out," the journalist adds. "Some Americans might tend to lump regular Japanese businessmen with yakuza, and regard such people as sinister. But there's no evidence to support this. So they assemble whatever information they can with the aim of stirring up trouble."
English publications dealing with the Japanese underworld go back over 30 years, but are still in relatively short supply. In 1975, Florence Rome published "The Tattooed Men," which described Yamaguchi-gumi's de facto chief Kazuo Taoka as "the godfather of godfathers." Other books and articles have since appeared, but Shukan Jitsuwa is convinced that the western journalists who report on Japan's syndicates generally describe their activities as the East Asian equivalent of the Italian Mafia.
But, the magazine argues, the Italian Mafia would never proudly their organization's coat of arms (if they had one) outside their headquarters on New York's 5th Avenue, or walk around wearing gang badges on their suit lapels. Nor do members of the Chinese triads in Hong Kong or Taiwan display their affiliation in such an open manner.
Foreign journalists, the article reiterates, are simply unable to comprehend the true situation of the yakuza.
"One hundred percent of foreign journalists are convinced that the yakuza are the same type of criminal organization as the mafia," says the writer. "To some extent, such a misperception should be obvious, since they know nothing about the yakuza's history. If you go back to their formative period you're talking about 500 years ago."
Considering the four yakuza liver transplants took place between 2000 and 2004, in Shukan Jitsuwa's view the timing of LA Times story appears a bit suspicious.
"Jake Adelstein, the writer of the first article about the gang leader's liver transplant in the Washington Post (on May 11) was a former reporter for one of Japan's biggest newspapers," says the aforementioned Japanese journalist. "He had mentioned in an interview that he was preparing to include it in an upcoming book. [Title: "Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan."] By running the article in the Washington Post, it's possible he may just engaging in advance publicity."
It is widely known that the U.S. is pressuring the Japanese government to crack down harder on the yakuza. But Shukan Jitsuwa isn't sure it's that easy for the government to oblige. If the magazine is correct, American law enforcement officials have obtained precious little data on the whos, whats and wherefores of Japanese gangs.
"Up to now, the Japanese police have only provided the names and dates of birth of about 50 yakuza members, despite the fact that there are about 80,000 of them in total," the aforementioned journalist tells the magazine.
"Whenever American economic or financial interests head overseas, it is the CIA that draws the lines," he continues. "It's necessary to carefully ascertain what are its real aims.
"Even if the U.S. takes a hostile view toward the yakuza, it's probably in Japan's interests for this country's government, police and judiciary to refrain from dancing to America's tune."© Japan Today