Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Episode 145 – An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Part 2


What does organized crime look like in modern Japan, and why does anybody put up with it? Also, how many rocket launchers can you buy with 50 pounds of amphetamines?

All that and more, this week.
Listen to the episode here.


Kaplan, David and Alec Dubro. Yakuza: Japan’s Criminal Underworld, 2nd Edition.

Adelstein, Jake. Tokyo Vice.

Saga, Junichi. Confessions of a Yakuza.

Eiko, Siniawer. Ruffians, Yakuza, Natinoalists.



Taoka Kazuo, boss of the influential Yamaguchi-gumi.


Taoka in the mode of a traditional yakuza boss. The modern yakuza rely heavily on symbolic links with the Japanese past to legitimate themselves.


Kodama Yoshio in 1984, as part of the trials surrounding the Lockheed Scandal.


Yamaguchi gumi members attending a funeral during the internal fighting following the death fo Taoka Kazuo. The fighting was deeply embarassing to the yakuza due to the intensity of combat between the two sides.


Police prepare to raid the HQ of the Yamaguchi-gumi in Kobe.


Modern Japanese governments have tried to take a harder line with the yakuza; this particular image is part of an anti-yakuza campaign instituted by the city government of Sendai.



Episode 144 – An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Part 1


Episode 146 – The Birth of the Samurai, Part 1


  1. ssfsx17

    Today I Learned that the plot of the video game Ryu Ga Gotoku (a.k.a. Yakuza) for the PS2 was a typical formulaic yakuza movie.

    Seems like Japanese society, as a whole, is like if Yin and Yang were two separate governments ruling one country.

  2. Really interesting series. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the backlog of this podcast, too – it’s a nice distraction while I’m stuck in traffic.

    One point about yakuza movies – I’ve only seen a couple of them, but the ones I’ve seen were all made by Takeshi Kitano. They’re good and don’t seem to follow the formula you described that much. Hana-bi is a good one to check out, though it’s told entirely from the perspective of the detective main character.

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