Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Yakuza

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.

Sources

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.

Images

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Taoka Kazuo, boss of the influential Yamaguchi-gumi.

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

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

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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.

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

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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

 

Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this episode as a gift on my podcast’s release day.

Pull off your shirt to reveal your gang tattoos, it’s time for the yakuza!

Listen to the episode here.

 

Sources

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.

Images

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Banzui’in Chobei, a machiyakko (proto-yakuza) figure whose romantic life story was the grist of yakuza PR mills. Here he’s depicted shortly before his death, after his enemies ambushed him in a bath.

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Yakuza leader Toyama Mitsuru (left) alongside future PM of Japan Inukai Tsuyoshi (center) and President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek (right).

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Kodama Yoshio’s mugshot from Sugamo prison. While in Sugamo, Kodama would make contacts with other rightists which would propel his rise to the top.

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Taoka Kazuo, the boss who carried the Yamaguchi-gumi from a minor dockside gang to the largest crime family in Japan.

Episode 10 – A Day in the Life of Edo Japan

This week, we’ll be discussing the life of your average city-dweller in Edo Japan. This is a huge topic, and a fun one as well. Among the exciting things we will be discussing today:

  • Schooling in the Edo Period (mostly just for samurai, but since it was based mostly on rote memorization you wouldn’t be missing out on much)
  • The life of merchant families (often boiled down to ‘make money and damn the rest’)
  • Entertainment of the period, from kabuki to the seedy world of prostitution (not that there was much of a distinction between the two)
  • And other forms of flagrant immorality!

I had a lot of fun writing this episode, and I hope you enjoy listening to it!

Direct link to the show is available here.

Sources

Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan

Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan.

Iwasaki, Mineko. Geisha: A Life. New York: Washington Square Press, 2003.

Takeda, Izumo; Miyoshi, Shoraku, and Senryu, Namiki. Chushingura. Trans. Donald Keene. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Media (Courtesy Wikimedia Foundation unless otherwise specified)

 

This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.

This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.

This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).

This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).

An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.

An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.

This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.

This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.

This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).

This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67-bgSFJiKc&w=420&h=315]
The above video was put together by UNESCO, and contains a description of the history of kabuki as well as recordings of modern performances.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEUQNvn8EJQ&w=420&h=315]
Also from UNESCO, this video should give you an idea of how Bunraku shows are performed. Pay special attention to the way the puppets are manipulated; it’s all very impressive!

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