Yakuza: Japanese Modern-Day Cowboys

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Yakuza: Function: noun; Etymology: Yakuza, a Japanese secret criminal society, from Japanese dialect 1 a: a secret criminal society of Japan; b: a similarly conceived Japanese criminal organization in the U.S.; also: a similar organization elsewhere <the Italian Mafia> c: a criminal organization associated with a particular trade.

I never met a Yakuza I didn’t like. When I die, perhaps I’ll want my epitaph to read that. It’s true too. I have never met a Yakuza who wasn’t a real gentleman to me and quite polite. Of course, this being Japan and all, these guys can come off as being quite scary, but I’ve found that if you treat them with respect and dignity, they will repay the favor. I would suppose that some foreigners in Japan, like me, can get along with the Yakuza because they are outsiders and so are we. In fact, in my case, I’d reckon that I can get along quite well with these guys because I always felt like an outsider even in America — my home country — as they are outsiders in Japan; their own home.

Yakuza and the Mafia — what I would call "traditional style gangsters" — are good people with families to feed and good jobs to try to feed those families with (they are not to be confused with Crips, Bloods, or what is known as Gangstas today). It can only be a statist-nut, the very confused, someone who is stupid, or someone who works for the federal government, who thinks that these gangsters are really criminals. I would say that they are definitely not. These people are providing the free market with a service despite what government propaganda has told you. If the average people would just wake up, they’d realize the government is the bigger criminals than the Yakuza or the Mafia could ever be. I’ve never heard of the Yakuza bombing Hawaii or the Mafia over-running Tunisia. Have you?

Let me ask you to consider this scenario: There is a man who you have never met, nor will ever meet, named Lester D. Smith who lives on "the other side of the tracks." Now, like I said, you don’t know Lester and he doesn’t know you. You most probably will never meet or cross paths in your entire lifetimes. Lester could be what many consider a loser. But it is his life, is it not? Isn’t he free to do as he pleases with his life so long as he doesn’t interfere with anyone else? Of course he is. So since you don’t know this guy, and never will, then what do you care if he wants to take drugs, go to a Speakeasy, drink liquor, or get some Tootsie Roll and Hostess Cup-Cakes? It’s none of your damned business if he does. You don’t care what he does, right? I certainly don’t.

Then why do folks sit back and allow the federal government to tax and tax so that they can spend billions on baby-sitting losers like Lester?

I doesn’t make common sense. If the government really thought the Yakuza or Mafia were such a big problem, they’d decriminalize all sorts of victimless crimes and these organizations would disappear. But no, it doesn’t work that way. Like I said, the Yakuza and Mafia are decent, hard-working people; it’s the government that is full of crooks.

My oldest daughter was seriously dating a Yakuza a while back. She still could be, I don’t know. I hope she is. I wish she’d settle down with a nice, hard-working guy who makes a decent living. When my ex-wife found out that Diane (not her real name) was dating this Yakuza-guy, everyone on their side of the family freaked out. They called me and told me to do something. Do something about what? I asked. I was happy about my daughter dating a Yakuza. I mean, every family needs a doctor, a lawyer, and a gangster in it to keep the family together. What’s the problem? Some readers may think I jest here, but I certainly do not.

Anyhow, to get to the point of all of this: I got robbed and beaten the other night. No kidding. This really did happen to me: I was rolled. My rose-colored glasses about a crime-free Japan crushed along with the cartilage in my nose when I was assaulted on a dark street and robbed. They hit me across the bridge of the nose with a club or a stick and after surgery I needed nine stitches to close the gap. I just got released today from seven days in the hospital.

Knocked down, but not out

One of the big reasons I left Southern California was crime. I think that when you are not able to walk about your own neighborhood at night, that that is a kind of oppression. I feared crime. When I found out my university best-friend’s cousin was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles one day that was it for me. I didn’t like it so I left. Still, assault and robbery are rare crimes in Japan, but the fact that such an extremely rare occurrence happened to me, in the safest city in the world, after I’d been railing on Americans for how much American society has gone downhill all this time, has not lost a bit of its irony on me. Still, this is now my home and I have to take the good with the bad.

As it turns out, it seems that I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You see, I live in a neighborhood that has many rich foreigners. These are people who are ambassadors, families of those ambassadors, or who work for the embassies, etc. And then me (and my buddy Andrew); we help balance out the curve so that — taken on an average — all foreigners around here aren’t rich. I’m just the old neighborhood foreigner who walks around in the daytime and looks like he hasn’t a job. But, alas, as you all know, all foreigners look alike, and some punks saw me stumbling drunk up the road and decided that I was an easy target, so they rolled me. But I got the last laugh, ha! They picked the wrong foreigner to rob, that’s for sure. If they wanted wads of cash, well, they had the wrong guy. I think they got about $15 from me. That’s about enough money to get a Big Mac, fries, and a small Coke in this country.

Of course the police are investigating the case. Don’t expect them to come up with anything except a lot of scratching of heads, standing around, and chalk marks on the street. I also found out that on the night I was beaten and robbed, one other foreigner was bashed up too; so I guess those thieves (the punks, not the police) might have cashed in that night.

My daughter Diane called me on my fifth night in the hospital. She said she had a message from the local Yakuza boss. The top Yakuza boss around here is a guy I’ll just call "Mr. O." I’ve met Mr. O a few times, and, as with all the other Yakuza I’ve ever met, found him to be quite a courteous gentleman — albeit a bit scary. Mr. O is a typically soft-spoken sort who seems very humble — too humble, and that’s the scary part. I’ve seen other Yakuza types when they were around him and they all spoke in whispered tones of reverence in front of him.

In these last few days I think I have found out the identity of the Yakuza who my daughter is dating and this would answer some questions of why my daughter is so well respected and well-known around these parts.

The message from Mr. O was that he was very sorry for what had happened to me and that he was going to take care of it. I told my daughter to relay this message to him:

Thanks Mr. O., I really appreciate your kindness and concern but I am fine now and getting better by the day. I hope you understand that I am not interested in any sort of revenge or retribution. In fact, I don’t know how it is possible to do so considering that these guys hit me so fast that I didn’t even see them. I am most definitely not interested in being part of a cycle of violence and would most appreciate your understanding in my wish to let this matter drop. I hope you can appreciate my position on this and forget about this entire affair.

To which I was relayed this message from Mr. O:

Dear Diane’s Daddy (that’s what I am referred as); I really appreciate your kind words. But please understand that whether you saw anything or not, someone in the neighborhood must have seen something so it is my responsibility to take care of this incident. I would hope that you would understand that as I am in charge of this area, this kind of case cannot be tolerated and those responsible must be punished. So as the boss of this area, please appreciate my position and know that I cannot forget about this affair and must take care of it.

I got this message and sighed. Yes, I understand. This is a very old country and there’s nothing I can say or do to change this guy’s mind. I relayed another message to him that I cannot stop him from doing what he needs to do, but I respectfully wish to not be involved whatsoever.

Mr. O. responded that they are only going to take money. I told them that if they did, that was fine, but I don’t want to know about it and to please donate my share to the children’s hospital nearby.

I think the punks who rolled me had better hope the police get to them before Mr. O’s people do. As for me, I want to forget about this entire mess. It was a good experience, I learned a lot; and I will write much about what I saw. I certainly don’t need this thing to turn into a bigger and bigger crisis. It is nice to know that there are some folks looking out for me. Besides that, I just wish to remain what I’ve always been up until now: the old neighborhood foreigner who walks around in the daytime and looks like he hasn’t a job.

Respect to: Mr. O, my daughter, and Robert Klassen

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.

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