The Yakuza
by Charles River Editors
Charles River Editors

Perhaps it is the Robin Hood-like principles of some yakuza members that make Japan’s organised crime syndicates fascinating. However, these gangsters are involved in, among other things, the country’s sex industry, which includes the human-trafficking side of hostess clubs. According to the authors of The Yakuza, they have also “dipped their toes into child pornography”. Despite their unsavoury ways of making money, we learn how, in 2011, the largest yakuza groups in Japan rallied to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami. We also learn how the yakuza originally created a code of ethics to distinguish themselves from other delinquent gangs. Honour for them (as for the samurai) was important. Readers already au fait with the history and modus operandi of the yakuza will find little new in this Wiki-style volume, which is more primer than exposé. Sources are secondary, sentences are softened with “it is said” and sometimes vocabulary is questionable (“spiffy” is used to describe government structure). The authors quote writers whose own books on the subject are more informative. One is Jake Adelstein, whose Tokyo Vice is altogether a more substantial read.