Monday, April 1, 2013

Yakuza, Japanese gangsters 

Before I got married I lived for a while in a Japanese inn in a wonderfully rowdy Tokyo neighborhood called Ueno, an area of the city known to be favored by people from the north of Japan and by yakuza. In Ueno, yakuza were not shy to let everyone know who they were. One yakuza used to wear a plaid double-breasted suit every day. It must have been his only suit. Everyone knew him and knew he was a yakuza and that was the way he liked it. His racket was something to do with the race track, I seem to recall.

In Japan, everyone has a job and is proud to do it well. There is a guy at our station whose job it is to keep the station clean and the station is immaculate. He's always running a cloth over something or a mop around the platform and he's proud that the station is so clean. Similarly, the plaid double-breasted yakuza had a scam and he was proud to do it well, whatever it was, and so proud to be a yakuza.

I gather that as long as he didn't hurt anybody except by parting them from their extra cash in some flimflam, the police let the yakuza do their job. The only disadvantage to being a yakuza, as far as I could see, was that most public baths did not accept as customers anybody who has a tattoo, and most if not all yakuza have tattoos. But then, there are yakuza public baths, just as there are yakuza bars.

I guess that somehow people secretly have a sentimental affection for their neighborhood yakuza, who are inclined to help old ladies cross the street by holding up the traffic. Yakuza have beaten the system, you see. But not, really.

--Perry Arguable

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