Yesterday I met Kawabe-san to receive my Clarity Ring. It was beautifully presented in a wooden box lined with denim, symbolising Kojima’s traditional industry of jeans manufacturing. I’m wearing it right now. We ended up having loads of beers, and talking with the owner of the izakaya we were in all about the yakuza- a topic I’m really interested in, but up until now haven’t really had the chance to ask about. There were only the 4 of us in the place- including the owner- otherwise I doubt we would have talked about a topic that people really don’t discuss. Yet I was amazed by how prevalent the yakuza are in everyday life, and active in the businesses in Kojima. I found out the name of the head boss in our area, and learnt how to say “I belong to the #### yakuza group, give me a discount” in Japanese! Not something I should shout about, but the yakuza do get discounts. It seems that their major source of income in the area isn’t pachinko (an industry predominantly controlled by the Korean mafia), nor drugs (a limited market in Japan when possession and dealing penalties are a lot stricter than in the UK), but “water businesses”. These are businesses that close on “suiyobi”, wednesday, and sell alcohol. The yakuza tax the sale of liquor and gain revenue from such places. They own private boats and sail out to islands in the Inland Sea to relax and practice shooting. A few years ago the boss in the Kojima area did something wrong, and word was given from above (all yakuza in the Okayama area descent from Yamaguchi-gumi, the biggest yakuza organisation in Japan, based in Kobe) that he had to leave for Shikoku. Since then ##### san has taken over.
Recruitment for the yakuza starts at an early age- 14 or 15. Yakuza come to New Years celebrations and make omocha, a traditional sweet made (of course) of bean paste, which is pounded excessively until it takes on the right consistency. It is then that chugakkosei students (Junior High) are recuited into the organisation. As such, its rare that I see dodgy figures hanging around Shonan High- by that time potential candidates have already been picked off. These youngsters, who have little education, are known as “chimpiras”, often hanging around on street corners or outside of the local bosses house. They’re easy to recognise- always dressed in “jaji”, or sportswear.
The owner of the izakaya we were in yesterday was a real character- a 60 year old women that refuses to pay the yakuza a penny. For some unknown reason they respect this, and actually protect her- my friends were joking that shes like a one woman yakuza organisation!