The Yakuza is the Japanese mafia, which has been active in Japan for over 100 years. They have about 80 000 members.

They are notorious for their strict codes of conduct. There is a hierarchy with a godfather (family head) and his “children”. They refer to each other as brothers.

They deal in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, extortion, human trafficking and prostitution, and arms smuggling. Not everything the Yakuza do is viewed as necessarily bad - for example after the Kobe earthquake the Yakuza mobilized themselves to provide disaster relief services, including the use of a helicopter.

Tokyo Vice

Tokyo Vice is a 2009 book written by an American reporter working for the Yomiury Daily, a Japanese newspaper. He covered the crime beat for twelve years. The book contains some interesting stories about Yakuza activity.

Photographing the Yakuza

A Belgian photographer called Anton Kusters recently got access to photographing the Yakuza. After a lengthy negotiation of more than 10 months he was allowed to take photographs of the Yakuza under the condition that every photograph would have to be approved.

You can see part of the series at Anton Kuster’s website. He also did a TEDx talk about his work.