If you know anything about Japan, you’ll probably have heard of the Yakuza at some point. You may have seen them in Jered Leto’s “The Outsider“, or perhaps in Jackie Chan’s “Shinjuku Incident“, or perhaps it’s the famous Yakuza tattoos you know of?
No matter how you’ve heard of them, the fact is that the Yakuza are world-famous bad guys. They are notorious for their strict codes of conduct and have a large presence in the Japanese media and operate internationally with an estimated 102,000 members.
It’s not all bad though – The Yakuza have had mixed relations with Japanese society. They function as a police force in their areas of operation, to help reduce crime (that would be their competition). They also provide protection to businesses and relief in times of disaster. These actions have painted yakuza in a fairly positive light within Japan. However, gang-wars, and the use of violence as a tool have caused their approval to fall with the general public.
But what are Yakuza really like?
After countless months of intense negotiations, Belgian (and brave) photographer, Anton Kusters was granted the opportunity to spend 2 years with one of the Yakuza gangs to document and photograph their way of life.
Via Anton Kusters
Fun Fact: The name “yakuza” originates from the traditional Japanese card game Oicho-Kabu, a game in which the goal is to draw three cards adding up to a value of 9. If the sum of your hand exceeds 10, the second digit is used as your total instead, with the exception of 10 (which equals 1). If the three cards drawn are 8-9-3 (pronounced ya-ku-sa in Japanese), the score is 20 and therefore zero, making it the worst possible hand that can be drawn.