By Jake Adelstein
So, you want to become a Gokudokisha 極道記者, or rather, a journalist who writes about the yakuza? Then you should now there are some unwritten rules you will be expected to follow. (Read more about yazuka fan magazines here.)
1) No writing about ongoing criminal ventures or front companies.
2) When writing about yakuza arrested for extortion, assault and other crimes, the tone must be neutral.
3) Yakuza who are arrested for crimes such as theft and armed robbery should be treated as heretics, since those are, presumably, two crimes yakuza don’t commit. Street crimes, such as muggings, are off limits as well.
4) When covering new laws regulating the yakuza, the reportage must be disapproving and suggest that that the laws are actually an attack on civil liberties.
5) Don’t make any jokes about the yakuza or individual yakuza groups or leaders.
All said, when it comes to writing for a yakuza fan magazine there’s one basic rule: be nice to the Yakuza. When journalists write nasty things about them in the traditional press, they are sometimes menaced or intimidated, but it is rare. However, when yakuza journalists do the same, the yakuza feel betrayed, which can have dire consequences.
A friend of mine who edited a yakuza fan magazine for five years once wrote an article describing how some Yamaken-gumi (reputed to be the toughest of the tough) who, when found strutting around Ginza in Tokyo, had been given a beat-down by some rival Sumiyoshikai soldiers. In response to the article, the disrespected Yamaken-gumi broke into my friend’s office and gave him a beating of his own.
Another investigative journalist, yakuza expert Mizoguchi Atsushi, also raised the ire of the Yamaken-gumi with an article in 2006. The Yamaken members went looking to beat some sense into him but, failing to find him at home, stabbed his son instead.
Even I have had problems when in 1999 I angered some yakuza when I wrote in the Yomiuri newspaper about a Korean bank that had had gone bankrupt due to bad loans to yakuza groups. I was lucky: I just had death threats and people lurking around my house for a few days and wasn’t stabbed or shot.