|Violent Japanese criminals try image makeover
Japan's biggest organized crime syndicate has launched its own website, complete with a corporate song and a strong anti-drugs message, as the yakuza looks to turn around its outdated image and falling membership, Kyoko Hasegawa of AFP reports.
The clunky-sounding “Banish Drugs and Purify the Nation League'' website is an offering from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest yakuza grouping.
It includes shakily-shot footage of members making their New Year pilgrimage to a shrine. The soundtrack is a traditional folk-style song with lyrics extolling the virtues of the “Ninkyo'' spirit – an ideal of masculinity that battles injustice and helps the weak.
“Nothing but Ninkyo, that is the man's way of life,'' say the lyrics. “The way of duty and compassion, bearing the ordeal for our dream.''
Another video shows men with crew cuts pounding sticky rice for a New Year festival, and there are galleries of pictures showcasing the clean-up work members did in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and the 1996 Kobe earthquake.
The website is not the Yamaguchi-gumi's first foray into media – the crime syndicate last year began publishing a magazine for its members that includes a poetry page, senior gangsters' fishing diaries and a message from the boss.
Like the Italian mob or Chinese triads, yakuza syndicates are involved in activities ranging from prostitution to extortion and white-collar crime.
But unlike their underworld counterparts elsewhere, the yakuza are not illegal and each of the designated groups, like the Yamaguchi-gumi, have their own headquarters. Senior members hand out business cards.