The aura and mystique of the Yakuza has long been embraced in pop culture. Known for their brutality and strict code of honor, all of it seems to be overshadowed by the obsession we have with the ink which marks their bodies. Back in the days, a tattoo represented their loyalty, and much like a tattoo, that loyalty was permanent, and for life. Now a Belgian photographer gives us an inside look into their culture as well as their art.
After months of negotiations, Anton Kusters successfully negotiated a deal which allowed him to spend two years with Japan’s most notorious Yakuza gangs. He was able to capture these priceless moments of them during their business meetings, and visits to bath houses, night clubs, and even funerals.
The range of emotions found in his book are impressive.
“893-Yakuza is a personal visual account of the life inside an inaccessible subculture: a traditional Japanese crime family that controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan,” says Kusters.
No mistakes: A missing finger indicates repurcussions for a mistake
In 2009, Japan’s National Police Agency estimated that there were 80,900 active Yakuza, whose activities include drug dealing, extortion, illegal gambling and violent turf wars. Bound by a strict and ruthless moral code, the Yakuza are known to cut off the ends of their fingers to prove the sincerity of an apology.
If you can still find it, Kusters put out a book titled Odo Yakuza Tokyo. The book has sold out in its two initial releases so if you’re lucky enough to find one pick it up. You can see more of his work on his website for more information.