The worst of times sometimes brings out the best in people – even in Japan’s mafia, the yakuza.
The Daily Beast news website said that hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, opening their offices to those stranded in Tokyo and shipping food, water and blankets to the devastated areas.
The website reported that the day after the earthquake, the Inagawa-kai (the third-largest organised crime group in Japan) sent 25 trucks filled with paper diapers, instant ramen, batteries, torches, drinks and other essentials to the Tohoku region.
The Daily Beast said an executive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest crime group, even offered refuge to members of the foreign community – something unheard-of in a still slightly xenophobic nation, especially among the right-wing yakuza, the website said.
The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, has also opened its offices across the country to the public and has been sending truckloads of supplies, but very quietly and without any fanfare, the website said.
The Inagawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. Between midnight on March 12 and the early morning of March 13, the Inagawa-kai Tokyo block carried 50 tonnes of supplies to Hitachinaka City Hall, careful not to mention their yakuza affiliation so that the donations would not be rejected.
The Daily Beast said the Kanagawa block of the Inagawa-kai has sent 70 trucks to the Ibaraki and Fukushima areas to drop off supplies in areas with high radiation levels – with yakuza members going in without any protection or potassium iodide.
The Yamaguchi-gumi member The Daily Beast spoke with said simply: “Please don’t say any more than we are doing our best to help. Right now, no one wants to be associated with us and we’d hate to have our donations rejected out of hand.”
But this is not the first time the yakuza have displayed a humanitarian impulse. In 1995, after the Kobe earthquake, the Yamaguchi-gumi was one of the most responsive forces on the ground, quickly getting supplies to the affected areas and distributing them to the local people.
The Daily Beast said that, admittedly, much of those supplies were paid for with money from years of shaking down the people in the area, and that the yakuza are certainly not unaware of the public relations factor.
The Daily Beast added it may seem puzzling that organised crime groups, deriving their principal revenue streams from activities such as collecting protection money, blackmail, extortion and fraud, would have any civic nature at all.
However, said the website, in Japan they play a role in keeping the peace and may actually keep street crime (mugging, purse-snatching and theft) down. Many Japanese admire or tolerate them.
As one member told The Daily Beast, “There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) right now. We are all Japanese. We all need to help each other.”
The Straits Times
Publication Date : 21-03-2011
Source: Asia News Network