Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: review-article

Crime: Sometimes the yakuza live up to their image, by Jake Adelstein

I don’t remember exactly how I discovered that the article existed, probably through the author’s twitter. Crime: Sometimes the yakuza live up to their image is part of an ebooklet named Reconstructing 3/11: Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown – how Japan’s future depends on its understanding of the 2011 triple disaster, which is a rather descriptive title. Unfortunately, it was only available in Kindle edition, so at first I did not know how to get it – yours truly does not have a Kindle – until I discovered Kindle for PC and iphone, and got myself the ebooklet, just for the article.

Jake Adelstein is the author of the first actual yakuza book I owned, Tokyo Vice, an American reporter on the police beat in Japan, which is probably the book that triggered my love for documentation and research in writing. Again, the title is rather informative, (I wrote a minireview for it here). Adelstein is an expert in yakuza and human trafficking in Japan, and has seen a lot of the ugly side of the underworld there.

Shortly after the Great Tohoku Earthquake on March 11 2011, Adelstein wrote an article about the Yakuza disaster relief efforts (Yakuza to the rescue), and now he takes things deeper. First he takes a rundown on yakuza history and their meaning in the Japanese society, and how they are considered by many Japanese ‘a necessary evil’, even with the recently passed laws to control and stop them. Yakuza are famous for enforcing peace in their turfs. Banters and fights are bad for business, be it gambling or sex business.

According to Adelstein, the very same night of the earthquake there were yakuza group patrolling both stricken and not stricken areas (Tokyo, Fukushima, Miyagi, Chiba) in order to prevent looting. Apparently, they were the most visible ‘police force’ in several Miyagi areas. They also made a very effective stand in the refugee camps in order to stop reported sexual abuses – the police could spare female 30 police officers, the Yamaguchi-gumi (the first responders after the Great Kobe Earthquake in 1995), sent along with food and first-necessity items. The Sumiyoshi-kai patrolled Sendai and the shelters there, flashing tattoos.

Just after the earthquake hit, the Sumiyoshi-kai (Tokyo) opened their offices to Japanese and foreigners that had gotten stranded when the trains went down, offering futons and food – the yakuza are usually very racist, so the fact that they were opening up to gaijin was surprising. Other gangs started loading supplies on trucks and drove until the roads disappeared, destroyed by the earthquake and the tsunami. Then they went cross-country, and when they could not drive anymore, they loaded the cargo and walked to where the supplies were needed, on occasion just dumping them and leaving before anyone noticed them. This included the radioactive zone, back in a time when nobody knew what the hell was going on.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the yakuza have made their own cut, working on reconstruction and nuclear clean-up. Probably not all the money raised in charity fundraisers made it to its destination, but for once the yakuza were real heroes.

I am making my way slowly through the whole booklet, but it’s a thick read when you remember the thousands of lives that were lost or broken that day. If you have – literally – two quid to spare, this is worth it.

Reconstructing 3/11: Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown – how Japan’s future depends on its understanding of the 2011 triple disaster [Amazon]


Internet Newspaper Note: Yakuza to the Rescue

Newspaper Article: Yakuza to the Rescue. [link]
Author: Jake Adelstein.
Source: The Daily Beast
Date: March 18, 2011

Yakuza code of honor is rather… special, I’d say. When I started my research a while back I found a note on the 1995 Kobe Earthquake which said that the yakuza had been the first on scene with some kind of organized/efficient relief strategy. Kobe is the main HQ of the Yamaguchi-gumi, so it made some kind of sense that they would ‘do something’ for their people.

This month, when the Great Tohoku Earthquake hit again, the yakuza moved again, and once more they were the first on scene. In barely 24 hours they arranged trucks of basic necessities and drove up north east with whatever they could find. Probably they just plunged into Conbini storage warehouses or something and just took what they wanted; as mentioned their code of honor is rather particular.

What gives, nonetheless, a glimpse of the magnitude of the disaster is the fact that the yakuza, an extremely ethnic and racist group is this: There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. For the yakuza, this is something huge. Then again, I’m probably just flailing the fact that they drove north for 12 hours to drop by the supplies and ‘not mentioned that they were from the yakuza so they did not get rejected’. Oh, minna ♥

Ongoing Research Resources list and tips

Note: Not complete, not universal, not comprehensive either. Just a few favourites, tips, and shameless pimping of some of my sources.

Google [link]
Google is available in many, many languages. In my opinion, the English one (.com) is the most powerful one. Google works on a keyword-query. The trick to google is patience to make different searches. Here’s a few tips:

  1. When doing a search, try different keywords, with and without quotes. osaka guardians and “osaka guardians” will not yield to the same results.
  2. Google does not understand upper or lowercase, so OSAKA, Osaka and osaka will get you to the same pages.
  3. Use -keyterm to exclude certain words.
  4. Remember that Google has options to search for images and videos, too. And there’s Google Scholar [link] for the geekiest.
  5. * is a wildcard, meaning it can substitute any word you’re looking for in a sentence.
  6. Use filetype:pdf to get only pdf results (filetype:ext to get any file extension).
  7. Be careful of brilliant pages and with what you download in your computer!!
  8. Google can (and many times will) lead you to other kind of engines, such as answers.com [link] or yahoo answers [link]. Link hopping is really useful
  9. Skim at least 3 pages of links before giving up


Wikipedia comes in various languages, and what makes it awesomely useful is the fact that you can search for anything in any language and switch into any other. Generally, the English articles are more extensive, but you can (and should!) check for information in any language you read and has a good article.

Find your way around

  1. Google maps [link] will give you walking and car distances from and to many places, and with the street view feature, you can be IN the map
  2. Google Earth is nice and handy too, for bookmarking your own locations

When on the internet: link hop

Explore wikipedia’s references, and ‘related topics’ when you’re on answering engines.


Don’t give up on the third link.


I’m old school, when I was younger getting a photocopy was a luxury, and there was no internet XD

  1. Your local library can be a good source of information.
  2. ebay [link]. Here you can buy second or first hand books, many of them cheap.
  3. Amazon [link] is the reference online bookshop, and has some second hand book for as little as 1cent + S&H
  4. A personal favourite: The Book Depository [link] has 0 S&H and nice offers.
  5. Public Domain Books (and basically anything) can be found in The Internet Archive [link]

Writing Forums or LJ communities

  1. Detail Oriented [link]: an LJ community for writers.
  2. NaNoWriMo’s forums [link]

Uber-geeky search engines (Research Journal articles):

  1. I use Science Direct [link] a lot, but if you got access to a university library you might have access to many more.
  2. JSTOR [link] is more focused on social science, and thus is useful too

Specific Forums
Forums are an amazing fountain of wisdom and real life experience. The people posting there have specific knowledge about a specific topic and can help you cross-reference your preconceptions.

TED Talks [link]
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) provides access to a wide range of information under a Creative Commons license in 18 minutes or less, bringing together some of the authorities in the topic at hand – whichever that is.

What is not a good idea to count as research:

Anything that comes from a movie or a tv series, unless you’ve double-checked. Sometimes screenwriters get amusingly unaccurate. An example? Old blood is not blood red. How many times have you seen in a cop show a body covered in bright red blood when the victim was killed a few nights before?

Personal list of Resources:

  • Apparelized [link] Spinal Cord injuries forum.
  • eMedicine [link] Medical Articles in plain/acessible English