I'm really not very good at long threads on twitter. But humor me as I talk a little bit about this article I've written for @thedailybeast on Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Suga has ties to a yakuza associated company called Suruga Corporation. I remember this case and this story well. Because it encapsulated so much of what I disliked about the yakuza and corruption in Japan.
Suruga Corporation, who's president Iwata was close friends with Suga, around 2001 decided they could make a lot of money by developing properties. And the easiest way to do that was to pay the yakuza to evict tenants from the land they wanted to acquire thedailybeast.com/yoshihide-suga…
So Suruga partnered up with a company 光誉実業 that was run by the Yamaguchi-gumi Goto-gumi. The firm terrorized the tenants of buildings Suruga wanted to acquire. Yakuza would post "condemned" signs on the buildings. Sit in yakitori places scaring customers, ordering little.
Sometimes, the yakuza would do things like kill the cats of old ladies and leave the corpse in the mailbox. I should mention that it was a Goto-gumi front company and Goto, a sociopath, was the worst of the yakuza.
Suruga made hundreds of millions of dollars turning over properties. They put former National Police Agency executives on their board, former prosecutors. They donated money to Suga's political fund. He took it.
In some ways, Suga, knowingly or unknowingly, did something amazing--he got paid protection money from the yakuza. Usually, people pay protection money (用心棒代) to the yakuza, not the other way around. But he seemed to look the other way. As did many.
In March of 2008, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police busted the yakuza working for Suruga Corporation--for violating the lawyer laws. Only lawyers can make evictions. No one from Suruga Corporation was arrested. The firm was publicly humiliated though and that was something.
It was around this time that my mentor, Igari Toshiro, a former prosecutor who hated the yakuza and really hated Tadamasa Goto, suggested that laws be made that criminalized paying off the yakuza. That was the beginning of the end.
So in some ways, you can trace the end of the yakuza era to the Suruga Corporation case and the actions of Tadamasa Goto. I never forgot the case and I never got rid of my notes, memos, and documents from working on the story.
If you read Japanese, here's a good article about the Suruga Corporation case and why it's bad to pay off the yakuza. toyokeizai.net/articles/-/400
I also spoke to the ex-cops and ex-prosecutor who took cushy jobs on the Suruga Board, as sort of totem poles. They were shocked that someone might hold them accountable.
Suga was close friends with the president of Suruga Corporation. Suruga did a lot of construction work in his district. Police working the case thought he must have known what was going on. Suruga dropped his name all the time during negotiations. Perhaps without him knowing?
This week's 週刊新潮 (Shukan Shincho) has a solid article about Suga's ties to Suruga Corporation. I have my notes as well.
Suga's no yakuza. But he seems to share many of the personality traits I've seen in the worst of them. Vindictive, petty, unforgiving, ruthless, prideful
When you see a mean-spirited and cruel man portrayed by a cowering and compliant media as some sort of hard-working country bumpkin, it's irksome.
Suga, Japan's new Prime Minister is no country bumpkin. He's better than a chinpira but maybe not so much.

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More from @jakeadelstein

10 Jun
The battle between Iranian drug dealers and yakuza over protection money has been going on since the 1990s
Players may change, the play goes on

Like Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the (rising) sun
Another news story that endlessly repeats here: juvenile delinquents robbing Otaku with cash 💰 who are in Akihabara

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the (rising) sun.
Or the Japanese government engaging in incomprehensible xenophobic discrimination against foreigners as national policy

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the (rising) sun.
Read 9 tweets
31 Mar
The greatest problem could have been solved when it was still small.
I'm reading back on what I wrote on March 4th about the US Embassy in Tokyo not testing employees who might have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Because they could not (CDC lacked kits) or they would not ↘
90 Japan health ministry employees who had been working on Diamond Princess during the first 2-week quarantine initially returned to normal work duties without being tested for the virus. The ministry, too, refused to do testing, insisting proper health protocols were done
After several fell ill, the ministry reversed its decision and agreed to test 41 of them; then eventually decided to test all 90. Eleven of them were infected.
The dilemma faced by those at the U.S. embassy will very soon face everyone working in the public service in the U.S.
Read 8 tweets
23 Mar
The #coronavirus story in Japan is a koan.
The government claims there have only been 49 deaths.
But Japan has one of the lowest testing rates in the world, rarely does autopsies, won’t release critical data.
It would be easy to hide #COVIDー19 deaths in pneumonia fatalities
I’d love for Japan to have made it through the worst with only a few deaths thanks to deep bowing, ingrained “social distancing” and half-assed testing.
I don’t think that’s the case.
It is possible the deaths really are low but not likely just because of low infection
This daily farce of announcing they will be upping testing capacity, designing faster tests, becomes increasingly vexing while Japan actually doesn’t come close to testing at capacity. And turns away people.
Read 4 tweets
12 Mar
I know the topic of the day is coronavirus.
So forgive me for going off topic and writing a bit about an old and increasingly irrelevant subject.
Japan’s yakuza.
These days most yakuza lead boring and desperate lives. It’s a constant scramble to get enough money to pay association dues. There’s little honor left. Bravery counts for zilch. You can’t get in fights or use a business card. You can’t have a bank account or lead a normal life
The glory days of gang wars, going to prison to rise up, being respected weirdly, hobnobbing with celebrities and politicians are almost over.
The yakuza monthly fanzine are all gone. There’s no glory.
What’s worse: gang pension plans are failing.
Read 4 tweets
11 Mar
The history of meth in Japanese society is almost as old as the modern yakuza.
It ranks as one of the three worst contributions Japanese science has given the world.
The second worst is high-fructose corn syrup
and the third worst is the karaoke machine.
Yes, America can ultimately trace its obesity and meth problems to Japan. The process of making high-fructose corn syrup was commercialized by a Japanese scientist employed by the Japanese government. It makes you wonder if this was how the Japanese planned their revenge
I can imagine METI bureaucrats rejoicing when Japan perfected high-fructose corn syrup processing.
"We will fatten the yankees up with a sugar substitute and then fight them when they are all too fat to even roll out of bed onto the battlefield."
Read 6 tweets

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