A Journey Into The Realm Of The Yakuza

A Journey Into The Realm Of The Yakuza

In 2011 Anton Kusters was granted access to one of the most secretive and notorious organized crime circles in the world, the Yakuza.
The Belgian photographer spent months in negotiation for exclusive access to the lives of the most notorious and feared crime organizations in Japan.
Ya-Ku-Za means 8-9-3, a losing combination in a Japanese card game like Blackjack. The origin of the Yakuza is shrouded in mystery but it is said that they have descended from Ronins - masterless Samurai in the 17th century.Anton Kusters wrote in his post: "The first time I saw a Yakuza member in the streets of Kabukicho, Tokyo, I was sitting in a bar having a beer with my brother.. Up until then, we had the same idea as everyone else: crazy tattooed gangsters running around with swords and guns killing each other every chance they got. But this guy was dressed up in a suit and behaving politely, straight and confident. "

According to Kusters, the tattoos are the main visual that comes in mind associated with the Yakuza. They are usually intertwined with significant life experiences of the wearer or collector. It may also be a visual of a certain trait or likeness in characteristic of the tattoo subject and the wearer. Here are some of the amazing photos of Anton Kusters took during his experience.
Ane San - older sister Yakuza rank photo by Anton Kusters
Amazing Koi Horimono of Yakuza member. Photo by Anton Kusters
Potential Yakuzas in training. Photo by Anton Kusters
Yakuzas in bath house. Photo by Anton Kusters
A stripper at work plucking off bills from a Yakuza member with her mouth. Photo by Anton kusters
A traditional funeral of a Yakuza member. Photo by Anton Kusters
A Yakuza member getting his Horimono done using the tebori stick method of making Irezumi. Photo by Anton Kusters
Heavily tattooed hands of a Yakuza member with amputated pinkie finger. photo by Anton Kusters
Cutting off a piece of the finger is an act of apology of a Yakuza member to his Boss. It could also mean a sacrifice in exchange for the life of a subordinate that has made a mistake or has offended higher ranking members.
Yakuza member giving a glimpse of his tattoos.
A photo of Yakuza bosses, a very rare opportunity. Photo by Anton Kusters
In this video you'll hear Anton Kusters' narration along with more photos from his experiences living with and photographing the Yakuza.
Special thanks to Anton Kusters for sharing his unique experience.
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