Anton Kusters yakuza documentary

Yakuza’s Documented by Belgian Photographer

The Japanese mafia, known globally as The Yakuza, is made up of approximately 50,000 members, forming one of the largest criminal networks in the world. In 2009 Anton Kusters, a Belgian photographer was allowed entry into one of Japan’s Yakuza families. Over two years, he captured the lives of those living in the underworld. Kusters made a short documentary for The Economist titled Inside the Syndicate. Very well documented but a bit short for my tatse, feels more like an introduction. I wish they were a longer version! (lucky enough Anton did a Ted talk about it, watch it here)

Anton Kusters yakuza documentary a
The three highest ranking bosses of the family – the Godfather in the centre – pose for a portrait during a traditional dinner at a restaurant in Kabukicho, Tokyo – 2009
Anton Kusters yakuza documentary
Members of different families paying their respects at the funeral service for Miyamoto-san – 2010

“In the hotel bar in Niigata, I’m only slowly starting to understand the extremely subtle social interaction that is continuously happening, the micro-expressions on the faces, the gestures, the voices and intonations, the body language.

As the bar is evacuated to make room for the godfather having a coffee, everything seems to be strictly organized but at the same time seems to come naturally: strangely, I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, where to sit, when to talk or when to shut up.

It’s like I literally feel the boundaries, the implicit expectations, and I am slowly learning when I can move forward, and when to best hold back. Sitting at the table with a bodyguard looking straight through me, I drink from my iced coffee. I’m feeling the acute sensation of walking on eggshells.”

Anton Kusters yakuza documentary
Tattooed hands with a digit missing. A traditional Japanese tattoo, as used often by the Yakuza, Is a very old and time-consuming process of manually sticking a stick with at the point several sharp inked needles in the skin. This has to happen at a precise angle (depending on skin thickness) and at a precise speed (120/minute), and this is a skill that only traditional Japanese tattoo masters possess. The result is an intricacy, a color palette and a pattern which is not possible with the modern way of tattooing with a machine.Master Tattooist Hori Sensei invites you, he does not accept regular clients. With him, completing a traditional Japanese tattoo takes about 100 hours, can cost up to $10,000, and a schedule of daily or weekly visits needs to be made. As a client, you have only a little say in the design of the tattoo. Hori Sensei determines what is best for you after taking time to talk to you and to get to know you. Only a few traditional Japanese tattoo experts are still alive today in Japan. – 2009
Anton Kusters yakuza documentary
Young prostitute in a bar showing the tattoo on her leg – 2009
Anton Kusters yakuza documentary
The Godfather rolls down his car window while leaving a commemoration service for a deceased member of the family – 2009

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