In many cultures, in many places, there is a belief that times of crisis reveal the true value of a person. In Japan, applying that axiom proves difficult, especially in light of a recent Daily Beast report that Japan’s infamous mafia, the Yakuza, are providing tons of vital goods to the earthquake and tsunami relief effort. The three largest Yakuza groups (kind of like the crime families of the American Italian mafia), have sent dozens of trucks with a few hundred tons of goods to the devastated regions thus far, reports Japan crime expert Jake Adelstein. They’ve sent everything from diapers to batteries to instant ramen. While this support may seem antithetical to a criminal ethos, one member said, “There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. We all need to help each other.” In 1995, Adelstein reports that the Yakuza also provided tons of goods and services following the Kobe earthquake.
There is allegedly a philosophy the Yakuza follows that “values humanity, justice, and duty and that forbids one from watching others suffer or be troubled without doing anything about it. Believers of ‘the way’ are expected to put their own lives on the line and sacrifice themselves to help the weak and the troubled. The yakuza often simplify it as ‘to help the weak and fight the strong,’ in theory,” Adelstein writes. However, the reality of Japanese organized crime is such that the Yakuza frequently prey on the weak to become strong, Adelstein reports. In this one instance though, they appear to be actually trying to help. This support is given with great concern, however. The Yakuza said they fear having their donations rejected if their support becomes too widely publicized. One member told Adelstein: “Right now, no one wants to be associated with us and we’d hate to have our donations rejected out of hand.”