YAKUZA : An Intimate Look Inside

After months of painful negotiations, Belgian photographer Anton Kusters spent two years with one of Japan’s most notorious Yakuza gangs. For those unfamiliar with the Yakuza, they are known for their brutality, tattoos and strict code of honor. After gaining exclusive access, Kusters captured never-before-seen moments from their business meetings, bath houses, night clubs, and even funerals.

“893-Yakuza is a personal visual account of the life inside an inaccessible subculture: a traditional Japanese crime family that controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan,” says Kusters.

In 2009, Japan’s National Police Agency estimated that there were 80,900 active Yakuza, whose activities include drug dealing, extortion, illegal gambling and violent turf wars. Bound by a strict and ruthless moral code, the Yakuza are known to cut off the ends of their fingers to prove the sincerity of an apology.

Kusters put all of these incredible experiences into a limited edition book titled Odo Yakuza Tokyo, which quickly sold out. With such a great response, a second edition of the book is set to be released on October 30, 2011. Be sure to check out his website for more information.

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Preview the book “ODO YAKUZA TOKYO” on Vimeo

The preview of “893 – The Yakuza in Tokyo”:



893-Yakuza is a personal visual account of the life inside an inaccessible subculture: a traditional Japanese crime family that controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan.

Through many months of delicate preparations and negotiations by my brother Malik, our fixer Taka-san, and myself, we became the only westerners ever to be granted this kind of access to that closed world.

With a mix of photography, film, writing and graphic design, I try to share not only their extremely complex relationship to Japanese society, and also to show the personal struggle that each family member faces: being forced to live in two different worlds at the same time; worlds that often have conflicting morals and values… It turns out not to be a simple ‘black’ versus ‘white’ relationship, but most definitely one with many shades of grey.

Preparations started in 2008, and access was granted in april 2009, for two years. The project is now at full speed, with all elements of the story being produced as we speak. in 2011 and 2012, several magazine issues, a photo book, a documentary feature film, and a large exhibition will become reality.

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