This Photographer Was Given Access Inside One Of Japan’s Yakuza Crime Families

kusters odo yakuza tokyoCredit: Anton Kusters - 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

In 2009, a Belgian photographer was given unprecedented access to one of Japan’s Yakuza crime families.

Anton Kusters has now put together some of his images in a short documentary video, in which he explains how the Yakuza operate, giving an insight to their secretive world.

He explains the project on his website:

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 10 months of negotiations with the Shinseikai, my brother Malik and I became one of the only westerners ever to be granted this kind of access to the closed world of Japanese organised crime.

I share their complex relationship to Japanese society, and show the personal struggle of 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.

kusters odo yakuza tokyoCredit: Anton Kusters - Yamamoto Kaicho, the number two boss, lies still as master Tattooist Hori Sensei completes his full body tattoo. Completing a tattoo takes about 100 hours, and a schedule of daily or weekly visits with the tattoo sensei are made. This is the second time he is being tattooed over his whole body, after the removal of his first full body tattoo severl years before. Tattoos are made by hand in a traditional way, and only few experts still possess the skill to do so - 2009

You can check out more of the photos here.