Steward Magazine has published a fascinating interview with photographer Anton Kusters, who spent two years documenting a yakuza gang in Tokyo, capturing highly intimate glimpses into what life is like in the criminal underworld. When asked what he felt like when the project was just starting out, Kusters states,
I was extremely nervous. Since they are gangsters, I thought I should be very careful, in case I shot something I wasn’t supposed to see. But this actually upset the gang. They saw my nervousness as disrespectful. I remember one time early on this guy pulled me aside and said, “You are here to take pictures. Act like a professional.” It turned out they respected me if I was really aggressive about getting a certain shot. To not take photos was a sign of weakness.
As his surname suggests, Kusters is not from Japan (he’s from Belgium). It took 10 months of negotiations before he and his brother were given an unprecedented access into the closed world of Japanese organized crime.
It looks like Olympus ex-CEO Michael Woodford will be getting his wish after all as the Olympus scandal continues to unfold. A day after an independent panel issued a report that slammed the company’s top management as being rotten (though at the same time finding no links to organized crime), the entire board of directors has indicated that it will step down. Perhaps confident that the company will soon be back on the right track, investors have pushed the stock price back up to over ¥1,100 — up from its 52 week low of ¥424 back in early November.
Image credit: board room by @MSG
Here are some developments in the ongoing Olympus scandal: investors and a former director are currently calling for fired CEO Michael Woodford to be brought back to clean house and right the ship. At the same time, The New York Times is reporting that Japanese investigators are still trying to understand a $4.9 billion hole in Olympus’ financial records, and believe that over half of that amount were paid to organized crime groups in Japan. More specifically, the company is accused of being linked to Yamaguchi-Gumi, the country’s most infamous yazuka organization.
Jake Adelstein at the Japanese Subculture Research Center has written up an interesting article regarding the ongoing Olympus scandal, focusing on the organized crime allegations that have been brought against the company:
In year 2008, something happened at Olympus that turned the company from an entity focussed on seven major business areas, into a company completely out of focus, blurred by a total of seventeen business areas, to include real estate, investments, consulting, waste disposal, labor dispatch, and running travel agencies. Igari Toshiro, former prosecutor turned anti-yakuza crusader, who was Japan’s greatest expert on white-collar organized crime aka the keizai yakuza (経済ヤクザ）and many veteran organized crime detectives have stated that one of the first signs that a company has been infiltrated by anti-social forces is a sudden and totally new change in company direction–especially into areas like waste disposal, labor dispatch (temporary staffing), and real estate—all areas where anti-social forces have carved out a large niche for themselves.
Just days after being fired, former Chairman Michael Woodford was quoted as saying, “There were $800 million in payments to buy companies making face cream and Tupperware. What the hell were we doing paying $800 million for these companies?”
OLYMPUS: Bringing It Into Focus [Japan Subculture Research Center]
Image credit: OLYMPUS PEN E-P1 by sinkdd