Our Man spent a lovely time these last couple of days wintering in sunny Kamakura (you know the place, it's got a big Buddha, a beach and, bizarrely, a bunch of Hawaiian surf shops). Anyway, while strolling with the family on the beach (above), Our Man made contact with a passing German who didn't pass on any secrets, but did ask a pertinent question: why does Japan tolerate the yakuza? He said he found it hard to believe that any other country would put up with 80,000 hoodlums being left to their own devices. Eighty thousand? Surely not. That's the population of downtown Abiko. So, Our Man did a spot of research (that is journalese for typing "yakuza" into the search box over at the Japan Times) and found this here useful roundup of what's officially known about the yakuza. Yep, probably is 80,000 - one gangster for every 1,600 law-abiding Japanese or so - one for every three policemen, or 110 for every sitting member of parliament.
Our Man's never had a run-in with the men in black, but his mother-in-law did when she ran a coffee shop years ago in the Kansai region. A gangster sat at the counter one busy lunchtime. Our Man's mother-in-law had to make a decision: Placate the hoodlum and be indebted to him; or risk her own safety and the shop's fixtures and fittings by chucking him out. She bravely took the honourable approach and refused to serve him, figuring her business would never keep good customers if they thought it was yakuza-friendly. He sensibly took the hint and never returned. She went into the storeroom for a quick breather so the customers wouldn't see her shaking.
For a more interesting look at the underworld's links to the wholesome Japanese idol entertainment world, click here and take a peek at the comments too. Anyway, are there that many folk in organised crime in Britain or Germany? Our good German thought not, but who knows?