the Yakuza in Tokyo

Souichirou

Souichirou

Meet Souichirou.

He has agreed to us getting to know each other. Through the barriers of different languages and cultures, we will be approaching each other with the broadest possible open mind. To learn, to tell our stories. To gain trust and to share views.

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Soichiro and his family control Kabukicho, in the heart of Shinjuku, Tokyo. Not much happens in the streets without his approval.

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After more than 10 months of preparation and ground work by my brother and our dear friend Taka-san, finally, for the first time, we all meet over dinner. At first, Souichirou lays down the rules. Tells us what we want to achieve is near impossible. He says that the things we want to document, no outsider has ever been allowed to bear witness to. We eat, drink, smoke, and exchange gifts.

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He invites us to his office. we talk some more. I show previous work. He tells me I photograph with a Japanese eye. He laughs when we ask if it's true that all family members have tattoos, and if it's painful to get one.

Then he shows his.

Each tattoo is so personal, he says, full of meaning to the bearer and his family. Only Sensei Horikyo tattoos for his family.

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No rush. He understands and wants us to take time to get to know his family, time to develop our view. He believes in our way of working, and is confident we will bring this to a good end. He thinks in years, not days or weeks or months.

He does a lot of legwork in his family. Even though he his a boss, he still speaks to his bosses who in turn speak with their bosses. Within two days, we are invited to witness a closed meeting. Four members apologizing to the family for being in jail. My brother and I are nervous as hell going in.

No pictures allowed yet, but now we know. Souichirou walked the walk and committed. Our project has begun for the next couple of years. My brother and I... and Souichirou. Becoming friends, telling the story... I hope everything will work out.

-- Anton Kusters, january 2009

(over the next few months, i will actively be seeking funding, to be able to complete this long-term project)