good | bad

Here’s an interesting story for today.

Written by Jake Adelstein from The Daily Beast, it reminded me that there is no real true ‘bad’ or ‘good’ person out there. People make choices. But what they do doesn’t define who they are. They are still human and very much a comrade in times of extreme adversity.

In a singular, defining moment, a person can switch from doing what we deem ‘wrong’ to something ‘morally worthy’. Does that then change who they are?

‘What separates you from a murderer or thief?’ I was once asked. ‘Can you say that there’s not a single part of you that is able to do great evil? And at the same time… great good?’

It stems then from the deepest place where all choices are made.

Who or what holds your heart?


“There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. We all need to help each other.”

– a yakuza member

The worst of times sometimes brings out the best in people, even in Japan’s “losers” a.k.a. the Japanese mafia, the yakuza.

Hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, opening their offices to those stranded in Tokyo, and shipping food, water, and blankets to the devastated areas in two-ton trucks and whatever vehicles they could get moving.

The day after the earthquake the Inagawa-kai (the third largest organized crime group in Japan which was founded in 1948) sent twenty-five four-ton trucks filled with paper diapers, instant ramen, batteries, flashlights, drinks, and the essentials of daily life to the Tohoku region.

An executive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest crime group, even offered refuge to members of the foreign community — something unheard of in a still slightly xenophobic nation, especially amongst the right-wing yakuza.

The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, under the leadership of Tadashi Irie, has also opened its offices across the country to the public and been sending truckloads of supplies, but very quietly and without any fanfare.

The Inagawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. It has several “blocks” or regional groups. Between midnight on March 12th and the early morning of March 13th, the Inagawa-kai Tokyo block carried 50 tons of supplies to Hitachinaka City Hall (Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture) and dropped them off, careful not to mention their yakuza affiliation so that the donations weren’t rejected. This was the beginning of their humanitarian efforts. Supplies included cup ramen, bean sprouts, paper diapers, tea and drinking water. The drive from Tokyo took them twelve hours. They went through back roads to get there. The Kanagawa Block of the Inagawa-kai, has sent 70 trucks to the Ibaraki and Fukushima areas to drop off supplies in areas with high radiations levels. They didn’t keep track of how many tons of supplies they moved. The Inagawa-kai as a whole has moved over 100 tons of supplies to the Tohoku region. They have been going into radiated areas without any protection or potassium iodide.

The Yamaguchi-gumi member I spoke with said simply, “Please don’t say any more than we are doing our best to help. Right now, no one wants to be associated with us and we’d hate to have our donations rejected out of hand.”

– excerpt from article by Jake Adelstein


While I don’t agree with what the yakuza has done in the past, I applaud them for the way they stepped in when no one else could.

To read the full article, head here.

2 thoughts on “good | bad

  1. That was very eloquently put. Sometimes, the measure of a man’s life is in one single moment of decision. In even the most primitive society, and the yakuza is a primitive almost tribal-like society in many ways, there are certain individuals who achieve a level of moral development that goes beyond the norm. So even in the yakuza, there are people who follow a firm ethical code and can be decent people. That is not the norm, of course, but there are some honorable men in each of the organizations, people who would rank on the high end of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development.

    1. Thanks for the note, Jake. Appreciate your work in detailing down the stories behind the disaster… it is precious & means a lot.

      And of course, for taking the time to read this. 🙂

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