Did the Yakuza Buy a Rocket Launcher?

Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins discusses the Yakuza with retired ATF agent Ignacio Esteban. We learn about the case where the government caught them buying rocket launchers. Ignacio Esteban is a true-crime author who has written a book on his illustrious career working undercover on drug dealers in South Florida. Since retirement, Mr. Esteban has written books on the Russian Arms dealer Viktor Bout, Sonny Barger, and the Hells Angels, several traditional organized crime organizations. In this episode, we focus on the Japanese Yakuza. Recently HBO Max released a series titled Toyko Vice. This series was based on the real-life experiences of an American reporter, Jake Adelstein. Ignacio Esteban tells us about the history of the Yakuza and about real-life cases that American law enforcement has made on this jap[anese criminal organization and the influence of the Yakuza in America.

Esteban describes the Yakuza ritual of Yubitsume, or the cutting off of one’s finger. He explains this is a method an underling uses to show penance or an apology for some failure of an assignment handed out by his boss. If this is the first offense, the offender cuts off the tip of his left little finger. He must then present the severed part to his boss. We learn this practice is starting to be used less because the result marks them as actual members of the Yakuza to law enforcement. This practice began many years ago from the traditional way of holding a Japanese sword. A samurai warrior held a sword and the bottom three fingers of each hand gripped the sword tightly, with the thumb and index fingers slightly loose. When the little finger is removed, the sword grip is lessened. As more fingers are lost, the warrior because less effective with his sword.

We learn about the famous tattoos exhibited by Yakuza members. Many, if not all, long-time members will have their entire bodies covered with tattoos. In public, to prevent identification by the Police, they always wear long sleeves and trousers. They are called Irezumi in Japan, and the ink is inserted beneath the skin using hand-held needles of sharpened bamboo or steel.
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