In the hotel bar in Niigata, I’m only slowly starting to understand the extremely subtle social interaction that is continuously happening, the micro-expressions on the faces, the gestures, the voices and intonations, the body language.
As the bar is evacuated to make room for the godfather having a coffee, everything seems to be strictly organized but at the same time seems to come naturally: strangely, I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, where to sit, when to talk or when to shut up.
It’s like I literally feel the boundaries, the implicit expectations, and I am slowly learning when I can move forward, and when to best hold back. Sitting at the table with a bodyguard looking straight through me, I drink from my iced coffee. I’m feeling the acute sensation of walking on eggshells…
~Anton Kusters, for his project Yakuza
After ten months of negotiations, Belgian photographer Anton Kusters became one of few Westerners given access to document the world of Japanese organized crime. He spent two years shooting a traditional Japanese crime family, the Shinseikai. The result is a stunning visual journey captured in his photo book Odo Yakuza Tokyo.
He writes,”With a mix of photography, film, writing and graphic design, I try to share not only their complex relationship to Japanese society, but also to show the personal struggle of being forced to live in two different worlds at the same time; worlds that often have conflicting morals and values. It turns out not to be a simple ‘black’ versus ‘white’ relationship, but most definitely one with many, many, many shades of grey.”
His blog/timeline for the Yakuza project is a fascinating read.