Japan's notorious yakuza — "gangsters" — have displayed (in addition to their trademark tattoos) a peculiar sense of civic duty in the face of past natural disasters, having donated money to victims of the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and the 2011 Fukushima tsunami.
Now, Japanese news site News Postseven reports that yakuza bosses are publicly declining the 100,000 yen ($940) coronavirus relief checks that the government recently agreed to issue to all registered residents. It's apparently a question of reputation as much as magnanimity. "To put it simply, it's not worth it taking a mere 100,000 yen if people then turn around and say that I'm profiting from the country during this state of emergency. If the story spread through word of mouth, my reputation would be finished!," one unnamed leader of a major gang told Tomohiko Suzuki, a writer and noted organized crime expert.
Another long-established yakuza boss told Suzuki. "We have caused society enough trouble in normal times. It is unacceptable that we be a burden on the country when it's in difficulty. We also pass this message to the youngsters."
The crime leader said that his gang is considering its own financial aid scheme to help younger people weather the economic storm without accepting the government handout.
We have caused society enough trouble in normal times.
"I was always very busy looking for money when I was young," said yet another gangster. "And yes, there must be people who can't help but take the government's money. But if I were to receive it, I'd drive a nail into myself!"
Suzuki says that as of 2018, Japan's organized underworld has more than 30,000 registered members, and that if they all applied for government relief, they alone would cost the country more than 3 billion yen ($28 million). Let's also hope they're all wearing their masks.
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