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Japan's Mob Bosses Find Coronavirus PR Opportunity

Japanese mafia bosses, famous for their tattoos and for their generosity?
Japanese mafia bosses, famous for their tattoos and for their generosity?

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.

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus pandemic from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

War History Shows Why Russia Is Doomed In Southern Ukraine: Supply Lines

Many factors may soon align and force Russia to withdraw troops from Southern Ukraine, independent Russian publication Important Stories argues in an in-depth report on the situation on the ground.

Photograph of Russian soldiers taking part in a military exercise t a training ground of the Russian Central Military District

September 15, 2023: Russian assault units take part in a military exercise

Vazhnye Istorii


A century and a half ago, during the American Civil War of 1861–1865, the foundations of modern warfare were laid out, marking the transition to large-scale, industrial-era armies.

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Innovations like the telegraph played a pivotal role, enabling coordinated operations across vast distances and swift responses to changing battle scenarios. The advent of breech-loading firearms and rifled artillery disrupted traditional infantry formations, driving soldiers into trenches for protection.

Meanwhile, the introduction of all-metal warships and the first use of submarines in combat hinted at the future of naval warfare. Balloons were employed for battlefield observation and reconnaissance, foreshadowing the era of aerial warfare.

Over the next five decades, automatic weapons, tanks, and aircraft further transformed the landscape of warfare. However, the most revolutionary and foundational innovation was the utilization of railways for the transportation and supply of troops. In 1862, the US Military Railroad Agency pioneered this concept, marking a historic milestone in military history.

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