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In 2011 a Belgian photographer was allowed entry into one of Japan’s Yakuza families. Over two years, he captured the lives of those living in the underworld.
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Japan's Yakuza: Inside the syndicate. With at least 50,000 members, Japan's Yakuza gangs form one of the world's largest criminal networks. Anton Kusters, a Belgian photographer, was allowed a rare glimpse inside a Yakuza family in early 2009. He documented the family for two years.
The Ya-Ku-Za means 8-9-3, a losing combination in a card game similar to Blackjack. The exact origins of the Yakuza are unclear, but they are thought to have descended from masterless samurai in the early 17th century. In the 18th century, these poor, landless bandits began grouping together, creating families.
The family Anton spent time with controls Kabukicho, Tokyo's red-light district; its business is largely prostitution. Other Yakuza criminal operations include drug trafficking, money laundering, gambling and bribery.
The Yamaguchi-gumi is Japan's largest organised-crime group. By one estimate, its revenue in 2014 was $80bn. In 2013, Italy's 'Ndrangheta mafia has a turnover of around $69bn.
In February 2011, towards the end of the project, Anton was at home in Europe, when he received a call from the Yakuza family. Miyamoto-san, a high ranking Yakuza boss, was in hospital after suffering a stroke. Anton returned, and was invited to attend the prominent Yakuza boss' funeral.
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