Sunday, July 29, 2012

YAKUZA ENCOUNTERS: My grandfather-in-law mistaken for a godfather (multiple times)

This is the first part in the Yakuza Encounters series. Refer to the linked post if you want to write your own installment!

Being mistaken for a yakuza boss certainly has its perks. Just ask my wife's grandfather.

My wife's maternal grandfather is an upright man who worked in administration for the Japan Post Office. He enjoys tennis and fishing. But he also has a gruff manner and strong bearing more suited for a yakuza boss. This may account for why he has been repeatedly mistaken for an oyabun.

The first occasion was on his way home from a wedding. A drunken salaryman crashed into my in-law's car, and then tried to drive off. My in-law sped around the other driver, cut him off, and confronted him. My grandfather was dressed in a nice suit, as he was coming from a wedding, and the other driver mistook him for a yakuza boss. As my grandfather questioned the driver, the driver started hyperventilating, bowing apologetically, and emphasizing that he "had money."

My wife's uncle, returning from the same wedding, then pulled up to the scene. He is a tall man with a buzz cut and the same gruff manner as his father. He too was wearing a suit. When he got out of his car and asked, "What's goin on here?" The poor would-be hit-and-run driver started to cry, still repeating that he had money and pleading for mercy.

(Photo by maclaren)
My grandfather-in-law was again mistaken for an oyabun an a local festival.

The yakuza have their fingers in nearly all Japan's summer festivals. The food vendors account for a lion's share of the yakuza's annual income.

At one such festival, the yakuza had a parking lot blocked off and only VIPs were allowed to enter. My grandfather didn't realize the situation and tried to enter the parking lot.

Several kobun underlings told my grandfather he had to turn around. Being the obstinate man he is, he began questioning them and they made him step out of his car.

By coincidence, the boss of the kobun was an old friend of my grandfather who he hadn't seen since high school. My grandfather didn't know his old friend was now a yakuza boss.

The boss approached my grandfather-in-law and bowed, saying, "I'm so sorry, Kawashima-san!" He then began berating his underlings, who were all crapping their pants as they thought they had upset an important godfather. Needless to say my grandfather was allowed to park in the VIP lot.


  1. Its sounds funny not being in the situation. It must have been a great sight seeing the man almost pissing his pants. He kinda got what he deserved for hitting and running

  2. Thanks for the comment, Tom. If you have your own "yakuza encounter" story, feel free to write a guest post!

  3. I came across this posting and I thought you may be interested in it.

    Photographing the Yakuza Crime Family

  4. Hahaha, shoooot. The only person I ever get mistaken for is Kramer form Seinfeld, lol.

    1. I hope you weren't mistaken for Kramer because of an incident at the Laugh Factory.