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How to talk like a yakuza

Think you’ve got what it takes to join the Japanese mafia? Well, in order to become part of the gokudo (極道 – organized crime, underworld), you need to learn how to speak like a yakuza.


A family affair

First off, it’s important to understand that your gang is one big happy, although shifty and murderous, family. This is why you call your boss oyassan (おやっさん – father). In return, a yakuza boss or upper level family member calls the younger ones kodomo (子供 – children) and may use other family terms to refer to people. The boss’s wife is often called anesan (姉さん – older sister).

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Mark your territory

Each yakuza group has its own territory and territory is very important. Family members call their territory shima (しま). If you find yourself stepping into the wrong territory, you might hear something like:

Koko wa oretachi no shima dakara sugu ni dete ike.
This is our territory so get out of here.

If you hear these words, spoken, take a few careful steps back with your hands clearly visible in case someone has a hajiki (弾き – gun) pointed at you.

The family business

Yakuza families have their fingers in a number of pies including gambling, prostitution and all kinds of other vices. One very profitable business for the yakuza is the shabu (シャブ – methamphetamine), which is the most popular illegal drug in the country.

A little help from your friends

Relations between different yakuza families aren’t always bad. In fact, when there’s not a gang war in progress, there is a code of honor between them. When a yakuza member travels to another family, that family will give him food and a place to sleep and generally take care of him. This is called waraji wo nugu (わらじを脱ぐ – to complete one’s journey). But there’s a catch – the intrepid gangster has to obey any orders his host family gives him, even if it’s murder.

Killin’ and slicin’ off fingers

Being a yakuza member isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes people get killed and fingers get chopped off. When one family messes with another, there must be revenge. In the case where, for example, a yakuza member is killed by a rival family, there must be otoshimae (おとしまえ – revenge, reprisal; actually means money paid in a debt).

Finally, there’s the infamous practice of cutting off the fifth finger. This is known as enko-dzume (エンコ – fifth finger; つめ – cut) and it’s done when a yakuza member does something bad that hurts the family.

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You don’t have to turn to a life of crime to learn to speak like a yakuza. Just watch a bunch of yakuza movies and get a little too into them.

*Special thanks to a certain friend for information. I’d like to give him credit but if I say his name, he has to kill me.

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