Japan Thugs Beware

Citizens rout the yakuza

The five-story structure was painted a dark shade of green, but to the people of Ebitsuka it was ominously known as the burakku biru, the black building. Ebitsuka wanted nothing to do with the place or with those who called it headquarters. Across the street, the citizens erected a two-level shack and videotaped everyone who came in and out, men in flashy suits, dark glasses and short-cropped hair, with hints of multicolored tattoos snaking out on forearms.

In Japan, this is the unmistakable mobsterish getup of the yakuza, the country's version of the Mafia. In Ebitsuka, a neighborhood in the city...

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