Everyone under the sun knows about the Japanese mobster gang known as the Yakuza. Most people are more than content to learn about them through their portrayals in countless video games, movies, and television shows. Not photographer Anton Kuster; he wanted to learn about their way of life, their traditions, and their business straight from the source. I’m not entirely certain how he got enough courage to ask their permission to follow the Yakuza around, but after 10 months of negotiations (with maybe a generous amount of sake) he finally was allowed behind the scenes.

The photos you’re about to look at are available in coffee table book form here. They’re nothing short of amazing. Anton and his brother Malik were the only Westerners ever granted that kind of access. Fun fact: the reason that the Yakuza punish people by cutting off their pinkies dates back to when swords were used in everyday protection. A warrior without his pinkie would have a weaker sword grip.

 

 

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