/21 Crime

Anton Kusters


A Yakuza family enters a hotel bar in Niigata. My brother and I have negotiated with them for ten months, and we have been granted permission for me to follow and photograph them for two years. As they walk in, I watch the extremely subtle social interactions: the micro-expressions on the faces, the gestures, the voices and intonations, the body language, the absolute respect. The criminal element. As customers silently leave the bar to make room for the Godfather to have a coffee, everything appears to be strictly organised, yet at the same time completely natural: for some reason I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, where to sit, when to talk or when to shut up. It’s like I can feel the boundaries and the implicit expectations. It’s hard. It’s scary. I’m slowly learning, little by little trying to understand this Japanese way. But it feels like I’ll never fully comprehend. Sitting at the table with a bodyguard looking straight through me, I drink my iced coffee. I switch on my camera. It has begun. I can feel the acute sensation of walking on eggshells.