Revisiting the Glory Days With One of Japan’s Most Violent Biker Gangs

This is Evan,
from VICE’s Brooklyn office. Since the 1970s, Japanese biker gangs
have had a violent history. Raging war against rival crews
and cops. VICE Japan met with some of
the most infamous gang members to talk about their glory days and their dying subculture. This is “The Setting Sun.” I don’t care if there
are 50 or 100 of them You better fight even
if you’re by yourself. It’s on you to protect the
reputation our elders built for us. Go attack even if you’re alone The end of the century
is waiting for us. [hip-hop music plays in background] There used to be really
violent territory disputes. We usually drive down Wangan. Route 357. What is ‘bosozoku’? It’s a frantic lifestyle. It’s survival of the fittest. “THE SETTING SUN:
21ST NARASHINO SPECTER LEADER I used to be a gang leader of
Narashino Specter. I’m not a yakuza anymore, I’m just a hooligan nowadays. This is the Soumei Alliance. I remember the first time
I attended a Specter bike rally. There were so many bikes. The Matsudo branch was there, the Ichikawa branch was also there. We rode down Route 16. I was at the tail end. When the cops
would drive up to us, my elder and I would
start driving really slowly and block them from catching
up to everyone else in front. Since we were in the back, we’d see everyone in front of us
when we drove down a hill. The view was breathtaking,
especially at night. The lights would just go on
forever. It was a real spectacle. I got goosebumps. I was in awe. I’ll never forget that feeling. Bike gangs in Japan consist
of kids 16, 17 years old. Even at that age. The level of violence is astonishing. -I don’t know.
-What?! Make up your mind! [altercation begins] Hey you heard me!
Don’t act like you didn’t hear me! Give me the bat. Bring the bat. Our biggest rival was the
Black Emperor gang from Chiba. They had a strict code
within their gang. We did things a bit different. We were willing to do anything. I was especially good
at guerilla tactics. We used to hide on the sides of
Route 357 with our weapons. Then we’d throw a rope
across the street. So when the other gangs arrived, We’d pull the ropes
and trip their bikes. Then we’d attack them. I was good at guerilla tactics. Other times, we would ride a car and sneak up on rival gang meetings. We’d hop out and ambush them. We did stuff like that all the time We always carried
knives for protection in case we got kidnapped or caught by the police. So we could defend
ourselves by stabbing them. You always need to carry a knife. It was dangerous to walk alone. What would happen
if you got kidnapped? If you got kidnapped
they’d steal your jacket. My elder got kidnappned once and
they tied a rope around his ankle. They dragged him from a car
for a couple hundred meters. They killed him. The bosozoku world is a scary place. Real scary. It’s a crazy lifestyle. You gotta prey on them
before they prey on you. It’s not like in comic books
where two guys sqaure off and the winner becomes the leader. It’s not like that. There’s an order. In my gang, there
were several positions. About thirteen different posts. There was a branch leader, and then you had the captain, the up-and-coming captain, etc. There was an order to things. Usually, if you were a captain you would eventually
become the leader of the gang. So you’d have to go
through those steps. -Until now,
-Speak louder, you little shit Until now, our superiors
have looked after us so we’ve got to at
least organize their retirement ceremony to
show them our appreciation. We have to make sure that they can leave knowing that our gang will be in good hands. We’ve been a part of this
gang for six years now. It’s been a great ride. Thanks for the memories. Cheers! My criminal past isn’t
anything to brag about. I feel stupid just talking about it. I went to juvie three times. I also went to reformatory school. Then I became a Yakuza, went to prison twice, for fighting, causing bodily injury, and blackmail. Attempted blackmail. Shit like that. [engine revving in background] [hip-hop music plays in background] EGUCHI,
38th NARASHINO SPECTER LEADER Why did I become a bosozoku? Well, I was aware of them
since I was a kid. I had an admiration for them and one of my elders had
asked me if I wanted to join. At that point I realized that
I could actually become one. This is your standard
bent up license plate. The fender is usually a bit lower so we can bend this upwards and cover it with aluminum tape to keep people from seeing our
license plate number. That’s support for the foot pedal. The ‘kurosukan’ pipe. The headlight is called ‘piyo piyo.’ The handlebars are bent upwards. That’s about it. Oh, and our custom seats. This has been customized as well. This bike isn’t so customized. It’s valued at around$3,000. This says “All Wins, No Losses.” It’s not my personal motto
or anything, but it means to win
constantly and never lose. It’s not like I fight constantly, but I do from time to time. I first joined when I was 17. I stayed for about two, three years. I’m not a bosozoku anymore. They’re pretty much gone. The police have been cracking
down on bosozoku activity, so it has become harder for
bosozoku to exist. There’s only one left. He was the last leader of
Narashino Specter He’s been representing
the gang by himself. What number are you again? I’m the 38th leader. I was the 21st leader. Looks like the legacy still exists. I don’t have a specific
relationship with him. I mean, I don’t tell him
what to do or anything. He came on the scene so my brothers look after him. Just be careful and I hope the best for you. When someone says ‘Narashino’ you automatically
think of Hazuki-san. All I can say is that I have
great reverence for him. You don’t have to say that. The stories I’ve heard
about him from my elders include one about how he
flipped over a cop car. It’s been 20 years,
it’s hard for him to relate. We are 20 years apart. If there’s anything you need just let us know. I’m over 40 years old, I’ll get in trouble for
sating stuff like that. Every Saturday, across the Urayasu Bridge there would be a bout 30 bikes. There used to be a lot
of gangs in this area. So you would hear their
engines roaring every Saturday. You don’t hear anything nowadays. You never see them. A lot of times they get arrested even if they haven’t
commited any crimes. There’s a law that has been enforced to crack down on bosozuku. When parents don’t pick up
their kids at the police station, they end up in juvenile hall Maybe some parents feel ashamed. [engines revving in background] [hip-hop music plays in background] The last bosozoku is called Number One. Number One and Specter have been
on good terms for a long time. I’ve known those guys since I was an active bosozoku member. It would be nice if the new guys have heart since they’re the last
of the bosozoku. Good evening. Is the leader here? This is him. AKIRA NAKANO
27th KAMAGAYA NUMBER ONE LEADER What generation is it now? I’m the 27th leader. Here we have Kamagaya Number
One’s 27th and current leader. We are an active gang
in our hometown. We fight and ride bikes as a team. Number One started here in Urayasu. I’m not exactly sure when but the first leaders are
around 62 years old. Somewhere in that ballpark. They built an alliance between the
Eastern Tokyo area and Western Chiba. They named that alliance
Killer Alliance which was created by a member of
the Urayasu Number One gang. It’s a gang with a long history. Then another alliance was built,
which included my gang, Specter, which is part of the
Soumei Alliance. It consisted of the Killer Alliance,
CRS Alliance, and the Soumei Alliance. There were three different
alliances within Chiba. Then an even larger alliance that
united all of Chiba was formed Called the All Chiba Soumei Alliance It was built by my elders who are
about 10 years older than me. So that is how I came to
represent this group. The man who used to wear this jacket is a legend in Kamagaya, isn’t he? I admire him a lot. He’s a year older than me, and used to be a leader of
KAmagaya Number One. That’s his jacket. It’s amazing that the
jacket is still being used. One of the reasons for the jacket is for fights but part of it is just fashion. It’s also an indication of how unified your group is. The more unified the group
in general, the stronger it is. That’s the main reason for the jacket. This jacket kind of
represents my alter ego. I’m over 40 years old,
but I just can’t let it go. It’s one of my treasures. They represent a
gang with deep roots. I’m thankful for that. I’m friends with all their elders. I just met these guys
for the first time. Talk to the camera and introduce yourself like
you’re picking a fight. Like, “We’re Kamagaya Number One,” “I’m Akira Nakano, the 27th leader.” I’m the 27th leader of
Kamagaya Number One. That was a bit weak. You guys don’t have
any other members? They’re all in jail
for different reasons. They’re locked up, huh? It’s just us right now. Well, I wish the best
for you guys. Thanks. To the remaining gang members… It’s a wrap. Kamagaya, let’s put
some spirit into it. I work as a demolition and
concrete chipping manager. This isn’t my
usual work environment. I specialize in house demolition, so what I’m doing
today is a bit different. The work team I supervise consists mainly of ex-Yakuza
members or former fighters. We have active Yakuza
members that work here, too. People like that. People who are similar to me. Guys who don’t have
any work experience. It’s like the last stop
for people who’ve never held any real jobs. Dreams? Of course I have dreams. You can’t live without
having some dreams. I definitely have my own. I want to get more work. Not to become rich or anything,
but to be able to provide jobs for guys who just came home from prison, or guys who quit being a Yakuza and aren’t sure what they want to do. I could call them and
provide jobs for them. I’d like to do that on a larger scale. I guess that’s my dream for now. Or goal, rather. It’s a gang called Nina Mona
from the Killer Alliance. What was his number? Hey, it’s been a while. Can you talk right now? Igarashi-san, I was wondering if you could make an
appearance for this story they’re doing for bosozoku. Sure, I know Muto-san. What? Are you serious? I see. I see. I had no idea. He was such a legendary figure. Apparently Muto-san from
Nina Mona passed away. The legendary Atsushi Muto. The wake is tomorrow,
so they are busy today. Another bosozoku
legend has passed. This is my Nina Mona elder
from my hometown. Otake-san. My name is Igarashi.
I’m from Nina Mona as well. HOTETSU IGARASHI,
NINA MONA What’s the origin of the
name ‘Nina Mona’? The name comes from this restaurant called Nina Mona. Apparently in French,
it means ‘cute girl.’ So we just spelled it
out in Kanji characters. and wrote it in French
for some of our designs. That’s the origin. Nina Mona had the best taste when customizing their bikes. They were ahead of everyone else. There’s a style called
Chibaragi Shiyou but Nina Mona was the
gang that originated it. Gangs from all around the country
used to copy Nina Mona’s style when customizing
their bikes and even cars. Same goes for the Gurachan style.
Nina Mona were the originators. In the generations before me,
there were thousands of members. During my era, although the
number of members had decreased, we had about 200 to 300
members within Nina Mona. When everyone from the
Killer Alliance would meet, we had about 1,000 to 2,000
members driving together. When I was in middle school, I mistakenly strayed from my team when we were out on the road. Eventually we caught up
with a group of bikers thinking they were my team. But I didn’t recognize anyone’s face and they turned out to be Nina Mona. We had accidentally
joined Nina Mona’s group. It was just my elder and I, and I said to him,
“This isn’t our gang, is it?” He replied,
“This is Nina Mona, stupid.” Then he told me to just pretend like
we were Nina Mona members because if we suddenly left,
they’d chase us down. So we just mixed in with
them and ran with them. My middle school days. There were more than
100 members that night. There aren’t many left these days. The last real bosozoku
gang was Igarashi’s. I’m ashamed that I was unable to prolong the tradition. I couldn’t get my juniors to follow me and I apologize to my elders. This is Atsushi Muto. There’s another photo of him. He has also inspired a comic book. There was a car that people nicknamed the “Muto Z” which caught on
throughout the country. This Nina Mona flag was also
designed by Atsushi Muto. It is because of this man that Igarashi and I have
become who we are. Unfortunately, he passed away. It’s a shame. The last time we all met up
was around 20 years ago. We all wore these jackets. My favorite part is the
painting on the bike. I think it ran me about $2,000. The handlebars were made
originally for me, too. There’s more on the back.
I had a sticker made. in commemoration of Muto-san as well. This is the bike I first saw
in Elementary School. The roaring of the engine
left a big impression on me. So I finally bought my own
when I was 15 and I’ve had it ever since. The longer this is,
the badder it looks. That’s all. When I swerve, it sways like this. It looks cool when it moves. Look alive, motherfuckers. Let’s go ride. Put your heart into it. Let’s go. When I was in middle school the local bosozoku came to my school, and rode all around
our schoolyard. When the bikes came, there was no way you could study
because of the loud song. At the moment, my concept of school lost all value. As soon as I heard those engines roar, my interest in school
disappeared instantly. I didn’t see the point of studying. Needless to say,
the teachers couldn’t do a thing about those bikers that day. I knew I was meant to be a bosozoku. I have no regrets about
being a bosozoku. I have great memories. Really great memories. If a serious person were to
look at my bosozoku days, he might consider it idiotic, but I’ve done things that normal people probably
wouldn’t be able to. I was most happy when my elder
would praise something I did. Whether it be fighing
or riding my bike. It’s when he would tell me,
“You did a good job,” that I was happiest. That’s why I never wanted to
quit being a bosozoku and I never ran from a fight. It felt good to be acknowledged
by someone I admired. Being a bosozoku is exhausting.
No more for me. It’s not fun when you’re doing it. It’s like being in a hentai S&M club. You’re right. It’s like being drafter into war. It’s like being in the military. KEIZO KAGAMI,
3rd NARASHINO LEADER ‘Specter’ means ghost. Our 1st leader used to
hang out in Shibuya. He would beat people up
and then disappear. I guess that’s the
reason for the skull logo. That doesn’t sound too cool, does it? There was a time
we fought in Omoriyama. The Odawara branch of the Specter gang
used to get picked on a lot. They had made plans to fight at
the top of a mountain during winter but they ambushed their rivals
from the sides of the mountain. Everyone with their shirts off. It was crazy. They tried to escape by
driving into the woods. With their engines on mash, they all fell right into the valleys. In the woods. It was fun, but at the end of the day, I was always the one
getting arrested. But we did a lot of good too. One time we helped a woman get her car out of a muddy ditch
on the side of the road. Since there were so many of us, we lifted that thing up
back onto the road. We did a lot of good things, too. It wasn’t all bad stuff. A lot of it was just our young spirit. Back in those days everyone had their own thing going on. For example, the Rockabilly movement. Rock ‘n Roll, etc. For us, it happened to be
cars, motorcycles, and bosozoku. When Keizo-san was a leader, I was still a baby. Seriously. When I was a bosozoku, I never drank alcohol. Neither did my friends We spent all the money we had
on cars and bikes. I remember all my fights. No matter how badly I was beaten, I still got up and fought. No matter how tough my
opponent was, I still went. Eventually, they would run away. They’d get scared. I had heart. That’s probably why they followed me. If I had ran away from fights,
no one would have respected me. I was never scared. [music from video plays on tv] What is bosozoku? I don’t know. I guess it’s just
being yourself. I seriously doubt kids nowadays are experiencing the same
level of thrills that we were. The adrenaline rush we would get on
Saturdays was incredible. I think that’s the reason why
I can’t forget that period in my life. There’s nothing like
that as an adult. The reason bosozoku are gone now is that Japan is a
fully developed country. It won’t allow any flaws
in the system. Current society will not let the average low-life to succeed
at life by doing low-life things. I’m sad that bosozoku aren’t
around anymore. But it may be a good thing
to just hold onto the memories. If you were ever in a bosozoku,
the memories never leave you. If you had a time machine,
would you go back in time? Yes, I would. Those were the best days of my life. It wasn’t fun at the time, but after twenty-some-odd years, after becoming an adult, and leading a normal life, I can’t help but remember those times. The excitement I got from just living
life will never be the same.

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