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Archive for the ‘Yakuza’ Category

The Japan earthquake (9.0) rates in the top four with the 1952 Kamchatka quake, the 1960 quake in Chile with 9.5, the Alaska quake in 1964 with 9.2 and the Sumatra quake in 2004 with 9.1.

I’ve visited Tokyo and the surrounding areas a number of times and want to express my sympathy to those affected by this tragedy during what can only be described as very painful times.  Faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.  Or if you prefer something different (I’m not making this up) someone set up a well-intentioned “Socks for Japan” drive.

I’m not insensitive to the nuclear dangers, but the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami will likely dwarf the damage caused by the problems associated with the nuclear plants, however, the media is now doing a “Charlie Sheen” minute-by-minute obsession with these plants.  According to a number of reports (including the more negative HERE) the Japan situation isn’t going to be another Chernobyl.  And speaking of Chernobyl, next month marks the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl (April 25, 1986) accident.   Back in 2009 I blogged about the Chernobyl Motorcycle Ride and due to recent events in Japan it seems to be getting a lot of hits. Unfortunately.  But I’ve digressed.

There will be repercussions in the Worldwide motorcycle community as the economic impact and stories of the prices we pay and heavy losses are just beginning to ratchet up.  All the motorcycle manufactures are cooperating with electricity conservation efforts and the rolling blackouts to help in the prioritizing of the relief and recovery of affected areas.  For example the motorcycle production facilities at:

Honda: The company reported on some of the more serious damages including the death of a 43-year old male employee at its research and development center in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, as the wall of a cafeteria crumbled. Honda said that more than 30 employees at several facilities in the same prefecture were injured.   The company also decided the following:

  1. As of March 14, all production activities are suspended at the following Honda plants: Sayama Plant at Saitama Factory (Sayama, Saitama), Ogawa Plant (Ogawa-machi, Hiki-gun Saitama), Tochigi Factory (Moka, Tochigi), Hamamatsu Factory (Hamamatsu, Shizuoka) and Suzuka Factory (Suzuka, Mie).
  2. From March 15 through 20, Honda will suspend all production activities at its plants listed above as well as at Kumamoto Factory (Ozu-machi, Kikuchi-gun, Kumamoto).
  3. From March 14 through 20, Honda will suspend regular operations at all Honda facilities in the Tochigi area, where damage was more serious, (including Tochigi Factory, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. R&D Center (Tochigi) , Honda Engineering Co., Ltd., etc.), and focus on the recovery of each operation. Honda associates will not come to work during this time.

Yamaha: reported one employee injured and sections of the roads surrounding their Motor Sports facility had collapsed.

Suzuki: shut down all of its plants (including Takatsuka and Toyokawa facilities) and will consider re-establishing operations after March 17th

Bridgestone:  reported no serious damage to five of its production facilities in the affected regions, however the company has a number of sites in the Tochigi Prefecture, including the Nasu tire plant. The Nasu facility is the sole motorcycle tire production site for Bridgestone worldwide. The production at these sites was stopped, pending safety evaluations and Bridgestone plans to resume production “based on electricity restrictions and other issues.”

Wild Road Choppers: the owner Souji Abe is located in Sendai City and while he personally is safe the damage to the area where his shop is located is clearly extensive.

Motorcycle Show Cancellations: Osaka Motorcycle Show and the 38th Tokyo Motorcycle Show (March 25)

In addition there is unofficial word about the Japanese Grand Prix which was to be held April 24th at Motegi is being reviewed and dependent on the Mobilityland complex and physical structure may get cancelled.  For reference, Motegi is about 110miles from Sendhai (near the epicenter) and Fukishima, where the damaged nuclear reactors are located is about 75miles north of Motegi.

The area of Japan affected by the earthquake and tsunami produces around 4.1% of the country’s GDP, suggesting that first-round economic effects could be limited, yet at this stage, with the fate of the Fukushima nuclear reactors still unclear, it’s too early to come up with any meaningful estimates of the overall impact to the motorcycle community.

My thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and the families.

UPDATE: March 25, 2011 – A couple of weeks after all the destruction in Japan some of the motorcycle manufactures have reopened with limited production.  A good report HERE at Power Sport News.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

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The once-fictional Tru Blood beverage from the HBO hit series “True Blood” has come to life in bottle form this September.  It’s a blood-orange carbonated drink concoction with a 3-V mixture of Vodka, Vicodin, and Viagra… to bring out the vampire in you!

Actually I made up that 3-V mixture part, it’s just a premium priced slightly tart and sweet flavored drink.  Much better tasting than the two-ounce bottle of “Gulf Water” priced for $9.99 at oilspillwater.com!

But, speaking of bottling up the motorcycle elixir of life, and drinking the water,  long-time Sturgis rally veteran Tom Brandy had a dream to bring the Black Hills of South Dakota motorcycle rally to the rest of the world and now that will happen with the first event set in South Korea on September 17-21st.  In addition to having the common “South” in the festival city name many of the motorcycle events will be similar to the long-standing rally in the U.S.

Mr. Brandy is catering heavily to locals (website is in Korean) and it’s anticipated there will be large groups of motorcyclists from China and Japan in attendance.  There will be hill climbs, entertainment along with a broad set of custom bike builders (Ness, Perewitz, Trotta) in attendance.  No word yet on who from Harley-Davidson will be in attendance and whether they plan to scout potential manufacturing plants?

Harley-Davidsonesque Scooter (photo taken in Tokyo)

I can visualize an Asia blog post reflecting on the event already…

“For kilometers, the bikers have been overtaking the little KIA cars. Gleaming low-slung motorcycles with fat tires and riders settled into the seats, sometimes a pillion person too (i.e. “bitch”). Most built with a Harley-Davidsonesque Hog image, but instead sport two cycles.  Some of the riders nicknamed their Korean bikes the “Kimchi Piglet” as it has the porcine image but still hasn’t properly grown up yet. With legs stuck out in front so they’re nearly parallel to the outstretched arms operating the controls, booted feet pointed at the sky — riders rushed past an artillery range with the world’s most fortified border, breathing semi-toxic pollution and dodging kamikaze pizza-delivery scooters. Sturgis ASIA welcomed riders to the land of Kimchi, beautiful Asian girls and the home to a surprisingly strong motorcycle culture.”

Wouldn’t it be something if Sturgis ASIA surpassed Sturgis U.S. in attendance records?!  Japan is really the big custom motorcycle scene, however, when I was in Seoul, South Korea a few years ago they didn’t want anything to do with Japanese and likely explains why the event is not held in Tokyo.

Water bottle photo created.  Logo courtesy of The City Of Sturgis Rally Department and Sturgis ASIA web site.

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An outlaw biker and his “colors” declare membership in a particular club. Colors usually consist of a three-piece patch embroidered on a leather or denim jacket which contains the name of the club, the club’s logo, and the club’s location.

Bryan Denson of The Oregonian wrote an interesting article (April 20, 2008 – with Bruce Ely (photographer)) about the rise of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) in Oregon.   Specifically it detailed how the Mongols Motorcycle Club (MMC) had discretely opened a 4th chapter in Eugene after previously setting up chapters in Portland, Medford and Bend.  The article characterized them as one of the most violent OMGs of the “Big Five” and it made me wonder if Oregon was set for a bloody turf war like the late 60’s in San Francisco.  The aftermath of many killed bikers was that the Gypsy Jokers MC left California and the Hells Angels agreed to stay out of Oregon.

So what’s going on here?  Are rivalries between OMGs sparking a local trend and a recruitment drive to expand their network?  Will Oregon witness more violent confrontations and increased criminal activity?  Will this impact the Taco Wednesday riders who seldom throw a leg over anything and live to ride…to a dealer to buy something bright and shiny?

A little background and context — OMGs are well-organized with a hierarchical structure, bylaws, and a written constitution. The organizational structure is complex.  Members are required to pay dues and attend meetings and events (e.g., “runs”) to demonstrate loyalty to the club leadership.  Infractions are punished by penalties with the most severe being death.  Club members refer to themselves as “1%ers” (or One Percenters) and most display “1%” patches on their jackets, or “Colors 13”.  The label refers to a quote by the American Motorcycle Association stating that “ninety nine percent of all motorcycle riders in this country are law abiding citizens.”   The OMGs claim to make up the remaining one percent, thus the reference.

The Oregon Attorney General (Hardy Myers) completed a comprehensive review of the organized crime threat to citizens of Oregon back in 2006.  The review included everything from possible terrorist attacks to threats from outlaw motorcycle gangs.  The “Big Five” refer’s to the five major U.S. OMGs (Hells Angels (3500 members worldwide), Bandidos, Pagans, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence).

The illegal activities of “1%ers” include narcotics manufacturing and trafficking, vehicle thefts (in particular, Harley motorcycles), assaults, and prostitution. Some OMG members have diversified into “legitimate” businesses (e.g., motorcycle shops, night clubs, strip clubs), though more often these businesses have been set up for money laundering and fueled by unlawful activities.  Oregon now has five separate OMGs. Most have multiple chapters in the state and at least one chapter in three bordering states. In addition, the largest OMG in Oregon has established a chapter in Germany and has affiliated clubs in Australia and South Africa.  Below is a list of the estimated members of each OMG:

OMG                       Founded                  OR Members

Free Souls               1968                      105

Brother Speed          1969                      45

Gypsy Joker             1956                      40

Outsiders                 1968                      26

Mongols                   1969                      12-15

Vagos                      1965                      15

Source: Police estimates; Attorney General report

The typical response from an outlaw member is “It’s not a gang…we’re a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts getting together”, but do a Google search on any day of the week and you’ll find news about numerous arrests across the country from manufacture of illegal drugs to trafficking and for all the mystique of being just a bunch of rowdy dudes riding together for the fun of the camaraderie…a lot of dead bodies are piling up!  Does this mean all outlaw clubs are filled with miscreants?  No, I’ve personally met and talked with Hells Angels and Jokers members and found them to be reasonable.  If you treat them with respect then they are reasonable.  But they are not all saints either. My advice is to show respect, but to have as little interaction as possible.

The biker legend runs deep in America and many fun loving riders cherish the freedom of the open road and the wind in their face.   But, I don’t buy into the outlaw clubs attempting to wrap themselves in a Harley flag of defiance and rebellion.  I’ve posted on the Laughlin River Run melee previously and a freewheeling, even raucous lifestyle is one thing, but pushing drugs and killing people are not.

The increased appearance of “colors” flying in Oregon no matter who the “club” means that for us true motorcycle enthusiasts the road just gets a little rougher to navigate.

ALL UPDATED BELOW ON — APRIL 6, 2017

UPDATE: June 20, 2008 — Accused of a litany of felony and misdemeanor crimes, Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto, (27), took his case to trial.  A Lane County jury found him guilty of reckless driving and other misdemeanor charges from the April 23 incident in which he was accused of trying to run two biker-gang investigators off Interstate 5 during rush hour. The jury acquitted Mr. DeLoretto of eight felony charges, including conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping.  Circuit Judge Debra Vogt sentenced the president of Oregon’s Mongols Motorcycle Club to a year in jail and ordered him not to associate with other Mongols — including his twin brother Jeremy, who was at the time acting MMC President — or any outlaw biker gangs.  The judge ordered Mr. DeLoretto, to serve six months for each of two counts of menacing. She also suspended his driver’s license and ordered him to serve five years of probation in which he can neither associate with the Mongols nor wear their insignia.

UPDATE: June 24, 2008 — One day after Lane County Circuit Judge Debra Vogt sentenced Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto to a year in jail, he was released to make room for more serious criminals.  The Mongols Oregon Chapters president remained in jail before and during his trial which had his bail set very high.  He served 62 days  and was released because of jail overcrowding.

UPDATED: June 25, 2008 — More HERE, but DeLoretto was sentenced Monday (23rd) to one year in jail on two counts of menacing (misdemeanor).  The real kicker is that the DA influenced the judge who order DeLoretto not to associate with the Mongols or wear their insignia for 5 years.  Essentially striking down his constitutional right of freedom to associate.  He was processed into Lane County jail after sentencing and then promptly released 24 hours later due to jail overcrowding!  In total, DeLoretto served 62 days in Lane County jail — 61 of those while waiting trial and unable to post a very high bail.

UPDATE: September 30, 2008 – the Oregonian reported that Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto, the founder of the Mongols Motorcycle Club‘s Oregon chapters, who was ordered not to associate with the organization after a June conviction for menacing a pair of outlaw biker investigators, has left secretly to California.  According to Detective Dave Burroughs there will be a warrant for his arrest.  Mr. DeLoretto, joined the San Diego Mongols chapter and went to work in a tattoo parlor owned by a member of the motorcycle club.

UPDATE: October 2008 — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) raided all people, places and things Mongol in October and they raided that tattoo parlor. DeLoretto was detained and investigated. And, so Lane County, Oregon learned that he had violated his probation by leaving the state. Oregon issued a warrant for his arrest and asked him to please return to account for his misdeeds.

UPDATE: January 2009 — Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto, turned himself into the Lane County Jail again.  He was being held on $50,000 bail, but according to Lane County Sheriff Captain Doug Hooley commented to the Eugene Register-Guard, that there was nothing with his risk assessment score that keeps him from getting out.  He was eligible for release later that day.

UPDATE: April 4, 2017 — According to Oregonian news reports, Mr. DeLoretto is a George Fox University graduate student, who is required to complete an internship at a social service agency to obtain a master’s degree in social work.  He started an internship a year ago at the Oregon Youth Authority and would of course use what he learned to work with gang-affected youth in the criminal justice system when he completed his studies.  But, four months later, the state agency ended his internship after learning he was a founding and member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.

At any rate, as of this week Mr. DeLoretto has filed a federal lawsuit against the Oregon Youth Authority, claiming his internship was terminated solely because of his club “membership” which violated his constitutional rights of free speech and due process.  DeLoretto, (now 35), is seeking undetermined monetary damages for the loss of the internship and punitive damages.

 

Mongol photo courtesy of Bruce Ely of The Oregonian.  Person in photo is reported to be Justin J. “Mooch” DeLoretto, 27, and credited with setting up the Oregon chapters.

Gypsy Joker photo courtesy Flickr

 

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Ever since watching the 1989 Ridley Scott directed movie Black Rain with Michael Douglas, I’ve been intrigued by the Japanese Yakuza. And after watching the recently released hi-def version of The Yakuza, a 1975 movie starring Robert Mitchum who takes on gangsters during Japan’s post-war occupation…I became intrigued how Japan biker gangs seem to imitate the U.S. clubs.

The Japanese word bōsōzoku is typically applied to biker gangs who share interest in modifications (often illegal) for motorcycles, such as removing the mufflers and engaging in dangerous street racing or reckless driving, such as weaving in traffic, running red lights or not wearing motorcycle helmets. There are bōsōzoku clubs throughout Japan, including female bike gangs (レディース, “ladies”), identified more by fashion statements and customized motorcycles. The club members take part in mass rallies and have run ins with the police. Having just returned from Sturgis this sounds very familiar.

Descended from medieval gamblers and outlaws, yakuza have been portrayed as latter-day samurai, bound by traditions of honor and duty and living extravagant lives. The Japanese Police estimate that full-fledged membership in yakuza groups fell to 41,500 last year, down from 43,000 in 2005, a decline they attribute to tighter laws against organized crime. However, the number of yakuza hangers-on, including thugs and members of motorcycle gangs, who are willing to do their dirty work, rose to 43,200.

The author of Yakuza Moon,” a best-selling memoir just out in English, written by the 39-year-old, Shoko Tendo writes about her father who was the leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang, the largest yakuza group, and how he led a “classic” life with Italian suits, imported cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Shoko was raised with strict ideas of honor, and was both spoiled and scolded by the tattooed men who frequented her home.

I plan to get/read the book and learn if this is a reflection of or an imitation of the U.S.

The Shoko Tendo photo above is from REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

UPDATE: Read the book and while interesting background on Tendo it doesn’t really explore the Japan motorcycle/gang element as much as you would have thought possible. Mostly about Shoko Tendo overcoming adversity in her life. It was a tough life and she has done well just to be alive! An easy read.

UPDATE: February 10, 2009 – the Mainichi Daily News reports Japan biker gangs (bosozoku) decline.

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