Guns don’t thrill people, gangster movies do

Let’s try an experiment.

Close your eyes and imagine Japan; what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Rampant gun crime, of course.


This was the wrong answer.

Now those crooks in the media would have you believe that gun crimes are a rare occurrence in Japan. Don’t be fooled, they’re just covering up what is a near-universal issue. The truth is that the streets are awash with violence, much of it gang-related. This might be difficult to believe, but before you dismiss it as scaremongering take a look at some of my fearless investigative journalism. I ask only that you bear in mind that all of the following images were taken at great personal risk to myself.

I took this first photo at one of Japan’s notorious black markets. They usually accompany summer festivals and sell a wide array of illegal goods.  The pink sign on the right reads ベビー (bebii), as it’s written in katakana this indicates it’s a phonetic transcription of a loan word from a foreign language. Say it out loud to yourself, what English word does it sound like? That’s right, it’s advertising babies for sale.

However, human trafficking is not our concern here, instead I’d like you to focus on the middle stall.

Just 300 yen for an AK-47. Or twelve babies.

It’s clear what’s going on here. These young hoodlums are buying some assault weaponry. Presumably to carry out a hit, or perhaps they want to start a full-on gang war?

Here’s another photo taken later in the day. It shows some pre-teens ‘tooling up’. For those of you not familiar with street lingo, it means that they are preparing to shoot some members of a rival street gang with whom they have ‘beef’.

Would prefer to do a drive-by, but too young to get a license.

This is a more recent photo taken in a park in Osaka.

It might not seem so unusual at first, but look a little closer and you’ll see they’re packing some serious heat.

Something’s about to get whacked just to the right of this picture.

So where does this rampant gun violence come from?

Movies with guns in them. Obvious when you think about it.

Now that we’ve identified the problem we can find someone to blame.

I nominate the director and actor Takeshi Kitano. Have a look at the movies he’s made; there’s Sonatine,




there was also Takeshis’ ,



and more recently, Outrage

Is it a pattern yet, or more of a trend?

Faced with such imagery, what’s an impressionable would-be psychopath to do?

Perhaps I’m judging Kitano too harshly here. After all, he’s made many other kinds of films. In his version of the story of Zatoichi he didn’t use any guns to kill people.


I think that his movie, Dolls, can stand in his defence. This is because in the entire film no-one is murdered. Instead it’s made up of three separate stories that take love as their central theme. There’s very little dialogue and the whole thing looks beautiful. Like you’d expect, not a lot happens.

The first section is about a young couple who are attached to each other by a long red string. They also walk around. A lot.

They walk in Winter.

They stroll in Spring.

They saunter in summer.

They amble in Autumn.

That’s about it. If you watching people walking then it’s pretty good.

I mentioned Outrage earlier. It’s one of his most violent and is soon to be followed up with the first sequel that he’s ever made, Beyond Outrage. There’s a trailer here. There’s not a lot to go on, but I think it’s safe to assume that Japan’s gun obsession isn’t going anywhere soon.

I know what you’re thinking. Are there any other films about modern Japan that could be construed as glamorising gun crime?

Answers on a postcard, please.

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