When walking the walk isn’t enough and it’s time to learn how to talk like a Yakuza gangster in Japanese.

Who are Yakuza?

Mafia and chivalry

Formerly called “暴力団” (bōryokudan: violence groups), the Yakuza are well known as tough, tattooed, gangsters affiliated with an organized group dabbling in criminal activities (extortion, gambling, drugs, prostitution, you name it!) both inside and outside Japan. 

Despite all the negative press, the yakuza portray themselves as a 任侠団体/仁侠団体 (ninkyō dantai: chivalrous organization) and they are known to adopt very honorable, samurai-esk rituals while also known to donate and perform charitable deeds.
They have been thought to have originated from 浪人(ryonin: masterless samurai) turned crooks or from Japanese feudal gamblers.

YAKUZA = “Ya-ku-sa”

Although a very well known word, not a lot of people know the meaning behind it. It’s mainly derived from おいちょかぶ (oicho-kabu), a Japanese card game similar to baccarat.
In the game, the card combination  “Yakuza”ya(eight 8 )-ku(nine 9 )-sa(three 3 ), when added up, give the worst possible total leading up to the word “yakuza”, meaning “good for nothing”.

How to sound naturally Yakuza gangster

Roll your R’s

The rolled and exaggerated R is usually used when speaking Spanish, but is also used for speaking rough and even threatening Japanese. VIbrate your R’s when speaking Japanese! You can practice by using the words below:

ほらhoRahey, look
おれ、それ、これoRe, soRe, koReme(masculine), that, this
知らんshiRanSlang for “I don’t know”
くたばれkutabaRedrop dead

Changing your vowels

For words with あい and いい, you change them to ええ instead. This is not only used to sound like a member of the Yakuza, but is also used by native Japanese speakers as a form of slang. A few examples can be found below:

  • “I don’t know”: 知らない (shiranai) —> 知らねえ (shiranee)
  • “Delicious/Good at”: 美味い (umai) —> うめえ (umee)
  • “Very good/very bad”: やばい(yabai)  —> やべえ (yabee)

Using “Ra” at the end of your pronouns

Derived from Kansai dialect, 等 (ra), is used to pluralize words and will  make you sound very casual and informal. Only use them with very close friends or else people might think you’re a tid bit rude(boo!).

  • “You(plural)”: お前たち(omaetachi)  —> お前ら(omaera)
  • “We”: おれたち (oretachi)  —> おれら(orera)
  • “He”–> “They”: あいつ (ai-tsu)  —> あいつら (ai-tsura)

Hide your kids, hide your wife because we’re insulting everyone!

Add any (and all, if you’d like) insult before and after your sentences in order to sound tough and menacing. Always choose who you say these sentences to because this is pretty much an invitation to fight!

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YAKUZA Words and phrases to know

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words like this around dangerous people will DEFINITELY harm you! Although interesting and seemingly fun to use, be careful where, when and to whom you are speaking to when saying the words and phrases below. Have fun! 🙂

Chinpira (チンピラ)

Not to be confused with actual Yakuza, Chinpira are small time thugs and criminals that can be usually seen around Japan’s red light districts dressed as Yanki (ヤンキー:Japanese delinquents).

Yubi-tsume (指詰め・ゆびつめ)

This is a very well known Yakuza tradition that translates to “finger shortening” or the act of cutting a person’s finger off. This is usually done by people to atone for an offense or punishment for offending the yakuza. The amputated finger is then wrapped in cloth and offered to the yakuza boss.

O-rei-mairi sasete itadakimasu (お礼参りさせていただます) 

Direct translation means “Allow me to pay my respects” but used with the connotation of “I’m coming to extract vengeance”. The politeness gives it a very menacing and scary undertone, perfect to scare any person that rubs you the wrong way.

Sarawareta toki wa, inochi ga nai to omo(浚われた時は, 命がないと思え

If directly translated means “If you get kidnapped/taken, think of yourself as already dead” but mainly has the usage of “We don’t negotiate with terrorists”. This is usually the case for most kidnapped/killed members of Yakuza; rather than negotiating for them to try and get them back, they’d rather extract three times the damage in revenge after!

Uragirareru no mo taero. hito wo uragicha ikenai. hito wo uragichattara dare mo shinyo dekinaku nari, yakuza to shite tsutomaran (裏切られるのも耐えろ。人を裏切っちゃいけない。人を裏切ったら誰も信用できなくなり、ヤクザとして勤まらん)

“If you’re betrayed, endure. Never betray others. If you do, you won’t be able to trust anyone and you can’t live as a yakuza”. This is the rapidly disappearing motto of the old school yakuza.

Shinde moraimasu(死んでもらいます) 

A phrase that has the connotation of “Excuse me, I will now have you die” which is not only threatening, but actually quite polite

Other YAKUZA words and phrases that a true Yakuza would know

武士道(ぶしど)bushidoJapanese samurai‘s code of conduct
仁義 (じんぎ)jingimoral code
親分/組長(おやぶん・くみちょ)oyabun/kumichōYakuza boss/family head
子分(こぶん)kobunYakuza apprentices
鼬 (いたち)itachia weasel/ slang for a very good police detective
マル暴 (まるぼう)maruboyakuza or police who investigate the yakuza
極道(ごくどう)gokudo“the ultimate path”/ members of the yakuza
くたばれkutabaredrop dead
やりまんyarimanslut
あばずれabazurecrazy bitch
てめえtemeeyou jerk
きさまkisamayou bastard
ケツメド野郎(ケツメどやろう)ketsumedo yarouasshole bastard/ fucking asshole
口止め料 kuchidomeryouhush money/ bribe
義理(ぎり)giridebt or obligation
ショバ代(ショバだい)shobadai protection money

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