If you’re a mobster signing paperwork in Japan, always read the fine print.

Smart shoppers in Japan know that one of the easiest ways to cut down on household expenses is through point cards. Nearly every chain of supermarket, pharmacy, and convenience store in the country offers such loyalty programs, where you can earn a percentage of every purchase in points that you can spend on subsequent shopping trips, all by showing or swiping your card at the register.

These programs don’t charge any sort of annual fees, either, so there’s no real downside to joining them. Well, there’s usually no downside. Takuya Machinaga’s case is a rare exception, though, as signing up for a point card at a Nagoya supermarket has got the 73-year-old man arrested this week.

Why? Well, in addition to being a senior citizen, Machinaga is also a yakuza member, and not a rank-and-file one either. He’s a boss in the Yamaguchigumi’s Aichi Prefecture arm, and it turns out that “yakuza member” isn’t a status you can hold at the same time as “point card member” at the supermarket Machinaga shopped at.

The yakuza-members-not-allowed rule is spelled out in the sign-up paperwork for the card, within a section titled “Exclusion of Anti-Social Organizations.” The clause is something many ordinary citizens may not be conscious of, since the section in its entirety is something the vast majority of the population can skip reading without fear of repercussions, but if you are a mobster, it’s definitely the sort of fine print you should get out your reading glasses for. Clauses prohibiting members of criminal organizations from forming membership contracts or other agreements with law-abiding businesses are actually fairly commonplace in Japan, such as the ones making it difficult for yakuza to upgrade their old mobile phones.

▼ Maybe this guy is a luddite, and maybe he’s a mob boss.

While it’s not illegal for yakuza to shop at supermarkets, any longer-lasting arrangement with the store than individual purchases could land the store in legal trouble, and store credit-accruing point cards, being a kind of quasi currency, are likely something businesses are strictly prohibited from knowingly issuing to mobsters. Because of this, sign-up documents for point cards and other memberships are usually structured such that submitting the paperwork acts as a legal declaration by the applicant that they are not a member of a criminal organization. This makes Machinaga’s point card application, in the eyes of the law, fraud, which is the charge he has been arrested for.

Machinaga applied for, and was issued, his supermarket point card in 2020. He claims he was unaware of the no-yakuza clause, though it seems like something someone in his line of work should have been aware of. Regardless of whether or not he can escape legal punishment, though, it looks like his days of discount grocery shopping are over, and this is another example of how the real-world yakuza lifestyle isn’t always as glamourous as it’s made out to be in movies and video games.

Source: CBC News via Livedoor News via Jin
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