Japanese children from Kobe came across a tattooed type of Santa recently when they received gifts from Japan’s largest Yakuza gang, Yamaguchi-gumi, in December last year. The event took place in the gang’s Kobe-based headquarters where members gave away toys, snacks and thousands of yen.

As part of the end-of-year celebrations, it is usually customary in Japan for children to receive money as presents, a tradition that is known as Otoshidama.

In this case, the gang handed over monetary gifts that came up to 30,000 yen ($330).

Local authorities believed that this strange act might be an attempt to highlight the gang’s leadership.

As it is, the cash gifts were packaged in envelopes that contained either the name of the main gang leader, Shinobu Tsukasa, or his immediate subordinate, Kiyoshi Takayama.

Some figures also believe these actions were actually a PR move where they were placating locals prior to the pending release of a gang member.

Whatever the case, a lot of Kobe residents viewed the gang favorably.

The 40,000 member gang first won over a number of folks when they distributed food and water to hard-hit victims in the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

In the words of one of the local journalists: “It’s probably difficult for people outside Kobe to understand, but locals say that Kobe is one of the safer cities in Japan because of the Yamaguchi-gumi.”

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Shinigami (A. K. Goemans) is a Netherlands-based writer who is into horror movies, computer games and manga. She lived in different parts of Asia and Africa before settling down in the Netherlands.