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Theo Cottle

893 Yakuza: The Setting Sun

893 Yakuza: The Setting Sun

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893 Yakuza: The Setting Sun

Self-published in a limited edition of 460, November 2023
28.5 × 21cm, 36 pages, softcover
Printed with two alternate covers 


893 Yakuza: The Setting Sun is a photo essay by London-based photographer Theo Cottle that explores the ageing population of the Yakuza.

Cottle spent several months in Japan in late 2022, where he was introduced to several senior yakuza members who allowed him to document their private bathing rituals in Tokyo bathhouses. 

The yakuza can be traced back to Japan’s feudal period, with gang membership peaking in the early 1960s with over 180,000 members, according to police estimates. However, with stricter laws, increased police crackdowns and Japan’s ageing population, the number of yakuza members has been steadily declining and is now at its lowest since the 1950s.

The word yakuza (‘good for nothing’) is derived from a losing hand in the Japanese card game Oicho-Kabu. When added up, the cards ya-ku-sa (‘eight-nine-three’) give the worst possible total.

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