命預けます | INOCHI AZUKEMASU | JE TE CONFIE MA VIE
In 2013, Chloé Jafé moved to Tokyo with the ambition to meet the women of the Yakuza.
But no one enters this mafia, one of the most legendary in the world, without being invited.
After spending a year perfecting her Japanese, immersing herself in the codes of a culture
miles apart from her own, having been a hostess in a bar and combing the city's red light
districts, the lock finally broke in. Through a lucky encounter and out of temerity.
Inducted by a Boss, she was able to approach these padlocked clans, their official rituals
and gatherings, the taboo and tattooed stories that their kimonos camouflage,
and through them, their wives, daughters and mistresses.
Women lurking in the shadow of the men to whom they have dedicated their existence,
marked on the skin by this dedication which automatically excludes them from society. The “gift of one’s life”, Inochi Azukemasu in Japanese, constitutes the first part of her trilogy.
En 2013, Chloé Jafé s’installe à Tokyo avec l'ambition de rencontrer les femmes de Yakuza.
Mais personne n’entre au sein de cette mafia, l’une des plus légendaires au monde,
sans y avoir été invité. Après avoir passé une année à parfaire son japonais,
s’imprégner des codes d’une culture aux antipodes de la sienne, avoir été hôtesse
dans un bar et ratissé les quartiers chauds de la ville, le verrou finit par céder.
Au hasard d’une rencontre et par témérité. Intronisée par un chef de syndicat,
elle a pu approcher ces clans cadenassés, leurs rituels et rassemblements officiels,
les récits tabous et tatoués que leurs kimonos camouflent, et à travers eux,
leurs épouses, filles et maîtresses.
Des femmes tapies dans l’ombre des hommes auxquels elles ont voué leur existence,
marquées à l’épiderme par cette offrande qui d’office les exclut de la société. Le « don sa vie », Inochi Azukemasu en japonais, constitue le premier volet de sa trilogie.
“My first tattoo was when I was 16.
I didn’t think much about it, I just decided to get it on a whim.
I started getting tattoos more seriously when I was older, and had really put my mind to it.
‘I want to live just like the man I love’ – that was the one thought that made me make up my mind. I don’t regret it. I like such types of women.
In one word, I think they are super cool!
I’ve even tattooed the name of the man I love, and I surely won’t regret anything until the day I die.
The more I look at it this way, the more I’m ready to put my life in his hands and keep loving him.”
“The reason why I got tattoos is because I wanted to discourage certain guys from approaching me.
I want to live my life independently, without relying on a man.
This was the thought that prompted me to start getting tattoos. I was 38 at the time.
I’m sure there are a lot of people in Japan who associate tattoos with yakuza.
I was born and raised in a yakuza family, and I have seen a lot of unpleasant things in my childhood.
I got my tattoos because, after the experiences of motherhood and divorce, I had decided that I wanted to live independently as a woman for the rest of my life.
For me, my back tattoo is something that I’m proud of, and that also protects me.”
命預けます - Introduction
- Paris, (République), December 2012
The door slams, my taxi has arrived. I am looking at the rainy sky. Paris is grey.
We are over… It breaks my heart but I know I have to look forward…
It’s time to leave. I am going to Japan.
- Tokyo, (Shimokitazawa), September 2013
I am meeting many people. I am learning to live here.
It’s been 10 months already and I am only just starting to get used to it. I am trying to learn
Japanese. I will need more time… A lot more time, it seems.
- Tokyo, (Kabukicho), October 2013
I am spending my nights in the red light district. I am drowning…
I am meeting all sorts of people but my nights end in the morning with too much shochu and too few memories.
One night I thought I had met a Yakuza but I soon realized that he was just a chinpira (thug) who was only trying to make out with me. It makes me angry. How will I ever access the women I am looking for…?
- Tokyo, (shimokitazawa), March 2014
All the doors I try to open are closed. Every road I take seems to be a dead end.
I am depressed.
Tokyo is huge and I am very lonely. I feel like a prisoner.
Everyone thinks that I have lost my mind . People I know are asking me to stop this project.
It’s too dangerous they say… I don’t want to give up. I know I have to be patient.
- Tokyo, (Ginza), April 2014
Since last night my name has changed to Anna… And I became 27 years old. Everything is fake of course. My life has become one big lie. Where I live, where I come from, everything is a fraud. The first time I was very nervous. I wondered which clients would come and how they would behave, but I learn fast. How to dress, how to make my hair and make-up and even how to smile when all I could see was darkness.
Same small talk, same clients, same whisky.
One night I realized too late that I had spoken to the wrong person.
A lady with a false ID came to the bar pretending to be working and she left with my bag. She had been sent… to check me. I decided to stop this job. The next nights were the longest as I was scared to fall asleep. I could hear people outside my front door, see the lights of a car. They know who I am and where I am. I better be discreet from now on.
- Tokyo, (Asakusa), May 2014
I’m sweating. It’s really hot and I have been taking pictures since early this morning.
It is the last day of the Sanja matsuri. The event is well known because it is the only occasion for Yakuza to show their tattoos. I had met interesting people but no luck on a real contact. I got lost on the small streets. I decide to take a break and I sat down on the pavement. As the sun goes down, he walks towards me wearing a kimono, surrounded by 2 bodyguards. I wasn’t sure who he was until he spoke to me and invited me to drink a beer with him. I have just met the boss.
- Tokyo, (Roppongi), July 2014
I want to be cautious so I choose a restaurant near a train station, and a Police station. I have to be prepared, just in case something goes wrong…
Tonight I managed to arrange a private dinner meeting with the boss.
I will be checking in and out with a couple of friends and a third friend will be waiting for me in the area. I think I am ready. My heart is pounding, and my throat is dry.
I arrive at the meeting point 30 minutes early. He’s already there with his bodyguards. It starts to rain, still they are waiting outside as we’re entering the restaurant.
- Tokyo, (Asakusa), July 2014
As I paid the bill for the last dinner, The Boss wanted to treat me.
I make sure I arrive early at the meeting point. This time he chose the place.
When I arrive he is not there but quickly I can see his bodyguards and his car. They are nodding at me so I go towards them and they tell me to get in the car. That’s all.
The car starts and I don’t know where I will end up. The phone rings and I understand it’s The Boss. I am high on adrenalin.
We go to eat Fugu. It was a strange feeling to be eating this poisonous fish, which can be fatal if not well prepared, with a Yakuza boss. Dangerous dinner.
- Tokyo, (Asakusa), July 2014
Today we are meeting for lunch. As we walk out from the restaurant the boss suddenly holds me against a wall and asked me to choose; between giving my body or giving my life. Time has stopped. I don’t want to show that I’m scared even if of course I was intimidated. I have to think fast because he was insisting on answer. I thought that there was no good answer so I told him that I would rather give him my life. He looked me straight in the eyes for a few seconds, the longest seconds of my life. Then he smiled and told me I was a tough one. Phewww…
- Tokyo, (Kawasaki), December 2016
The three of us are in the room. After all these years of friendship and all our conversations about love I can feel that X has started to trust me. It’s a nice, relaxed atmosphere.
As they embrace, I hop on the bed, on top of them, magic happens…
“Stronger” I say and I can feel the tension between them and we become one. The temperature rises. It’s becoming emotional. At this very moment I understand that this is the ultimate picture.