Located smack dab in the middle of Edgewater, N.J., resides the community known as "Japan town." Authentic Japanese restaurants and sporadic pubs line the strip mall as busy patrons go about their business, impervious to the red brick building that lies less than a thousand meters from their doorstep. I received a tip from a colleague of mine (whom shall remain anonymous) to talk to a man in his late 50's named Kimeda , who's usually found in a windowless gray building. As I played stupid to get some vital information (I wasn't born yesterday), I knew that within the building resided a division of Yakuza known as the "N.J. clan." At the time, I had no idea that the man I was in search of represented the highest ranking Oyabun (boss) of the New Jersey organization. If I had known what I know now, my ass would have been safely drinking Mai Tai's back home on the sunny beaches of California. But for whatever crazy deliverance of journalistic integrity I felt I had to uphold, I had a job to perform and my main goal was to scour unknown and often dangerous sections of the city in search of locating the hottest VIP vehicles to dawn the New Jersey suburbs, and a man named Kimeda was my main connection. Do I suck it up and continue down the weary unknown path, while leaving my fate in the hands of a group of strangers, or jump on the next plane out of dodge? I made the choice of entering the realm of Japan's most feared crime syndicate-the Yakuza. My gut instinct told me that I had made the wrong decision.
Pronounced VIP, or bippu (not vee-eye-pee as many Americans might assume), it has been the hottest trend to come out of Japan since the JDM craze of the late 1990's. VIP, from its first inception within Japan's society, has been labeled and scrutinized as Yakuza-influenced vehicles. The Toyota Celsior, Nissan President and Laurel are among Japan's most popular vehicles in the fast growing world of bippu. VIP fanatics take these large, more affordable luxury sedans, and add custom rims or even an air bag suspension, transforming these average street commuters into sleek, more glamorous vehicles. While today's VIP has evolved into more of a glitzy, show-stopping genre, the history behind the evolution of VIP started off in a completely different path. It is often rumored that the VIP trend off sprung from Japan's more notable crime syndicate. The relationship between the Yakuza and VIP-type vehicles began with numerous stories of Japan's most powerful gangster at the time Yamaguchi-gumi, Oyabun, Yoshinori Watanabe was rumored to be driven around town in a Celsior (LS 400). High class vehicles such as the Mercedes SL and BMW M-class are symbolic of high society status but often come with a deadly price. Driving in expensive European cars makes easy targets for rival gangs and police, which only endangered the high ranking Oyabun's of the Yakuza. Modified with dark limo tint and retractable curtains for privacy, Yakuza members have made themselves an invisible target among society and law enforcement as the high powered organization once known for the glitzy lifestyle has settled into a world of underground society.
"Who the f-ck is it?" Blurts out a voice in heavy Yakuza slang. I swallow and reply, "I was sent here to talk to Kimeda-san in regards to some VIP style cars he might know of." I hear the heavy metal door unlatching as a man dressed in a black pinstripe suit with a pompadour haircut opens the door. I quickly scan the smoke filled room before I enter, noticing dozens of Kimeda's henchmen dressed in the same dark colored suit as the doorman. In the far end of the office sat the silhouette of a man whom only I would assume was Kimeda. I was hesitant to walk though the door, and for all the right reasons. My first step onto the hardwood floor proved to be what I feared the most. I felt the cold steel of a handgun slam into the back of my head as the dimly lit room suddenly turned pitch black.
With my head still pounding, I slowly come to consciousness as I suddenly find myself sitting in front of a man in a custom white blazer sucking on a cigarette. Slipping the shades off his head, Kimeda exposes his lifeless eyes, staring me down with a glazed look of disdain. I felt beads of sweat and an uncomfortable feeling begin to overwhelm me as I remembered to keep my head bowed as a sign of respect. Spoken with a typical Yakuza slang, Kimeda says, "Don't know why the hell you decided to come here, but if its VIP cars you're looking for, I can make a quick call."