Profile of former yakuza member who has opened a small noodle-restaurant in Japan

Ten years ago the Japanese government started cracking down on the yakuza, a once-powerful crime syndicate. Japan's National Center for Removal of Criminal Organizations says there were 70,300 yakuza members in 2011, and only 25,900 by 2020.

New laws made it impossible for yakuza members to "open bank accounts, rent homes, get insurance or obtain cellphones," reports The Washington Post. Former members are trying to make a living in legitimate businesses, such as opening a 13-seat noodle restaurant.

Over three decades, [noodle chef Takashi] Nakamoto rose through the ranks ofthe Kudo-kai, a violent syndicate of the once-powerful yakuza, a Japanese criminal network whose membership has been chipped away by more-aggressive law enforcement.

So when Nakamoto tried to open up his restaurant in Tsuji's shopping district — while he was still under the five-year ban — the cards seemed stacked against him.

But Nakamoto built individual relationships with other vendors, was honest about his time with the Kudo-kai, picked up trash from the street and volunteered for the shopping district's festivals and events.