Japanese Yakuza, History and Current News

by ebazaar 8 September 2009 6 Comments

Yakuza clanIn Japan, there is a special name for what we knew as ‘mafia’ or gangsters. They are called the yakuza. Yakuza can be considered as Japan’s organized criminals, divided into about 2,500 families or clans with possibily about more than 100,000 members altogether. Despite of their notorious demeanor and violent nature, their existence are accepted by the police and the Japanese society. The principal or top yakuza family would have to be the Yamaguchi-gumi. Others are like Sumiyoshi-kai, Inagawa-kai and Toa-kai.

Tracking their origin, the history of Yakuza may have been dated back since the Tokugawa Shogunate where many samurai warriors were left unemployed due the current political and economic stability during that time. Many of them resort to the trading industries instead, but some still left, and still unemployed and called as –ronin- resorting to thievery and other notorious works to support their lives.

Pretty much like the Italian mafia, Yakuza also follows the familial system but not base on blood, instead, on adoption, and they are people who highly value the concept of bushido – or way of the samurai, which they incalcute in their way of living. The bind that existed in a yakuza family, especially between the leader of the family and the follower is base on high sense of respect and loyalty.


The typical image of yakuza often potrayed in Yakuza's movies and dramas

The image of a typical yakuza member is someone with a shiny suit, greased hair, a flashy car, elaborate full-body tattoos, and a little finger missing its tip if he has had to make retribution to a boss for some misdemeanour in the past. Although not all yakuza look like this, they certainly do not make any attempt to hide their existence in any way. Just like criminals in all other countries, yakuza mainly involved in illegal conducts such as extortion, smuggling, drugs, prostitution and they have a pretty close links with the construction industry in Japan.

I think you can simply catch yakuza in actions in many yakuza movies (yakuza no eiga), TV dramas, in comics (manga) and they even have yakuza games on platforms such as Playstation and Wii. I’m quite surprised to find some facts about the yakuza doing charity deeds as well. In the massive earthquake that happened in Kobe in 1995, the Yamaguchi clan had also been part of the relief team to bring food and support to the earthquake victims. Well, they are still humans afterall.

And, of course they are not immune to law and order as well. Recent news found out that the same principal clan- the Yamaguchi clan has set up (or more like forcing) its members to take up a certain written test examination which they’ve prepared with the sole intention of reducing their lawsuit costs which had been considerably high year after year.

Read more of the news: Yakuza Group Forcing Member to Take ‘Gangster Exam’

Read more on Yakuza (wikipedia)

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4 comments so far

  1. Paul

    hi, how would one contact the yakuza. I am looking for investment for my book to publish it and make a movie about it. Most of it is written in a japanese prison about six years ago. Do they do buisness with foreigners.


    Admin Reply:

    This is really a tough cookie. Well, honestly, I do not know how exactly to contact a yakuza but one thing I know is that would be something hard to do since yakuza is much an underground group that barely have direct contact with the world society publicly. They don’t have websites involve in many illegal and underground business. But they do business with foreigners for sure, IF they are going to benefit from the project too. They have basses in LA, San Francisco, New York City and of course, Las Vegas. It’ll be hard to get in contact with the boss straight since there are bodyguards everywhere and they will limit contact to only the necessary people (well, basically because they can assassinate one another). One thing you can do to get info is perhaps to contact other yakuza books publisher or yakuza movie producer to get more information.

  2. Pallavi

    If the yakuza do illegal things then why does the police and Japanese government accept them? Do they still get put in jail?


    admin Reply:

    Yakuza in Japan have some connection with the local police, somehow. when they do terrible and bad things they still will be sent to jail, regardless. However, news of fights among them don’t always get to the police. maybe it’s like some sort of a way for the Japanese police to get rid of bad people without getting their hands dirty. It’s a tactfully mutual agreement if you ask me.

    But they still will be sent to jail, that’s for sure such in the case of Tetsuya Shiroo, a member of the Yamaguchi clan. On May 26, 2008 Tetsuya Shiroo was sentenced to death due to the assination of the Nagasaki mayor at that time, Iccho Itoh.

    Rather than the police, the yakuza is much more closely related to the political world in Japan.

  3. Ryoshihikitsure

    If you wish to go and fine the Yakuza, I suggest you tavel to Japan, go to the older sectionsof the country. If you wish to seek someone from the Yakuza, then you should show no fear and be honest with your snawers. Also the yAkuza do not take too kindly to non japanese interest in their dealings, so if you do decide to do anything that highlights the ins and outs of the society, then be sure to take a gesture token with you. These people, do not take prisoners and are vey much old schol=ol. SO trust, lya;lty and honour are very high. If you deceive them, then expect verfy high consquences.

    My advice, leave well alone.


  4. Ali

    I’d say the most up-to-date account of the Yakuza by someone who’s worked with them close up is a book called ‘Tokyo Vice’ by Jake Adelstein. Jake was a reporter with the Yomiuri newspaper and his book does a good job of showing the nature of the Yakuza in relation to the police and Japanese society.


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