|Matsuri , Tokyo 2007|
|Kana||ヤ ク ザ|
|Kana||ご く ど う|
|Kana||ぼ う り ょ く だ ん|
|Kanji||任侠 団 体 , 仁 侠 団 体|
|Kana||に ん き ょ う だ ん た い|
|Kana||じ ん き ょ う だ ん た い|
Yakuza ( Japanese ヤ ク ザ , German literally “ eight-nine-three ” ), also as Gokudō ( 極 道 , dt. Literally “extreme way ”, meaning “the doo of extremes”) from official bodies Bōryokudan ( 暴力 団 , dt. Literally “violent Group [n] ") called, own name Ninkyō Dantai ( 任侠 団 体 , 仁 侠 団 体 , literally" knightly organization ") is the generic term for Japanese criminal organizations , the history of which goes back several centuries. They are divided into various rival kumi ( 組 , dt. Gangs, groups) and the foreign press sometimes collectively refer to them as the "Japanese Mafia ".
The term Ya-Ku-Za is the dialectal pronunciation of the number combination " 8-9-3 ", which is considered worthless in the card game Oicho-Kabu . It is played with the Kabufuda card set , which is similar to Black Jack . Seen in this way, the yakuza consider themselves with a certain pride as the "worthless" of society.
The Yakuza follow a strict hierarchy , speak their own professional jargon and use different codes in the form of house rules. They operate on almost all Japanese islands and abroad. They are traditionally represented in Thailand and South Korea. The preferred bastions in western foreign countries are Hawaii and San Francisco on the US mainland. Yakuza activities were also observed in New York and Australia, especially after 1990. The bases in Europe are Amsterdam and Paris.
Since 1993, the visible commitment to a kumi has been punishable in Japan , which forces the modern yakuza in some parts of the country to work underground more and more. Nevertheless, some groups and gangs are still listed with addresses and telephone numbers in the Osaka and Tokyo telephone books under very superficial disguise. Even if the previously close relationship with the police and their general social image have deteriorated in recent years, the Yakuza still form an influential community within Japanese society and have retained their importance, especially in the banking and real estate business.
The patriarchal leader in a yakuza network is the oyabun (Japanese father) or Kumichō (Japanese gang leader). He roughly corresponds to the “godfather” in the mafia milieu. To an oyabun, his subordinate is bound to absolute obedience. Yakuza also consider an oyabun to be “one who lives above the clouds”, a metaphor that Western experts interpret as a synonym for inviolability. The Kobun , the sons, are the lower members of the hierarchy . This principle is nested over many levels. Yakuza maintain an elaborate reception ritual in which traditional clothing is worn and the future Kobun has to swear allegiance and loyalty to his oyabun until death. The necessity of draconian penalties for business outside the structures and the associated non-transfer of the proceeds as “membership fees” shows that the binding effect of the seniority principle is waning. Within the organizations there is often competition and power struggles between individual power centers at the same level for the favor of the higher level.
In 2009, the membership of the Yakuza consisted of around 60% of Burakumin , the descendants of the “unclean” in Japan's feudal era. About 30% are from the Korean minority and 10% are from other population groups. Around half of the Yakuza are considered jun-kōseiin ( 準 構成 員 , dt. " Candidate Members") who live outside the organization and do regular business, but can be recruited on a case-by-case basis if necessary.
Yakuza-gumis membership has been falling rapidly since the criminal group's anti-banking laws from 2011. The peak was registered in 1963 with 184,100 people. Then a slow decline set in over about three decades. From 1990 to around 2010, the total number of yakuza was reported to be stable at over 80,000 people before state persecution began. In 2013 the number was only estimated at 63,000, one of the smaller groups Kyūshū Seidō-kai disbanded in 2013 under pressure. In 2015, the total number of all yakuza gumi fell below 50,000 for the first time. In 2017, the National Police Authority counted only under 20,000 full members using a slightly different statistical recording method.
As of 2016, there were more than 2000 members: the Yamaguchi-gumi (5200 members), the Sumiyoshi-kai (3100), the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi (2600), split off from the Yamagushi-gumi in 2015, and the Inagawa-kai (2500). In addition, 18 other groups are registered.
Apart from the police persecution, the groups have problems with the next generation, as in the aging Japanese society with sheltered young people there is hardly any interest in the yakuza structures and the harsh conditions for newcomers at the lowest levels. The 2007 documentary Young Yakuza followed a 20-year-old as he entered the Yakuza.
The Yakuza refer to a descent from the gambling syndicates ( 博 徒 , bakuto ) of the Edo period (around 1600 to 1868). The yakuza of that time consisted almost without exception of people of "low birth", that is, members of the class of farmers and craftsmen, but mainly merchants. If you had lost your land or business as such through gambling , natural disasters or plundering Rōnin or came penniless as a refugee from unrest or prosecution in a new city, you had little choice but to ask the Yakuza. This then gave you accommodation and work; Not infrequently, security within the family structure as well as a thirst for adventure and the hope for respect and recognition among the rural population also attracted volunteers to the services of the yakuza. All police forces, on the other hand, came from the samurai class at that time , who no longer had any military occupation due to the so-called pax Tokugawa and who concentrated on the protection of public security. This often resulted in a tense relationship between the two parties, and the yakuza were often treated condescendingly by the bushi as would-be samurai without honoring the Bushidō . Nevertheless, a conflict of interest was not inevitable, and the radicalism of the various kumi differed greatly from place to place, so in a few cases there was cooperation between the two groups when it came to community politics and citizens' concerns. The Yakuza derives a Robin Hood image from this.
The yakuza only regained relevant influence on Japanese society in the times of unrest at the beginning of the Shōwa period from 1926 and up to the Second World War , and especially after the Japanese defeat from 1945. At this time, the structures of the modern yakuza emerged. She organized smuggling and black market trafficking and created extra-legal methods to enforce legal and illegal claims when the state judiciary and police could no longer maintain the legal structures. After the end of the occupation and the recognition of Japan as a sovereign state in the peace treaty of San Francisco in 1952, the economy and state structures were rebuilt. The yakuza reacted to the change by setting up their own economic activities, especially in gambling and the construction industry . The various gangs competed and got into conflicts, which were waged as bloody gang wars for areas of influence. In the mid-1960s, the violence led to persecution pressure from the state for the first time, which in turn accelerated the concentration of power in the three groups that still dominate today: Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai.
The yakuza used the recession of the 1970s and the subsequent bubble economy of the 1980s to enter the financial sector . Extortion of protection money from listed stock corporations under the pressure of lengthy and costly objections and lawsuits from small shareholders against financial statements and business methods became just as much a means of organized crime as the emerging container shipping industry spurred on smuggling. Also in the 1980s there was a generation change in all large syndicates, especially in the Yamaguchi-gumi, this was bloody until the end of the decade and led to increased pressure from the police, politics and the public on the groups.
Until the entry into force of the Bōryokudan law in March 1992, the various gangs were largely organized in legal structures. The law put pressure on all groups labeled "violent". Membership did not become illegal, but severe penalties were imposed for visible activity. The yakuza organizations went underground. This and the economic downturn in Japan in the 1990s damaged the influence and income, which in turn caused the gangs to adjust their methods.
In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the then supreme leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi could be held liable for the actions of his subordinates under the general principles of trade law. In this particular case, he was sentenced to a small fine . As a result, however, the externally visible pressure and violence in all organizations was massively reduced, which in turn reduced the potential for blackmail.
Since October 2011, any financial cooperation with Yakuza groups is prohibited, all Japanese banks and many other companies have included exclusion clauses in their terms and conditions. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for members to maintain accounts or rent an apartment. In 2013, the Japanese financial regulator took action against the Mizuho Financial Group because it failed to adequately review its business partners and thus process transactions for Yakuza members.
At the end of 2015, the head of Sumiyoshi-kai was sentenced to one year suspended sentence for electoral fraud. The laws on financial transactions by gang members are being applied more strictly, a high-ranking head of the Osaka-Yamaguchi-gumi was accused of buying a car in 2016 and not having indicated his gang membership in the contract form.
As with all Mafia organizations, the central role of the Japanese yakuza is that of a “service provider” in and for society. Your customers take advantage of the protection of the Mafia because they are either discriminated against by state violence or because they are working illegally and state violence does not protect them. The yakuza fulfills this function for Japanese society. Traditionally, the yakuza has been involved in the gaming and entertainment industry, but now increasingly in other areas as well. The modern yakuza has expanded its sphere of activity to exert influence on financial markets and political corruption . It has also tried to influence political elections by initially supporting candidates financially or with “services”, for which consideration should be due after the election.
In addition, the Yakuza continues to protect “traditional” Mafia activities such as prostitution and human trafficking as well as legal ( pachinko ) and illegal gambling . Increasingly also for drug trafficking , which is partly carried out by Yakuza itself, although several large groups forbid their members to participate in drug deals. One focus is on legal and illegal debt collection transactions, because the Japanese legal system only offers private individuals and companies inadequate procedures for the enforcement of money claims. In addition, there are lending (at excessive interest rates) and sometimes complicated concealment of assets and money laundering in the run-up to bankruptcy. It also requires considerable expertise to bring the extremely inflexible Japanese stock corporation law into position against a company and to stage or at least threaten difficulties with small shareholders. Similar methods can also be used in real estate law by threatening large construction projects with blocked land .
In the consensus-oriented and conflict-averse Japanese business world, even fictitious social movements that make unsubstantiated claims can be a major burden on companies and their reputation. One of the methods of yakuza is therefore to stage the smallest demonstrations on behalf of companies or even just threaten them against competitors of the client. Often it is the sudden, noisy appearance of well-known right-wing extremist factions. Even their presence in public spaces in front of a commercial building can endanger a company's reputation. The placement of illegal workers , especially foreigners without a residence permit, is relatively new . In addition, the participation of the yakuza in frauds that deprive seniors of their savings is increasing.
In many hotels and restaurants, for example, the protection money payments to Yakuza are processed covertly via the laundry service of the Japanese Oshibori refreshing towels . In the financial industry, useless economic news is sold at high prices in order to collect protection money.
With the ban on the open appearance of the yakuza, the conspicuous and challenging behavior of the yakuza groups softened. The former official offices now operate as credit or labor agencies u. Even in Japan, the terms used to describe organized crime are becoming blurred. Japanese Official sites use the term bōryokudan (violent groups), but is regarded by the Yakuza violence as a last resort . The vast majority of everyday legal business such as lending or recruiting, and illegal business such as prostitution, gambling or extortion, always takes place without any visible violence.
In January 1993 a Kumi was able to apologize in public at a press conference to the residents of Osaka for certain inconveniences during a leadership war. In 2014, the largest yakuza organization published a website highlighting its positive impact on disaster relief after the recent earthquakes and tsunamis and portraying itself as a fighter against drug trafficking.
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster , there were allegations, arrests and confessions of large-scale fraud with compensation payments for residents of the exclusion zone.
The largest group is still the Yamaguchi-gumi. Between the 1980s and the 2000s it had largely stable around 20,000 "employees" and a share of around 20% of the annual income of all yakuza. It first penetrated the Tokyo metropolitan area, which had previously belonged to the two other large syndicates, when it took over a local organization in the Ginza district. This led to multi-year tensions between the gangs.
Under the increasing pressure to prosecute from the police and courts, the number of members fell rapidly from 2010 onwards. In September 2015, the arm split off from the Yamaguchi-gumi in Kobe and several members testified to police. The reason is the financial demands of the top management, which overstrained the declining performance of the lower levels. When the local leadership in Kobe left the parent organization, about 6,100 members went with it not only from Kobe but from 36 prefectures. In the course of the split, there were homicides and public riots. In April 2017, the group led from Kobe split again, all three organizations lost members and importance in the course of the split. At the beginning of 2018, the Yamaguchi-gumi still had 5200 members, the Kobe-Yamaguchi had 2,600 people and the newest group, the Ninkyo-Yamaguchi, had around 460 members.
Yakuza have been using large tattoos for hundreds of years as an expression of group membership, but also to identify themselves as a higher-ranking individual. It is not uncommon for farmers and artisans to give themselves new and warlike-sounding names such as tiger and crane , nine dragons , raging storm , etc., which they then had pictured in this form on their backs or chests when they entered the yakuza . In addition, extravagant and artistic decorations were often added, and everything except for the head, hands, feet and genital area was often provided with patterns. Even today, tattoos in Japan are directly associated with the yakuza, which is why tattooed people are usually prohibited from entering public baths. In fact, the tattoo has lost its importance among the yakuza since the organizations were banned.
If a member of the yakuza makes a mistake that leads to a loss of face, he can eradicate it by severing a finger joint with a tanto and a hammer or a special sword. It is usually started with the left hand and the first phalanx of the little finger. This ritual, called yubitsume , also dates from the samurai era . With each lost finger joint, the sword felt worse in the hand - and with the loss of the last fingertip, wielding a sword was no longer possible. Veteran yakuza are often missing a few fingertips, which they replace with finger prostheses in order not to be immediately recognized as criminals in public.
Yakuza in the media
The unusual role that the yakuza plays in Japanese society can be seen in the image in the media. There are trade magazines that deal exclusively with the yakuza groups. As a rule, these spread the self-image of the organizations and report on personal details and developments in Japanese organized crime as in any other branch. In 2013, Yamaguchi-gumi responded to the pressure of the new legislation with a one-time issue of an internal magazine for all members. On the one hand, the booklet represented the gang's code of honor and was introduced by an editorial by the chief. On the other hand, it contained an entertainment section with leisure tips, poetry and go puzzles.
The yakuza film is of particular importance . In the 1960s, films appeared in which the historical yakuza were portrayed as honorable criminals. Since 1973, the picture has been determined by films by Kinji Fukasaku . The yakuza was now portrayed realistically and as violent. In 2010, Outrage by Takeshi Kitano, the first film of a new generation, was released. The violence here appears to be an end in itself and in its raw aesthetic not necessarily off-putting. Two sequels in the same style followed by 2017.
"Designated Violent Groups"
On May 15, 1991, the government passed the "Law on the Prevention, etc., of Crimes by Members of Violent Groups" ( 暴力 団 員 に よ る 不当 な 行為 の 防止 等 に 関 す る 法律 , bōryoku dan'in ni yoru futō na kōi no bōshi-tō ni kan suru hōritsu ) proclaims the term shitei bōryokudan ( 指定 暴力 団 ) - "designated violent groups" - which means larger yakuza gangs are meant.
The ten largest groups in 2016 were:
|Mon||Surname||Japanese||Reported headquarters||prefecture||Members 2|
|Yamaguchi-gumi||山口 組||Kobe ( Awaji Island )||Hyogo||5200|
|Sumiyoshi-kai||住 吉 会||Akasaka , Minato-ku , Tokyo||Tokyo||3100|
|Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi||神 戸 山口 組||Kobe (city)||Hyogo||2600|
|Inagawa-kai||稲 川 会||Roppongi , Minato-ku , Tokyo||Tokyo||2500|
|Matsuba-kai||松葉 会||Taitō-ku , Tokyo||Tokyo||650|
|Kyokutō-kai||極 東 会||Toshima-ku , Tokyo||Tokyo||590|
|Dōjin-kai||道 仁 会||Kurume||Fukuoka||540|
|Gōda-ikka||合 田 一家||Shimonoseki||Yamaguchi||420|
|Kyokuryu-kai||旭 琉 会||Okinawa||Okinawa||360|
|Namikawa-kai 3||浪 川 会||Fukuoka||Fukuoka||240|
For comparison the figures from 2009:
|Mon||Surname||Japanese||generation||Reported headquarters||prefecture||Active in ... 1||Members 2||Listing|
|Yamaguchi-gumi||山口 組||# 6 - 六 代 目||Kobe||Hyogo||45||20,300||June 23, 1992|
|Inagawa-kai||稲 川 会||-||Roppongi , Minato-ku , Tokyo||Tokyo||21st||4,800||June 23, 1992|
|Sumiyoshi-kai||住 吉 会||-||Akasaka , Minato-ku, Tokyo||Tokyo||18th||6,100||June 23, 1992|
|Kudō-kai||工藤 會||# 4 - 四 代 目||Kitakyushu||Fukuoka||5||770||June 26, 1992|
|Kyokuryu-kai||旭 琉 会||# 3 - 三代 目||Naha||Okinawa||1||260||June 26, 1992|
|Okinawa Kyokuryu-kai||沖 縄 旭 琉 会||-||Naha||Okinawa||1||370||June 26, 1992|
|Aizu Kotetsu-kai||会 津 小 鉄 会||# 5 - 五代 目||Shimogyō-ku , Kyoto||Kyoto||3||660||July 27, 1992|
|Kyōsei-kai||共 政 会||# 5 - 五代 目||Hiroshima||Hiroshima||1||330||July 27, 1992|
|Gōda-ikka||合 田 一家||# 6 - 六 代 目||Shimonoseki||Yamaguchi||3||180||July 27, 1992|
|Kozakura-ikka||小 桜 一家||# 4 - 四 代 目||Kagoshima||Kagoshima||1||100||July 27, 1992|
|Asano-gumi||浅 野 組||# 3 - 三代 目||Kasaoka||Okayama||2||140||Dec 14, 1992|
|Dōjin-kai||道 仁 会||-||Kurume||Fukuoka||4th||790||Dec 14, 1992|
|Shinwa-kai||親 和 会||# 2 - 二代 目||Takamatsu||Kagawa||1||70||Dec 16, 1992|
|Soai-kai||双 愛 会||-||Ichihara||Chiba||2||270||Dec 24, 1992|
|Kyōdō-kai||俠 道 会||# 3 - 三代 目||Onomichi||Hiroshima||6th||190||4th Mar 1993|
|Taishu-kai||太 州 会||-||Tagawa||Fukuoka||1||190||4th Mar 1993|
|Sakaume-gumi||酒 梅 組||# 7 - 七 代 目||Nishinari-ku , Osaka||Osaka||2||120||May 26, 1993|
|Kyokutō-kai||極 東 会||-||Toshima-ku , Tokyo||Tokyo||15th||1200||July 21, 1993|
|Azuma-gumi||東 組||-||Nishinari-ku, Osaka||Osaka||1||160||Aug 4, 1993|
|Matsuba-kai||松葉 会||-||Taitō-ku , Tokyo||Tokyo||10||1200||Feb 10, 1994|
|Fukuhaku-kai||福博 会||# 3 - 三代 目||Fukuoka||Fukuoka||4th||330||Feb 10, 2000|
One of the smaller groups disbanded in 2013 under pressure from law enforcement, with reorganized structures as Namikawamutsu-kai 浪 川 睦 会 having been active again since around 2016 .
|Mon||Surname||Japanese||generation||Reported headquarters||prefecture||Active in ... 1||Members 2||Listing||resolution|
|Kyūshū Seidō-kai||九州 誠 道 会||# 2 - 二代 目||Ōmuta||Fukuoka||5||350||Feb 28, 2008||2013|
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