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For ither uises, see Yakuza (disambiguation).
"Yakuza" written in katakana
Presumit oreegin The Kabuki-mono
Creation 17t century
Actual number 102,400 members[1]
Principal clans

1. Yamaguchi-gumi 2. Sumiyoshi-kai

3. Inagawa-kai
Activities Creeminal activities an/or legitimate businesses

Yakuza (ヤクザ or やくざ), known as gokudō (極道) anaw, are members of traditional organised crime syndicates in Japan. The Japanese polis, and media by request of the polis, call them bōryokudan (暴力団), literally "violence group", while the yakuza call themselves "ninkyō dantai" (任侠団体 or 仁侠団体), "chivalrous organisations". The yakuza are notoriously known for their strict codes of conduct and very organised nature. They are very prevalent in the Japanese media and operate internationally with an estimated 102,400 members.[2]

Divisions and origin[eedit | eedit soorce]

Despite uncertainty about the single origin of yakuza organisations, most modern yakuza derive from two classifications which emerged in the mid-Edo Period (1603–1868): tekiya, those who primarily peddled illicit, stolen or shoddy goods; and bakuto, those who were involved in or participated in gambling.[3]

Tekiya (peddlers) were considered one of the lowest social groups in Edo. As thay began to form organisations of their own, they took over some administrative duties relating to commerce, such as staw allocation and protection of their commercial activities. During Shinto festivals, their peddlers opened stalls and some members were hired to act as security. Each peddler paid rent in exchange for a staw assignment and protection during the fair.

Thoroughoot history, especially syne the modren era, the Kyushu island haes been the lairgest soorce o the yakuza members, includin mony renouned bosses in the Yamaguchi-gumi. Isokichi Yoshida (1867–1936) wis frae the Kitakyushu aurie an considered the first renouned modren yakuza. Recently Shinobu Tsukasa an Kunio Inoue, the bosses o the twa maist pouerful clans in the Yamaguchi-gumi, are frae Kyushu. Fukuoka, the northmaist pairt o the island, haes the lairgest nummer o designatit syndicates amang aw o the prefecturs.

The Edo government eventually formally recognised such tekiya organisations and granted the oyabun (leaders) of tekiya a surname as well as permission to carry a sword — the wakizashi, or short samurai sword (the right to carry the katana, or full-sized samurai swords, remained the exclusive right of the nobility and samurai castes). This was a major step forward for the traders, as only umwhile samurai and noblemen were allowed to carry swords.

Bakuto (gamblers) had a hintle lower social standing even than traders, as gambling was illegal. Many sma gambling houses cropped up in abandoned temples or shrines at the edge of towns and villages all over Japan. Most of their gambling houses ran loan sharking businesses for clients, and they usually maintained their own security personnel.

The places themselves, as well as the bakuto, were regarded with disdain by society at large, and hintle o the undesirable image of the yakuza originates from bakuto; this includes the name yakuza itself (ya-ku-za, or 8-9-3, is a losing hand in Oicho-Kabu, a form of blackjack).

Because of the economic situation during the mid-period and the predominance of the merchant class, developing yakuza groups were composed of misfits and delinquents that had joined or formed yakuza groups to extort customers in local markets by selling fake or shoddy goods.[3]

The rites of the yakuza can still be seen to this day in initiation ceremonies, which incorporate tekiya or bakuto rituals. Although the modern yakuza has diversified, some gangs still identify with any group or the other; for example, a gang whose primary source of income is illegal gambling may refer to themselves as bakuto.

Organization and activities[eedit | eedit soorce]

Structure[eedit | eedit soorce]

Yakuza hierarchy

During the formation of the yakuza, thay adopted the traditional Japanese hierarchical structure of oyabun-kobun where kobun (子分; lit. foster bairn) owe thair allegiance to the oyabun (親分; lit. foster parent). In a hintle later period, the code of jingi (仁義, justice and duty) was developed, where loyalty and respect are a way of life.

The oyabun-kobun relationship is formalised by ceremonial sharing of sake from a single cup. This ritual is not exclusive to the yakuza—it is an all commonly performed in traditional Japanese Shinto weddings, an may have been a part of sworn brotherhood[4] relationships.

During the World War II period in Japan, the more traditional tekiya/bakuto form of organisation declined as the entire population was mobilised to pairticipate in the war effort and society came under strict military government. After the war, however, the yakuza adopted it again.

Prospective yakuza come from all walks of life. The most romantic tales tell how yakuza accepted sons who had been abandoned or exiled by their parents. Many yakuza start out in junior high school or high school as common street thugs or members of bōsōzoku gangs. Perhaps because of its lower socio-economic status, numerous yakuza members come from Burakumin and ethnic Korean backgrounds.

Yakuza groups are heidit by an oyabun or kumichō (組長, faimily heid) who gives orders to his subordinates, the kobun. In this respect, the organisation is a variation of the traditional Japanese senpai-kōhai (senior-junior) model. Members of yakuza gangs cut thair family ties and transfer their loyalty to the gang boss. They refer to each other as family members - fathers and elder and younger brothers. The yakuza is populated almost entirely by men, and there are very few women involved, who are called "nee-san" (姐さん aulder sister). When the third Yamaguchi-gumi boss (Kazuo Taoka) died in the early 1980s, his wife (Fumiko) took over as boss of the Yamaguchi-gumi, albeit for a short time.

The yakuza have a very complex organisational structure. There is an overall boss of the syndicate, the kumicho, and directly beneath him are the saiko komon (senior advisor) and so-honbucho (headquarters chief). The second in the chain of command is the wakagashira, who governs several gangs in a region with the help of a fuku-honbucho who is himself responsible for several gangs. The regional gangs themselves are governed by their local boss, the shateigashira.[5]

Each members connection is ranked by the hierarchy of sakazuki (sake sharin). Kumicho are at the top, and control various saikō-komon (最高顧問, senior advisors). The saikō-komon control their own turfs in different areas or cities. Thay have their own underlings, including other underbosses, advisors, accountants and enforcers.

Those who have received sake from the oyabun are part of the immediate faimily and ranked in terms of elder or younger brothers. However, each kobun, in turn, can offer sakazuki as oyabun to his underling to form an affiliated organisation, which much in turn form lower ranked organisations. In the Yamaguchi-gumi, which controls some 2,500 businesses and 500 yakuza groups, there are even 5t rank subsidiary organisations.

Rituals[eedit | eedit soorce]

Yubitsume, or the cutting of one's finger, is a form of penance or apology. Upon a first offence, the transgressor must cut off the tip of his left little finger and give the severed portion to his boss. While an underboss may do this in penance to the oyabun if he wants to spare a member of his own gang from further retaliation.

Its origin stems from the traditional way of holding a Japanese sword. The bottom three fingers of each hand are used to grip the sword tightly, with the thumb and index fingers slightly loose. The removal of digits starting with the little finger moving up the hand to the index finger progressively weakens a persons grip on the sword.

The idea is that a person with a weak sword grip then has to rely more on the group for protection—reducing individual action. In recent years, prosthetic fingertips have been developed to disguise this distinctive appearance.[4]

Many yakuza have full-body tattoos. Their tattoos, known as irezumi in Japan, are still often "hand-picked", that is, the ink is inserted beneath the skin using non-electrical, hand-made and hand held tools with needles or sharpened bamboo or steel. The procedure is expensive and painful and can take years to complete.[6]

When yakuza members play Oicho-Kabu cards with each other, they often remove their shirts or open them up and drape them around their waists. This allows them to display their full-body tattoos to each ither. This is one of the few times that yakuza members display their tattoos to others, as they normally keep them concealed in public with long-sleeves and high-necked shirts. When new members join, thay are often required to remove their trousers as well and reveal only lower body tattoos.

Syndicates[eedit | eedit soorce]

The three largest syndicates[eedit | eedit soorce]

Although yakuza membership has declined following an anti-gang law aimed specifically at yakuza and passed by the Japanese government in 1992, their are thought to be more than 103,000 active yakuza members in Japan the day. Although there are many different yakuza groups, together they form the largest organised crime group in the world.[7]

Principal families Description Mon (crest)
(六代目山口組, Rokudaime Yamaguchi-gumi)
Creatit in 1915, the Yamaguchi-gumi is the biggest yakuza faimily, accoontin for 50% o aw yakuza in Japan, wi mair nor 55,000 members dividit intae 850 clans. Despite mair nor ane decade o polis repression, the Yamaguchi-gumi haes continued tae grow. Frae its heidquairters in Kobe, it directs creeminal activities throughoot Japan. It is involvit in operations in Asie an the Unitit States an aw. Kenichi Shinoda is the Yamaguchi-gumi's current oyabun. He follaes an expansionist policy, an haes increased operations in Tokyo (which haes no tradeetionally been the territory o the Yamaguchi-gumi.)

The Yamaguchi faimily is successfu tae the pynt whaur its name haes acome synonymous wh Japanese organizit creeme in mony pairts o Asie ootside o Japan. Mony Cheenese or Korean persons who dae no ken the name "Yakuza" wad ken the name "Yamaguchi-gumi", which is frequently portrayed in gangster movies.


"The meanin o the samurai swuird is in the warrior an the swuird as ane it coud be a dangerous opponent" Yamabishi (山菱)

The Sumiyoshi-rengo is the seicont lairgest yakuza faimily, wi 20,000 members dividit intae 277 clans. The Sumiyoshi-kai, as it is whiles cried, is a confederation o smawer yakuza groups. Its current oyabun is Shigeo Nishiguchi. Structurally, Sumiyoshi-kai differs frae its principal rival, the Yamaguchi-gumi, in that it functions lik a federation. The chain o command is mair lax, an awtho Shigeo Nishiguchi is aaways the supreme oyabun, its leadership is distributit amang several ither fowk. Sumiyoshi-kai.svg
The Inagawa-kaï is the third lairgest yakuza faimily in Japan, wi roughly 15,000 members dividit intae 313 clans. It is based in the Tokyo-Yokohama aurie an wis ane o the first yakuza families tae expand its operations tae ootside o Japan. Its current oyabun is Yoshio Tsunoda. 120px

Designated bōryokudan[eedit | eedit soorce]

A designated boryokudan (指定暴力団, Shitei Bōryokudan)[8] is a "particularly harmful" yakuza group[9] registered bi the Prefectural Public Safety Commissions under the Organised Crime Countermeasures Law (暴力団対策法, Bōryokudan Taisaku Hō) enactit in 1991.[10]

Under the Organised Crime Countermeasures Law, the Prefectural Public Safety Commissions has registered 22 syndicates as the designated boryokudan groups.[11] Fukuoka Prefectur has the largest number of designated boryokudan groups among any of the prefectures, at 5; the Kudo-kai, the Taishu-kai, the Fukuhaku-kai, the Dojin-kai an the Kyushu Seido-kai.[12]

Designated boryokudan groups are usually large, old-established organisations (mostly formed before Warld War II, some even formed before the Meiji Revolution of the 19t century), however there are some exceptions such as the Kyushu Seido-kai which, with it's blatant armed conflicts with the Dojin-kai, was registered only two years after its formation.

The numbers which follow the names of boryokudan groups refer to the group's leadership. For example, Yoshinori Watanabe head the Yamaguchi-gumi fifth; on his retirement, Shinobu Tsukasa became head of the Yamaguchi-gumi sixth, an "Yamaguchi-gumi VI" is the group's formal name.

Name Heidquairters Reg. in Name Heidquairters Reg. in
Yamabishi.svg Yamaguchi-gumi VI Hyogo 1992 道仁会.png Dojin-kai Fukuoka 1992
18px Inagawa-kai Tokyo 1992 Shinwa-kai.png Shinwa-kai II Kagawa 1992
住吉会.png Sumiyoshi-kai Tokyo 1992 双愛会.png Soai-kai Chiba 1992
Kudo-kai.png Kudo-kai IV Fukuoka 1992 Kyodo-kai.png Kyodo-kai III Hiroshima 1993
Kyokuryu-kai.png Kyokuryu-kai IV Okinawa 1992 太州会.png Taishu-kai Fukuoka 1993
沖縄旭琉会.png Okinawa Kyokuryu-kai Okinawa 1992 酒梅組.png Sakaume-gumi VIII Osaka 1993
Aizukotetsu-kai.png Aizukotetsu-kai VI Kyoto 1992 極東会.png Kyokuto-kai Tokyo 1993
共政会.png Kyosei-kai V Hiroshima 1992 東組.png Azuma-gumi II Osaka 1993
合田一家.png Goda-ikka VII Yamaguchi 1992 松葉会.png Matsuba-kai Tokyo 1994
18px Kozakura-ikka IV Kagoshima 1992 福博会.png Fukuhaku-kai III Fukuoka 2000
Asano-gumi.png Asano-gumi IV Okayama 1992 九州誠道会.png Kyushu Seido-kai Fukuoka 2008

Other notable bōryokudan[eedit | eedit soorce]

Name Japanese name Heidquairters Leader
Tōkyō-Morishiro-Hoshi-ikka-Ōta III 東京盛代星一家太田三代目 Iwate Seigo Ōta
Genseida-Kōyū-kai 源清田交友会 Ibaraki Shiroo Tanabe
Yorii-bunke V 寄居分家五代目 Gunma Hiroshi Godai
Kameya-ikka V 五代目亀屋一家 Saitama Akira Shirahata
Yoshiha-kai VII 七代目吉羽会 Saitama Kiyomasa Nakamura
Takezawa-kai 竹澤会 Chiba Haruo Ōtawa
Anegasaki-kai 姉ヶ崎会 Tokyo Shigetami Nakanome
Iijima-kai VIII 八代目飯島会 Tokyo Kanji Nishikawa
Okaniwa-kai 岡庭会 Tokyo Seiichiro Okaniwa
Kanda-Takagi VII 神田高木七代目 Tokyo Akira Nagamura
Shitaya-Hanajima-kai VII 下谷花島会七代目 Tokyo Isamu Ōsaka
Jōshūya-kai 上州家会 Tokyo Katsuhiko Itō
Shinmon-rengōkai 新門連合会 Tokyo Naoaki Kasama
Sugitō-kai 杉東会 Tokyo Tomoaki Nohara
Daigo-kai 醍醐会 Tokyo Hideo Aoyama
Chōjiya-kai 丁字家会 Tokyo Goro Yoshida
Toa-kai 東亜会 Tokyo Yoshio Kaneumi
Hashiya-kai 箸家会 Tokyo Hiroshi Minemura
Hanamata-kai 花又会 Tokyo Akira Kiyono
Masuya-kai 桝屋会 Tokyo Sotojiro Higashiura
Matsuzakaya-ikka V 五代目松坂屋一家 Tokyo Takiti Nishimura
Ametoku-rengōkai 飴德連合会 Kanagawa Hideya Nagamochi
Yokohama-Kaneko-kai 横浜金子会 Kanagawa Takashi Terada
Sakurai-sōke 櫻井總家 Shizuoka Hiroyoshi Sano
Chūkyō-Shinnō-kai 中京神農会 Aichi Eizō Yamagashira
Marutomi-rengōkai 丸富連合会 Kyōto Hitoshi Kitabashi
Chūsei-kai 忠成会 Hyōgo Masaaki Ōmori
Matsuura-gumi II 二代目松浦組 Hyōgo Kazuo Kasaoka
Takenaka-gumi II 二代目竹中組 Okayama Masashi Takenaka
Chūgoku-Takagi-kai II 二代目中国高木会 Hiroshima Akio Kitayama
Kumamoto-kai II 二代目熊本會 Kumamoto Yutaka Tozaki
Sanshin-kai 山心会 Kumamoto Atsushi Inoue
Murakami-gumi III 九州三代目村上組 Ōita Hajime Murakami
Shinjuku 桝屋会 Tokyo Shou Sasaki

Fitmerks[eedit | eedit soorce]

  1. "Criminal Investigation: Fight Against Organized Crime (1)" (PDF). Overview of Japanese Police. National Police Agency. Juin 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  2. Corkill, Edan, "Ex-Tokyo cop speaks out on a life fighting gangs — and what you can do", Japan Times, 6 November 2011, p. 7.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kaplan, David; Dubro, Alec (2004), pp. 18–21  Missing or empty |title= (help).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bruno, Anthony. "The Yakuza - Oyabun-Kobun, Father-Child". truTV. Retrieved 28 Februar 2012. 
  5. The Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia - The Crime Library - Crime Library on truTV.com
  6. Japanorama, BBC Three, Series 2, Episode 3, first aired 21 September 2006
  7. Johnston, Eric, "From rackets to real estate, yakuza multifaceted", Japan Times, 14 February 2007, p. 3.
  8. "Police of Japan 2011, Criminal Investigation : 2. Fight Against Organized Crime", December 2009, National Police Agency
  9. "The Organized Crime Countermeasures Law", The Fukuoka Prefectural Center for the Elimination of Boryokudan (in Japanese)
  10. "Boryokudan Comprehensive Measures — The Condition of the Boryokudan", December 2010, Hokkaido Prefectural Polis (in Japanese)
  11. "List of Designated Bōryokudan", February 24, 2011, Nagasaki Prefectural Police (in Japanese)
  12. "Retrospection and Outlook of Crime Measure", p.15, Masahiro Tamura, 2009, National Police Agency (in Japanese)