Yakuza: history Past and present. I would like to start the essay by saying that organized crime is an indispensable part of the modern society as the history proves to us. Yakuza is but another invention present in Japan aimed at intimidation and other subvert methods to frighten people. For instance Russia the USA and Europe have their own Mafias, Britain still fights with the IRA, Spain cannot overcome the Bask. Asia is emersed in Triads, Tongs, while Italy can boast its famous La Cosa Nostra. In the following essay I will speak about the Japanese mob, Yakuza pointing out the past and present history of the given gang.
Yakuza has been present in Japan for over 400 years from the samurai times when the peasants could not openly fight for their rights but would rather attack the rich under the cover of the darkness and rob them of their possessions. Just like any type of mafia, Yakuza stressed the importance of secrecy, group belonging, and ethical codes among the members (Perelman, 93).
The first encounters of yakuza date back to the late XVI century Japan, when the group of peasants called Kabuki-mono (which in Japanese means craze people) started to engage in various crimes and would not hesitate to kill regular Japanese peasants just for pleasure of entertainment. They possessed short haircuts, long swords and wore grey peasant coats. These people wanted to become samurai, yet for some reason were not accepted to serve the emperor and therefore would try to form their own paramilitary community. Their loyalty to the group is noteworthy, while each member would kill the family without hesitation if the group demanded them to do so (Blum, 58).
JAPAN By Jonathan Appel GEOGRAPHY Japan is made up of a four main island chain with other small islands in the western Pacific Ocean volcanic mountain range. The main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. Many of the major cities including Tokyo, the capital, are found on the island of Honshu. Many of the islands of Japan are volcanically active to this day. There are approximately ...
The unemployment of the real samurai, or ronin (samurai without emperor) caused many of them become bandits or kabuki-mono who would make assaults on the Japanese villages. Therefore the first encounters of the Japanese mob were present in the early 1600s when one group of unemployed would try to rob a town, while the other group of people would do everything they could to defend their places. The first jakuza consisted of such occupations as clerks, shopkeepers, innkeepers, laborers, homeless warriors and other ronin. The town defenders resembled the british Robin Hood and oftentime were spoken about in the Japanese literature and poetry. The early yakuza was therefore not actually bad to people till the early 1800s. Then Yakuza members included the traditional gamblers, farmers and workers and each of them was of the same background: poor, landless, delinquent and misfit into the society. These groups stood closely in the same small areas without facing much problems covering the highways, bazaars, gambling places and other areas that generated cash.
The yakuza subsequently started to form families, adopting a relationship known as oyabun-kobun father-child. The oyabun or “father,” is meant to protect and advice, while kobun or “child,” had to remain loyal and willing to help at any call of the father (Perelman, 90).
The Yakuza initiation ceremony for the yakuza stressed the religious importance and would resemble the Christian tradition of drinking wine and eating bread. Instead the Yakuza members would exchange and drink small amounts of sake (Japanese rice vodka) with those ranking the highest in the group (father) getting the most sake (Perelman, 95).
Spekaing about the Yakuza structure I would like to note that it is not complex and is clan-like. For instance, a person X is in the mob who resides in a given town and is one of the bosses (yakuza always had several bosses so that to control the gang in case of one of the bosses deaths, etc.) therefore, one can say that the given mob is headquartered in the town of his abode. That person X has at least 3 senior advisors who can leave in any place in Japan, with each of them possessing at least 15 mid-level gangsters (headquarters chiefs) who can either live in the same or another city and also controlling the given territory by terror. This was said only about one person X, yet as I had previously mentioned the gang possesses more than one person to assure the proper control of the territories that belong to the whole gang.
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Each person on top usually follows the same structural system mentioned above, therefore making it rather problematic for the police to catch or prove them doing something illegal (Blum, 54).
Japanese empire starting in 1867 was reborn and transformed into an industrial nation and world strong economy. Japanese Political parties and a parliament were created, as well as a powerful military (Blum, 59).
The given mob, yakuza also started to adopt the new rules Japan started to live by. The yakuza recruited members from construction jobs and dockworkings who as a rule were physically strong and unintelligent, and thus wiling to do any job. They even began to control the rickshaw and prostitutes business.
Gambling, however, had to be even more covert, as police were cracking down on yakuza gangs across the land. One gang called tekiya, did a wonderful business providing erotic massage industry across the land and selling drugs to the clients, too. The yakuza began to dabble in politics, taking sides with certain politicians and officials. They cooperated with the goverment so they could get official sanction, or at least some freedom from unexpected police visits (Craw, 47).
Yakuza created various secret societies and trained their members militarily. The other skills the Yakuza would get from the other people who if not cooperating would be killed. The ultranationalist reign of terror that yakuza represented lasted into the 1930’s, consisting of several coups d’etat, the assassination of two prime ministers and two finance ministers, and repeated attacks on politicians and industrialists (Blum, 57).
The yakuza provided muscle and men to the cause and participated in “land development” programs in occupied Manchuria or China. The rich that belong to the gang would get richer while the poor people would be either killed or gotten poorer (Perelman, 95).
(Except Persons of Japanese Descent) America Land of the free and home of the brave. Land of the free Land of the free Funny that the land of the free would steal away the lives of 119,000 individuals simply because they looked different. Nothing like good old irony to bring a country together. During the late 1800s, there was a large rise in the immigration of Japanese to the U.S, much to the ...
After the bombings of the US Pearl Harbor during the WWII the things changed. The Japanese government no longer needed the ultranationalists or the yakuza and was afraid of the USA. Therefore, Jakuza either had to join the politics to benefit from the political immunity or go into jail (Craw, 78).
In conclusion I would like to note about the modern day Yakuza or the Yamaguchi-gumi as the Japanese call it currently. The most interesting person to the Yakuza was Taoka, who was the third father. The Yamaguchi-gumi till the late 1980s was Japan’s most powerful syndicate.
Their yakuza symbol is a rhombus-shaped pin worn on the lapel of their suits. The combination of the pin plus the showing of their tattoos could get them anything they wanted. However, the Yakuza pin was not always as powerful as they seemed (Donald, 122).
In 1985, when the Yamaguchi-gumi attempted to expand their territory into Hokkaido, they were met at the Sapporo airport by 800 members of local gangs who united to keep the Yamaguchi-gumi out of their area. Nearly 2000 anti-riot-equipped police kept the two groups apart. The Yamaguchi-gumi were prevented from opening their headquarters in Sapporo (Donald, 120).
In July 1981, Taoka suffered and died from a heart attack, ending his 35-year rule as oyabun. People still suspect that his death was arranged by the secret services and the lethal injection. The second person to succeed in yakuza was #2 man Yakamen, yet due to his presence in prison, and therefore, inability to participate directly in the gang activities, Taokas wife Fumiko led the gang. Yakamen also died of natural causes (possibly another injection) in prison and never succeeded the post of Yakuza. One should remember that the given gang had control of over 3000 businesses (banks, gambling, whore houses, entertainments, etc.) and needed strong hand to rule. The estimated legal (let alone sale of drugs, etc.) revenues of the yamaguchi-gumi were more than $800 million annually.
The management of so many businesses was indeed remarkable. The gang comprised 120 bosses who controlled over 600 smaller gangs. Each boss was legally employed and paid all the taxes in order not to be caught like American Al Capone. The gang sold drugs, illegal Lolita pornography and hardcore as well as would engage in various money laundering operations and gambling (Donald, 102).
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The wife of the former gangster Fumiko spread the gang to 38 out of 47 japanese regions and increase the gang by 500 members. The new father Takenaka took control fo the gang in 1988. Yet another leader separated from the gang and murdered TAkenaka thus causing new wars between the gangs. The new yamaguchi-gumi leader Oda started to receive weapons from the USA yet was timely apprehended by the Japanese authorities.
After that time there is not record of the existence of the any Japanese gang. It appears that after the arrest of the largest leader that Oda represented the Yakuza across the land either disappeared or became invisible.
Perelman, Robert, hIstory of yakuza, McGraw Hill, 2002. Donald, Sara, the world largest mobs, Prentice Hall, 2001. Craw, Martin, Yakuza and Japan, Penguin Books, 2001. Blum, Gregory, history of Japanese mafia, NY Random House, 2002..