Are yakuza still powerful today in Japan?
Yakuza, sometimes referred to as gokudo, is a term referring to members of an organized multinational crime syndicate in Japan. In simple terms, the yakuza can be thought of as a Japanese mafia who is involved in a multiplicity of organized crimes such as blackmail, drug trafficking, extortion, gambling, loan sharking, etc. Yakuza members play a major role in daily Japanese business operations in large cities such as bars, restaurants, taxi services, factories, and the media. They are notorious for their to strict codes of conduct and multifaceted hierarchical structure. Sources indicate that the yakuza operate internationally and currently wield upwards of 80,000 members (Higgins 12). While the number of members and associates has steadily declined since its peak in the early 1960’s, about 184,000 members (Encyclopedia Britannica), the influence of yakuza is undoubtedly still profound in Japan.
While yakuza membership is illegal in Japan and the businesses they run are often marked by police, they sometimes contribute to the public in the form of charitable work and in 1960 were called upon to provide security services in correlation with the government and police. Well known charitable contributions have been recorded recently when yakuza members donated and delivered supplies to victims of the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and the earthquake/tsunami event of 2011 (Encyclopedia Britannica). The influence of the yakuza has decreased in the last several decades but they still have a heavy influence in the entertainment, loan, and manufacturing industry in Japan (Hill). As time progresses, changes in the Japanese legal system have become apparent as anti-yakuza laws are instituted. Yakuza members have largely been able to sidestep the law with front companies due to the existing Japanese legal framework (Hill). These laws are slowly changing with time and the number of yakuza arrests is increasing proportionally. This paints a dismal future for yakuza organized crime syndicates as they are slowly being pushed out by the Japanese legal system. Conversely, even though the public and black market influence has steadily declined in the last 50 years, they still remain powerful and have a major impact on Japanese society in modern times.
- Higgins, S. (2014, May). Yakuza Past, Present and Future: The Changing Face of Japan ‘s Organized Crime Syndicates. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/themis/vol2/iss1/12
- Hill, P. (n.d.). Changing Face of the Yakuza. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=234315
- Yakuza. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2016, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/yakuza
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