Being a Japanese criminal organization, the Yakuza emerged as organized crime groups and obeyed specific rules. Over time, they began to influence various aspects of Japanese society. It was in the early seventeenth century when they were born in the great urban centers of Osaka and Edo (present-day Tokyo), under the aegis of the chiefs of gangs.
Starting from the street vendors to the professional players, the Yakuza groups have several categories. It was the ill-fated days of 1603, when some samurais united with the end of the wars.
Over the years bands have been organized and looking for ways to make money. The Yakuza as they are known today took real power from the Second World War when they took control of prostitution, gambling, drugs, illegal trade, and so on. In addition certain right-wing branches of the band began to operate and to extort within political groups.
So, here are the facts that portrays the Yakuza gangs are organized into clans with a very strict structure as a company, where everyone is part of the same family.
1 Yakuza & Ronin
The Yakuza group began to form during the Edo era, when many Samurai were not really needed for their daimyo (feudal lord) were expelled. These homeless traveling samurai are known as ronin.
Some Ronin were engaged in making dirty commissions for people in high society, and others were simply devoted to being crooks. After a time they were organized bands of ronins that were in charge of protecting small towns.
In exchange for protecting the village they asked for food and lodging, but little by little they began to extort and ask for more. Another problem that began to arise were the battles between ronin bands that wanted to control the same area. That is how the first groups of organized criminals who operated in a similar fashion to the present Yakuza began to emerge.
2 The Consecration Ceremony
The Yakuza have created a statute and code based on the loyalty relationship between the godfather (oyabun) and his protégé (kobun). The consecration ceremony consists of the exchange of the sake cup and represents the entrance into the gang and the blood ties.
The initiation into both oyabun-kobun relationships and a Yakuza clan is marked by a special ceremony. A third person fills the sake cups of the new member and his oyabun boss. The boss and the new member drink a little of the sake from their own cups. Then they change their glasses and drink some of the sake from the other.
3 Society Of Yakuza
It is an exclusively male society. They do not trust women because they find them weak and incapable of fighting like men. They believe that women were made to be mothers and to care for their husbands, and should not meddle in the affairs of men. Another reason why women are not accepted in yakuza is that one should not talk about the group to anyone outside, and they do not believe they would be strong enough to keep quiet if they were questioned by the police or some enemy.
The only woman with the greatest prestige is the boss’s wife. She is not considered a member, but is respected simply for being the wife, not interfering in any occasion. When the chief dies and there is no one to replace him immediately, it is his wife who temporarily takes over the group until another member takes over.
The members are organized in the likeness of a family, possessing perhaps the most rigid of the hierarchies of the world of the crimes. The oyabun (father) is the chief, wakashu are his sons and kyodai are his brothers.
Everyone owes total obedience and loyalty to oyabun, and in return he offers protection to all of his members. Members should not be afraid to die for the oyabun and must agree to everything he says.
There are two types of Yakuza: those belonging to a clan / group and the autonomous ones.
The autonomous ones do not belong to any clan, so they have difficulties to act, because the groups do not allow them to act in their territories.
Clans/groups often use them as a scapegoat or pay them to perform a service in which they do not want to involve in the whole group. If the autonomous is really ambitious and capable, he may even start a group from scratch, but usually, he can also become a member of some already existing group when he doesn’t die from a long time.
6 Major Families Of Yakuza
Yamaguchi-gumi a Untem Family- Created in 1915 and is the largest Yakuza family. It has more than 39,000 members and is divided into 750 smaller groups. His Oyabun (leader) is Kenichi Shinoda
Sumiyoshi-rengo sometimes called Sumiyoshi-kai – It is Yakuza’s second largest family, with over ten thousand members divided into 177 clans. His last known Oyabun is Shigeo Nishiguchi.
Inagawa-kaï and family Seiju – It is the third largest family of the Yakuza, has more than 7 thousand members and is divided into 177 clans. His current Oyabun is the Kakuji Inagawa. It was the first Yakuza to operate outside and within Japan
Towa Yuai Jigyo Kumiai sometimes called Towa-kai – It is the fourth largest family of Yakuza, has over one thousand members and is divided into 6 clans. His current Oyabun is Satoru Nomura. It was the first Japanese Yakuza to be bred in Korea.
These are the 5 major obligations of Yakuzas:
1) Do not hide money from the gang.
2) Do not get personally involved with narcotics.
3) Not to seek the law or the police.
4) Do not rape the wife or children of another member.
5) Do not disobey the orders of a superior.
The chief of the children is called Wakagashira, and the Shatei Gashira brothers. The wakagashira is the second in authority in Yakuza, coming soon after the oyabun and also serving as an intermediary to see if the supreme orders are being fulfilled. The Shatei Gashira is the third in authority.
Each child can form their own gang and so on, resulting in several subfamilies. Each obeys the leader of his gang, but it is always the Oyabun that gives the final word.
A typical family has 20 to 200 members, which can assure the clan a whole number well over 1000 men. The families in which there are Yakuza members are generally of root with name shibatsu, yakasa, shiatsuta, tashiro, tonaco, shematse, tokesho among others diverse with members in the Japanese culture.
If an individual enters the yakuza society, many clans do not allow him to leave his group, doubting that he may leak information.
9 From Politics To Businesses, Yakuza Is Everywhere
Yakuza is the name given to organized criminal gangs in Japan. The Yakuza is not a single organization, but a set of separate gangs or clans resembling to the American Mafia. These violent criminals have left their traces in many aspects of Japanese life, from gambling and prostitution schemes to the backstage of high-ranking political and financial power.
10 Origin Of Their Existense
The various gangs that make up the Yakuza have different origins, and the versions of these origins spread by the gangs may be very different from the historical record. In his own view, the Yakuza descends from honorable characters, who defended their villagers from roving villains – just like Robin Hood. Some even claim that the Yakuza lineage goes to the Ronin, Samurai warriors who were without masters after a period of political turmoil in seventeenth-century Japan.
Other people say that the Yakuza, instead, originated from the kabuki-mono, “the crazy ones.” These were ragged gangsters who wielded long swords, intimidated whole villages, and sometimes executed their inhabitants for no reason.
The truth is probably a combination of two stories. Left without a military hierarchy to guide their lives, many samurai turned to crime. Others went to mercantile activities or more obscure businesses, such as gambling houses and prostitution. These criminals, unmasked warriors and novices in the Japanese trading system all had one thing in common: they were all marginalized.
11 The Name Yakuza Originated From A Japanese Card Game
The name “Yakuza” reflects this situation of marginalization. It comes from a Japanese card game called Oicho-Kabu. This game is similar to baccarat, where the point value of a hand is based on the final digit of a hand’s score. A hand of eight, nine and three equals 20, which is worthless point: the worst possible hand in the game. The Japanese words for eight, nine, and three (ya, ku and za) form the word “Yakuza,” meaning meaningless or worthless.
12 Yakuza & Boryokudan
The word “Yakuza” originally referred to a person who was a member of a gang, but nowadays it refers to Japanese organized crime as a whole. Boryokudan, another word for Yakuza world, is considered as an insult, because it refers to degenerate and violent gangsters with no sense of tradition or honor. This is the way the Japanese police refer to Yakuza.
13 Businessmen In Yakuza World
The most direct ancestors of the Yakuza are groups of clandestine businessmen of the eighteenth century who marketed or sold merchandise on the streets of big cities. Known as bakuto and tekiya, respectively, these odd jobs and street vendors still lend their names to some current Yakuza groups [source: Kaplan]. These groups gradually organized into gangs known as families or clans, which had hierarchies and formal rules.
14 Alliances With Politicians
In the late nineteenth century, the Yakuza became associated with nationalist and militaristic ideologies and policies. Gangs have cultivated alliances with politicians, and politicians have used them to assassinate opponents, strong business groups or even in fighting with nearby nations like China. The post-World War II disorder in Japan may also have given Yakuza an even stronger presence in Japan’s economy and politics.
15 Structure Of Yakuza
A Yakuza family has a structure superficially similar to a mafia family. A single patriarch (kumicho) dominates the clan. He has several command assistants, sub-chiefs and gang leaders under his influence and everything is an approximately pyramidal structure.
Leaders, assistants, regional advisers, and a variety of henchmen further complicate the structure of the Yakuza clan. Some clans have a different structure: they act as a broad system of alliances that bring many smaller factions hidden in an umbrella.
The key to the hierarchy is the strong oyabun-kobun relationship, a set of father and son roles that unite all Yakuza clans. As a reward for the absolute loyalty and unquestioned obedience of his kobun, the oyabun gives advice and guidance along with protection and prestige.
Focusing on honor and tradition in Japanese society further strengthens these relationships. Otherwise, punishments for oyabun violations range from humiliation (expulsion of the clan) to torture (cutting part of a finger). Each member of the clan can play both roles – of oyabun and kobun – acting as subordinate of the Yakuza immediately superior to him and as a chief of the gangsters below him.
16 Koreans & Yakuza Clans Relationship
Although many Yakuza clans possess nationalist ideologies, Koreans have a strong presence within the Yakuza. Koreans are sometimes viewed with prejudice by Japanese society, which contributes to Yakuza’s segregation situation. The profitability of the smuggling of goods between Japan and Korea also reinforces this Korean influence.
17 Women With No Power In Yakuza Gangs
Women are marginalized by the Yakuza. Even the daughters and wives of clan members tend to be little more than servants at best, sometimes being used as gang prostitutes. Women rarely hold positions of power.
The traditional punishment for failing within a Yakuza clan is the amputation of part of the little finger. This act of contrition is known as yubizume. When the gangster has displeased his boss, he just gets a knife and a strip of gauze. He should then cut off the upper joint of his fourth finger and present it to the boss. This is a symbolic weakening of Yakuza’s ability to wield a sword, making him more dependent on his clan for support and protection. New infractions can result in the loss of an additional part of the finger, passing to the other fingers if necessary.
19 Yakuza Gang’s Activities
Yakuza is made up of criminal gangs. They participate in the same money-making activities as all gangs do. Illegal gambling and prostitution are trademarks of Yakuza, just as it is profitable to smuggle in prohibited goods such as drugs, weapons and pornography. The old protection network, in which Yakuza threatens business owners and other citizens with violence unless they pay a tribute, is also a common Yakuza tactic.
Gangsters also operate legal business using proceeds from illegals. Real estate, construction and entertainment are all sectors in which Yakuza has been involved. Japan’s professional wrestling leagues and places are particularly well known for Yakuza’s involvement.
High-level Yakuza often participates in the Japanese stock market, sometimes legally. They can also find or invent incriminating information about a company and use that information to blackmail her board of directors. After buying shares of a company’s equity, the clan sends some of its members to council meetings, where they threaten company representatives with the disclosure of evidence. Yakuza can exert a big influence on business in this way or simply demand bribes.
Many Yakuza extortion and blackmail schemes are carefully designed to maintain the Japanese tradition of politeness. Yakuza can ask companies to participate in golf tournaments, make donations to fake charities or buy certain items, all at ridiculously inflated prices. Business leaders know that there is an implicit threat in such requests, so they often participate, even if Yakuza never makes a direct threat or demand.
20 The Yakuza On The Screens
Yakuza is a popular cinematic subject. In Japan, these films are even more popular than the movies about gangsters in the United States. In most films about Yakuza, its members are honorable (though violent) warriors who cling to tradition and struggle to preserve what they believe. These mythological members of the Yakuza are direct descendants of the Japanese samurai film warriors.
In 2006, Sega launched a video game called Yakuza. The game allows the player to take on the role of a young Yakuza gangster, participating in street fights and shootings.
21 Yoshio Kodama – A Great Yakuza Chief Unforgettable In Yakuza History
Several Yakuza chiefs used their criminal empires to gain political power. In fact, a few members of the Yakuza played important roles in the history of Japan. Yoshio Kodama made fortune during World War II selling war supplies. He bought this material from China, and China sold it under pressure.
Initially imprisoned as a war criminal, Kodama made several connections in the underworld prior to his release by US occupation forces. Kodama consolidated his political power by various excuse negotiations with the CIA by using his own spy network and a small army of Yakuza loyal followers.
Being a fervent right-wing nationalist, Kodama used his money and influence to shape Japanese politics and business in ways that may never be revealed. He was eventually charged with several financial crimes, but died of a disease before capture. Ryoichi Sasakawa was a contemporary of Kodama and had a similar career.
22 Kazuo Taoka – Another Great Influencer Of Yakuza World
Kazuo Taoka was another influential chief at Yakuza. He was the leader of the largest clan, the Yamaguchi-gumi. He played his power from the end of World War II until the early 1980s, when he died of a heart attack. His wife, Fumiko Taoka, occupied the power vacuum and kept the clan for a period of several months. Fumiko Taoka was not the only woman to act like oyabun, but the only one who did it in the largest and most powerful Yakuza gang in Japan.
23 Charges & Laws For Yakuza
In modern Japan there is no longer so much tolerance for the obvious demonstrations of power as Yakuza once held. In 1992, the Japanese government passed a law very similar to the US RICO law. This law includes several penalties for gang crimes and makes gang leaders accountable for their members’ crimes. However, the law has not significantly reduced membership in these gangs: analysts estimate that the number of Yakuza members across Japan exceeds 80,000 and that the Yamaguchi-gumi clan, now with six generations, has 20,000 members in several Affiliated gangs.
The law also led to the restructuring of some clans, which may have caused more damage. Police pressure has caused some gangs to move into new areas, triggering bloody gang wars. Critics also argue that the law makes it difficult for police to obtain reliable information from Yakuza informants.
24 Yakuza Coffers
Huge sums of money continue to flow in and out of Yakuza coffers every year, with estimates exceeding more than a trillion yen (more than $ 13 billion dollars) in 2004 alone.
This volume of money always generates influence, so there is little doubt that Yakuza still exerts a powerful influence on business and politics in Japan.
25 Yakuza Tattoos
The most visible aspect of participating in the Yakuza are the large tattoos displayed by dedicated members of the clan. Often, these tattoos cover the entire torso. They typically display clan symbols, nationalistic images, or scenes of traditional Japanese glory, such as samurai warriors.
Yakuza uses these tattoos as symbols of Yazuka’s external situation and his lifelong commitment to the clan.