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Background

In Japan, organized crime and criminals come under the general


heading of Yakuza. According to tradition, the name is derived from
the worst possible score in a Japanese card game. It comes from
Japan's counterpart to Black Jack, Oicho- Kabu. The general
difference between the cardgames is that in Oicho- Kabu is that a
winning total of the cards is 19 instead of 21. As you see, the sum of
8, 9 and 3, is 20, which is over in Oicho-Kabu. In a hand resulting in
a score of 20, the worst possible score, a player's final score would be
zero. Among the losing combinations, the phonetic sound of an 8-9-3
sequence is ya - ku - sa. It's from there the name, yakuza is derived...
without worth to society. This doesn't mean that they have no use for
the society, it means that the members are people that somehow do
not fit in the society, in other words societies misfits.
The Yakuza were itinerant gamblers, peddlers, renegade warriors
and roving bandits. They served shoguns and municipalities and
their legend includes a distinct Robin Hood quality that recently
emerged during the recent Kobe Earthquake. The Yamaguchi-gumi
Yakuza clan quickly mobilized providing on the scene assistance to
Kobe's earthquake victims long before the national government
resolved to act. Yakuza form a central theme in Japan's popular
culture and trace their origins to at least the 17th century. Therefore,
among the world's criminal organizations the Yakuza are older than
the Sicilian Mafia.

Yakuza strength rises and falls according to the tides of Japanese


society, with estimates of core membership ranging from 80,000 to
more than 110,000 in the years from 1945 to 1996. Some authorities
believe Japan's National Police routinely undercount the Yakuza,
numbering only those names found in confiscated membership rolls,
or recorded from routine police intelligence reports. Like the Sicilian
Mafia and other underworld organizations, the Yakuza are formed
into families, but in Japan other distinctions emerge including that
of the oyabun - kobun (father role - child role) relationship, between
Yakuza chiefs and their underlings.

The Yakuza evolved into their current form late in the 19th-century
under figures like Toyama Mitsuru. This son of a Samurai founded
the Genyosha (Dark Ocean) Society, and later Toyama's top aide
Ryohei Uchida founded the Amur River Society (Black Dragons).
Like organized crime in other cultures, the Yakuza began to control
construction labor and dockside labor, adding to traditional areas of
enterprise in the vices, prostitution, gambling, liquor distribution,
and entertainment. In the late 1960s or early 1970s the Yakuza
moved into the lucrative narcotics trade and in recent years have
stepped up their trade in firearms and other contraband. According
to various sources, Yakuza have formed alliances and working
relationships with Chinese Triads, Sicilian and American Mafia,
Columbian drug cartels, Jamaican Posses, and assorted other
criminal organizations throughout the world.
Because of their unique role in Japan's history and popular culture,
and their usefulness in providing muscle to control labor unions, and
providing anonymous services to the public for a variety of typical
underworld products in vice and contraband accommodations
between Yakuza, police, ultranationalists, government, political
parties, and secret societies seems to be an accepted fact of life in
Japan. Yakuza are active worldwide, wherever criminal enterprises

flourish. The Yakuza have been very skillful in the employment of


intermediaries and the absence of Japanese within a community
does not mean an absence of Yakuza.

Kabuki-Mono
Yakuzas origin can be followed far back as to the year 1612, when
men known as kabuki-mono (the crazy ones). Their odd clothing
style, the distinct haircuts and bad behavior, longswords quickly got
everybody's attention. They were known as masterless samurais,
ronin, and several of them began to wander around in Japan as a
band of robbers, plundering villages and small cities.

Machi-Yakko
Yakuza however not see kabuki-mono as their "ancestors" instead
they feel that they are machi-yakko(City servant), Machi-yakko
became the people's heroes, praised by the citizens for their help
against kabuki-mono. The Machi-yakko were often weaker, far less
trained and equipped than kabuki- mono. Therfore they were
compared with England's Robin Hood. Kabuki-mono were known
for their ruthless behavior and terrorizing all the surrounding areas.
They were well known for stabbing people for pleasure.
Kabukimono were gave their groups scary names and spoke in
vulgar slang. The current yakuza did not evolve until about the
middle of the 17th century. Its members were bakuto (gamblers) and
tekiya (street vendors). Something that was remarkable were their
loyalty to each other. They protected each other regardless even if it
meant going against their own family.
Kabuki-mono generally came from shoguns or samurais whom
during long peaceful times were forced into unemployment. Almost
all yakuza have the same type of background poor, criminals and
misfits. The Yakuza became a family for them. They got help with
problems, got attention and could feel a certain saftey.

The Industrialization of Japan


When Japan began to industrialize, the yakuza followed Japan's
deploying society. They began to recruit employees within the
construction business and people working at the docksides. They
began to check the rickshaw business. The gambling side of the

Yakuza was at this time sorta put to the side, because the police were
cracking down roughly on the bakuto- gangs. Tekiya on the contrary
flowered and expanded since most of their activities were not
considered illegal but more importantly not on the surface of society.
Yakuza began to develop an interest for policy and started
affiliations with certain political officials. They began to cooperate
with the authorities in order to get certain contributions and to ease
the harassment from the authorities. About up until the year 1925
Japan had an Emperor. But the course of events in the world was
proving that a democratic rule was better than aristocratic,
therefore Japan initiated a public vote for all men 1925. Within a
few years the communist and socialist parties were found. Around
then the prince, that became emperor 1926, existed however his staff
of military and some other officials did not agreed with democracy.
The economical depression at the end of 20th century created
suspicion against the western worlds liberalism. They took
advantage of this and different secret organizations were created
that trained its members in warfare, languages, assassination,
blackmail etc. The ultranationalism terror lasted on into the 1930s.
They murdered two prime ministers, two finance ministers, attacked
several politicians, and industrialist. The Yakuza supplied them with
the muscles and men in order to help and train these underworld
organization. This type of yakuza is called the unyoke (political
right).

The Occupation Years


After WWII when the American troops occupied Japan they saw the
yakuza as the biggest threat against their forces. They began to
watch the yakuza's activities. The American troops rationed out food
and as a result the black market flowered and made the gangs rich
and powerful. It were during the occupations that a new sort of
yakuza began to grow, gurentai (street hustler). They were for the
most part involved in robbery and black market. Yakuza became
influenced by the American gangster movies and began to dress in
black suits with white shirts, black sunglasses and cropped hair.
They became tougher and more violent, the sword became history,
now it was firearms. It was about this time that not just gamblers
and storekeepers became exposed to violence but also the ordinary
person was becoming more of a victim. Between about the years of
1958 and 1963 the number of yakuza- members increased with over

150%, to 184,000 members, now are they well below that. There are
an estimated 5,200 different gangs in Japan. Also during that time
they began to mark out their territories and wars started between
the gangs. It is believed that the wars between the gangs were settled
by a man named Yoshio Kodama. Kodama was Japan's underworld
counterpart to America's Al Capone.

The Yakuza Organization


For the yakuza it doesn't matter were you came from, which country
or from which class of society you belonged to, you can become a
member anyway. Yakuza takes care of the misfits in the society.
Yakuza members can be youth that been abandoned by their
parents, youths seeking refuge from the high pressures of school,
refugees from Korea, China etc. The boss becomes their father and
their comrades as brothers. The Yakuza offers not only
companionship but also money, status, and authority. A part of a
group were you feel useful and needed. There are no thresholds or
requirements in order to become a member. But when you are inside
strict obedience to the superiors is demanded. The yakuza sees
himself, as Machi-yakko, the people's rescuer and helper. Far before
any working courts existed in Japan the yakuza existed. If your
clans chief couldn't or wouldn't help resolve a dispute you could
turn to the local yakuza for help. They solved the problem in return
for money. The solution however was more brutal than if you had
turned to the police. The yakuza structure exists in two types of
yakuza, clan yakuza and freelance yakuza.

Freelance Yakuza
Freelancing yakuza are generally wanna be's yakuza that don't
commit serious crimes and they are usually little more than a group
of hustlers. They have however some difficulties surviving since the
clan yakuza do not afford them any protection or assistance and
generally doesn't allow them to operate within their territories. Clan
yakuza can tip the police about crimes that the freelance yakuza
commit. If the freelance yakuza earns to much money, the clan
yakuza kills the freelancing yakuza or makes him disappear without
a trace. The clan yakuza however have certain uses for a freelance
yakuza. If the clan yakuza needs something done that they not want
the clan to be associate with, they can turn to a freelancing yakuza

that, for a sum of money, does the job for them. A freelance yakuza
can also be used as a scapegoat for crimes. A freelancer is truly a
genius if he can manage to begin his own clan and stay alive. Usually
a freelance yakuza becomes a clan member unless he gets killed.

Clan Yakuza
The clan have been compared to the Sicilian mafias "family". The
clan is structured much like a common family in traditional Japan.
The clan has a hierarchy structure. The clans head chief is called
Oyabun, that means Father. Beneath him he has his
children(Wakashu) and brothers(Kyodai). These are not his real
children and brothers, only designations of rank and position they
have within the clan. All the members in the clan obey the Oyabun
and in return he protects them against all dangers. Oyabun is
almighty within the clan and his words is the law. All obey him
without hesitation or concern for their own life. Beneath him,
oyabun has an adviser that is called Saiko-komon and he has a staff
of advocates, accountants, secretaries and advisers. The children's
(Wakashu) boss called Waka gashira. He is number two in the clan
after Oyabun, not in rank but in authority. He acts as a middleman
to see that the oyabun's orders are being accomplished.
The children leaders over their own (sub) gangs and over time can
move up in the structure. In that way the clan becomes a
ramification with several sub families. The oyabun's "brothers" or
Kyodai, boss is called Shatei gashira. Shatei gashira is of higher
rank than Waka gashira but doesn't have more authority. "The
Brothers" have their own "children" or "younger brothers"(Shatei).
Shatei, has its own sub gangs etc. Everyone obeys its gangleader, but
it's always the oyabun's word that counts.

Tattoos
It's usual within yakuza circuits to tattoo themselves, usually is it
their clan's badges that they have all over their body. The origin of
the yakuza tattoo comes from the Bakuto. They usually tattooed a
black ring around the arm for each crime they committed. Finally it
became a symbol of strength. It can take over 100 hours to do an
entire back tattoo. The tattoo was to illustrate you were unwilling to
accommodate yourself to societies rules and norms. Now is it to
illustrate your clan affiliations.

Yubitsume
The manner comes originally from the Bakuto. If a gambler couldn't
pay back a debt or something like that the persons tip of the little
finger got cut off, which damage the hand and the person could not
hold his sword as well as before. Also that way other people could
see if a person haven't paid a debt, which could bring certain
problems, since gambling always been prohibited in Japan.
Yubitsume is when you cut of one of your fingers and send it to the
Kumicho. This is done as an apology for disobedience. It can be done
to atone for a wrongdoing but can also be done to spare one of your
"children". When you have done something that your Kumicho
dislikes you take a sharp item, cut off a fingertip, wrap it in paper
and send it to the Kumicho. This is done as an apology for
disobedience. It can be done to atone for a wrongdoing but can also
be done to spare one of your "children". When you have done
something that your Kumicho dislikes you take a sharp item, cut off
a fingertip, wrap it in paper and send it to the Kumicho and beg for
his forgiveness. If it's the first time you cut off the little fingertip
there after it becomes the next little finger and so on. Because of that
you may see yakuza members that are without several of his fingers.
This helps often at wrongdoings, but if you've done something all to
seriously, as e.g betray the entire clan, theres nothing that can help
you from becoming a statistic.