The nations’ law enforcement formally recognizes Mafia-like criminal organizations in Japan as bōryokudan or violent groups.
Members of such organizations are known as the Yakuza. Anywhere in the world, more specifically in the West, the term “yakuza” itself is often used to refer to both individual gangsters and the Japanese organized crime groups in general.
They engage in various criminal activities, including but not limited to drug trafficking, loan sharking, gambling, extortion, blackmail, prostitution, smuggling, and other illegal enterprises; they also control numerous businesses such as restaurants, taxi fleets, factories, bars, trucking companies, and even talent agencies.
Yakuza are involved in criminal activities not only in major cities in Japan but also worldwide.
Hierarchy in the Yakuza is established in the way reminiscent of a family, similar to that of the Italian mafia. The gang leader – also known as a conglomerate of Yakuza – is called oyabun (parent status or boss).
In contrast, the members or followers are known as kobun, meaning child status or apprentices. The Yakuza themselves think of their nature as chivalrous organizations.
Despite the questionable methods, they have been known to engage in charitable acts, for example making donations and delivering supplies to victims of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake.
So what you see in gangster movies about the Yakuza is not always true. Now here are some things you probably didn’t know about the organized crime groups.
10 Good For Nothing
The term yakuza translates to English as “good for nothing,” derived from the traditional Japanese form of counting comprised of yattsu-Ku-san, which refers to the number eight-nine-three.
In the card game oichu-kabu, the sum of those three numbers is 20, giving the worst possible total.
The goal of the card game is to draw three cards adding up to a score of 9. In case the sum exceeds 10, the second digit is used as the score. Either 10 or 20 gives players a losing hand, hence suitable for nothing.
9 Descendants Of Samurai
The origin of Yakuza remains unclear, but general belief dictates that they are descendants of either gang of samurai without masters (ronin) who turned to street crimes and banditry or bands of do-gooders who defended villages from ronin during the early 17th century.
Their lineage may also be traced to gamblers in feudal Japan, possibly due to the association between yakuza and card games.
Most modern Yakuza come from two social classifications which initially emerged during the mid-Edo period (1603–1868): bakuto, people involved or participated in gambling, and tekiya, those who peddled illicit goods.