The Japanese Yakuza

The yazuka people hold one of the very dense histories on earth which has its traces and origin from the Tokugawa era.  The period of shogunate is a time when leyasu Tokugawa raised into power and fought towards the unification of Japan. The paper discusses and delves into the historical background of the yazuka, the structure of the yazuka, the different yazuka families, their activities, taboos and cultural practices such as yubizume as well as the relationships of the yazuka people with other citizens, law and their political influences. In conclusion, the paper touches upon the stretch of the yazuka people in other areas of the world such as the United States of America.

Yakuza is a Japanese name that refers to mafia or gangsters. It is actually a well organized Japanese gangster troop which is divided into two thousand families. These families are composed of approximate 100 thousand members. However, regardless of their infamous appearance and brutal nature, the police and even the community has no problem with them and accept their existence. Yamaguchi-gumi is the highest ranked yakuza family sumiyoshi-kai, toa-kai and inagawa-kai are the other families within the family.

Yakuza family history can be traced back to the time of Tokugawa Shogunate. During that time there was high unemployment crisis because of the economic and political instability. These issues left many of the samurai warriors without work hence nothing to cater for their families and themselves. Trading industries was their best option to survive, those who did not fit here ended up to thievery and other unworthy behavior to support their lives. They were called the ronin.

The Yazuka Families
Yakuza are almost beautiful as the Italian Mafias, they follow the familial system. However, the uniqueness within them is that these families are not necessary based on blood relationships, but adoption plays a key role in uniting them and bringing them together. Yakuza value the idea of bushido-the manner in which the samurai inculcate their way of living.  The connection that characterizes the yakuza families, in particular between the person in charge of the family and the devotee, is based on high levels of intelligence, respect and loyalty.

Yakuza family members are always noticeable because of the way they dress, the cars they drive and the tattoos they have all over their bodies. Something else to check is whether they have a missing fingure. In most cases they cut off their small fingers if they have some misunderstanding with a member of the family or a leader. They also get themselves involved in other crime related events such as illegal sale of drugs, smuggling, prostitution and many others.

The tide of society in Japan influences the fall or rise in strength of the Yakuza. It is estimated that a number of them rose from eighty thousand to hundred and ten members between 1945 and 1996. Same organizations usually claim that the Yakuza population is underestimated in a way by the Japanese police since the police rely on figures that are found in the confiscated membership records.

The activities and relationship of the yazuka people with the citizens and the law and their political influence
These groups were evolved under key figures like Toyama Mitsuru of 19th century to the current status. The Genyoka society was established by the son of samurai, Amur River society was established by Ryohei Uchida which is in other words referred to as the Black Dragons. Due to their history, they are very influential in labor unions, providing muscle to control labor unions, and providing unspecified services to the community for a diversity of gangland products in vice and smuggled goods. The accommodation acceptance of the Yakuza among the police, political parties, government, and underground societies is like an accepted life component in Japan. The groups are considered internationally as celebrities of crime.

As Japan became industrialized, the yakuza were not left behind but followed Japans deploying society. They started engaging themselves in the recruitment of laborers in the construction sector and also worked along the docksides. They advanced to the rickshaw business and still got themselves engaged. Sorta was one of their gambling events during that time since the police were busy dealing with bakuto-gangs.  Tekiya on the opposing side flowered and extended in view of the fact that most of their activities were not considered as  illegal  by the outside of society. Yakuza began to build up their attention and strategies for surviving and they began joining hands and establishing relationships with some political officials.

Yakuza began to lend hands to the system in order to get some favors from the government and still to minimize the harassment from the system. In around 1925, Japan had an emperor who proved to the rest of the world that he was better than the aristocrats. Thus, Japan initiated a civic vote in 1925.  Some years later the communist and socialist political parties were formed. At that time some of the officials that were under the emperor did not support democracy. Following the 1926 depression in economy in the world brought some tensions between Japan and the western world.

The western countries took an advantage of this weakness and found other underground organizations in Japan, they trained them on how to blackmail, assassinate, warfare and other things. As a result of this, the prime minister and numerous politicians were killed. The political wing of yakuza gave the arms and the support needed to accomplish these tasks.

After the Second World War the American army was not at ease with the Yakuza and they perceived them as potential threats to their security. They started to investigate their activities keenly. Due to the policy of rationing of food put in place by the American, the black market was the only option thus making these gangs very wealthy and influential.  Consequently, this triggered the emergence of another kind of Yakuza evolved-street hustlers. This group was mostly engaged in crime and black market. Their way of dressing changed as they were influenced by the American gangster movies. They started wearing white shirts, cropped hair and sun glasses.

They became more hardened and more violent, and firearms became the order of the business days. Due to the rapid increase in number of both the members and different groups, misunderstandings among the Yazuka groups began to be felt. It is believed that these conflicts were later resolved by a man known as Yoshio Kodama.

The main goals of Yakuza are to try and accommodate the misfits in the society. They may be abandoned children, the youth who have issues with schools, the refugees either coming from China or Korea. Then the leader of the group becomes their father and the rest of the members of the group become brothers and sisters. These groups do not provide social needs for an individual but other things like class, cash and power thus making one feel useful and of purpose. Technically there are no major requirements for one to fulfill in order to be a member. However, after one becomes member, high levels of obedience are required, especially to the authority figures.

Structure of the yazuka people and  Yubizume
Just like the Mafia, the yazuku group is powerfully structured in sort of a pyramid which is patriarch at the top and with some loyal underlings representing various different ranks. The Mafia kind of a hierarchy is relatively simple, where bosses known as capos rule and preside over the families with assistance drawn from underbosses known as consigliere (counselor). The next level in the hierarchy is composed of captains who usually run the crew of soldiers who all have basic associates.  The structure of the Yazuka is more intricate and simple. The most guiding principle in this set up is that the yazuka structure utilizes the oyabun-kobun kind of relationship where Oyabun is used to refer to the father roles.

The yakuza sees himself as Machi-yakko, the peoples rescuer and helper. Solving of disputes is done following the ranks, if the leader of that family is unable to solve the case, he hands it over to the local Yakuza leaders for help. The leader facilitates these services in exchange of a certain fee. If found guilty the punishment accorded to the offender is even worse than when it is handled by the police (Paul, 1998).  They can sometimes cutoff one of your fingures.   Yubizen is used to refer to a certain kind of punishment that is afflicted to offenders who commit crime. Yubizume is often a kind of amputation where the last joint of the little finger is cut off.  The structure of Yakuza is composed of two types, the clan and freelance Yakuza.

Freelancing Yakuza is a type of Yakuza which does not engage in serious crimes and they mostly exist to hustle together. They are generally referred as wanna bes Yakuza. This type has a hard time in surviving because the structure of their organization into clan type does not allow them to conduct businesses within the region. This also hardens their existence since they lack money for protection and sustainability of their members.

The clan Yakuza undermines them by exposing the crimes they commit to the police. If by any chance a leader of the freelance Yakuza becomes famous of whichever means and achievements the clan members kill him and hide the body never to be found. Clan Yakuza has some positive aspects to the freelance yakuza. If, for instance, there are some things that the clan yakuza wants to be affected and they do not want to be linked with it they offer a contract to the freelance yakuza and pay them. The freelance yakuza are in most cases used as escape goats, especially when crime is committed.

The clan is the second type of yakuza and is compared to the Sicilian mafias family. It is almost structured like a normal family in Japan. It has a hierarchal structure whose leader of the clan is referred as Oyabun which means father in English. Under this father there are brothers (kyodai) and his children (Wakashu). The members referred to as brothers and children are not blood relatives but adopted and in terms of ranks in the clan they are generally under him. It is a requirement that all the members under the father should respect him regardless of anything and whether he in return offers protection which they may need. Oyabun is enormous within that clan and what he declares is final.

All the members should obey his words without question or worry for their individual life. The leader is an adviser (Saiko-konmon) and on top of that he has a team of advocates, secretaries, and accountants. The childrens boss is referred as waka gashira. He is the second in command in that clan after the father. He is the one entitled to make sure that the orders given by the Oyabun are followed. These leaders of the children grow as the sub-gang grows and they might rise to being clan leaders.

Tatoos  Practices
The members of yakuza usually tattoo themselves all over their bodies. They have the clan badges over their bodies. The origin of these tattoos came from Bakuto. The bakutos tattooed a ring that was normally black around their arms each ring representing a crime they committed thus signified the strength of that particular bakuto. Making the tattoos is not easy and it was estimated that making one ring took them almost hundred hours. The rings showed that the individual was reluctant to be bound by the rules and norms of the society. For the yakuza it signifies clan affiliations.

The style came initially from the Bakuto. In any case if a gambler could not pay back anything they had borrowed then the victim was entitled to cut off the tip of the small finger. This was a punishment that was aimed at damaging the arm in a way that a person could not handle a sword as before. It was also meant to be a lesson to others that gambling is not authorized in Japan.

One becomes Yubitsume only when he cuts off one of his fingers and sends it to the Kumicho. This act symbolizes apology for an act of disobedience. This act can also be used to spare one of your children. The procedure is to take a very sharp item cut off the tip of the finger, wrap the piece cut in a paper and then send it to the kumicho and then ask for forgiveness. The more mistakes you make that require you to cut off the finger tips the more you will continue to advance in cutting the rest of the fingers remaining. If it is the first time you cut off the little fingertip thereafter it becomes the next little finger and so on. Because of that many yakuza members who have constantly involved themselves in crime are always noticeable by signal of having missing fingers.

Yazuka in United States
Despite being in Japan only, the Yazuka people have stretched their presence to occupy cities in the United States such as the Hawaii, Nevada, California and New York. Their presence in the United States has been felt as a harmed gang group. Their population in Hawaii cannot be underestimated as majority of them have been drawn to Hawaii due to its natural appeal for accommodating all sorts of people.

However, the existence of high levels of crime in this area has established and created attractive opportunities for the Yazuka people to settle in this area as opposed to the exquisite lush floras and beaches within the area.

One characteristic feature which makes the Yazuka people to cope in this area is the high flock of tourists from Asian countries and Japan who blend easily with them and remain submerged within these visiting groups. Obviously in order to gauge themselves with the tourists, the Yazuka people normally invest in high-priced expensive real estates, which is one of their major favorite enterprises.

Above all, the Yazuka people make use of the island state as one of their very major station, especially for crystal meth in transition headed to the American mainland and more specifically firearms and other weapons being transported back to Japan.  The Yazuka have also mingled with the local residents and especially the crime gangs in funneling and channeling tourists flocking from Asia into gambling parlors, bordellos and sex shows for the due exchange with kickbacks, especially with the locals.

In California, the Yazuka have also stretched their influence by establishing alliances with the Vietnamese gangs and the Koreans, and further more expanded their relationships with their traditional partners of the Chinese triads. Just like any other organized American gang group, the Yazuka flood to Las Vegas, where gambling is legal. Hookers and show girls are everywhere dense and plentiful in Las Vegas and the Yazuka people have been very instrumental steering and influencing tourists from Asia to establishments legally owned and possessed by Americans.

In New York the Yazuka people have also been sported within the city, where they have established loose alliances with the Native American Mafias. Despite the fact that cultural differences, especially language barriers, have posed quite a greater challenge in establishing tight and strong bonds with the natives, the two groups, the American Mafia and Yuzuka, have been able to corporate in especially illegal operations such as gambling.


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