Japan for the majority seems to be a high-tech society with its own culture. But behind the screen of a closed country lies a lot of interesting things. There is also its own organized crime, its traditional form is called yakuza. These are real criminal syndicates, which determine the local criminal world.

To compare with the yakuza on the degree of influence can, for example, the Asian triad or the mafia in the West. That’s just the organization of Japanese crime is quite different than that of similar structures. And the yakuza works differently. It is said that this mafia has even its own office buildings, and its actions are openly discussed in the press.

The yakuza appeared in the 17th century, when feudal lords suddenly began to understand that an open struggle with the enemy, as samurai does, is less effective than hidden and inconspicuous. Today the yakuza is, without exaggeration, one of the Japanese sights. But in the West they know very little about it, so it’s worth telling about the most interesting facts about this secret organization.


Sokaya – the organization of bribery.

The word sokaya means not just bribery, but its large-scale form, which is practiced by the yakuza. The Japanese mafia acquires first a large share holding of companies, sufficient for the presence and vote on the board of directors. After this, criminals try to learn about the company’s management of maximum information, searching for dirt on them. Then the original bidding begins. The Yakuza threatens shareholders with the disclosure of confidential information, forcing them to pay for silence. This is a very serious threat, because in Japanese corporate culture shame is a powerful lever of pressure, so this tactic is usually successful. Unusual in this bribery is that all this happens with extreme politeness. The threats themselves, as well as the payment for silence is not made directly, but in a roundabout way. For example, a yakuza can arrange a competition or sports competition, and the victims are unobtrusively recommended to buy tickets at very inflated prices. I must say that many Japanese companies waited for this fate. For example, one of the extortionists was imprisoned for eight months after he tried to blackmail the management of Mitsubishi. A representative of the yakuza tried to use information about illegal use of rent payments by officials for a holiday home. Sokaya already in 1982 reached such an impressive scale that the government even introduced a number of laws that forbade paying extortionists. But there was not much benefit from this. Yakuza immediately reacted to this, inventing just a more complex scheme for hiding their activities. Leaders, however, often have to indulge the yakuza, because the information on past participation in sokaya is a criminal matter. Today, corporations have come up with an effective way to deal with extortionists – holding meetings of shareholders on the same day throughout the country. As a result, members of the mafia can not physically be simultaneously in several places. Such a measure was adopted at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. There, in 90% of cases, corporations hold their annual meetings on the same day.

Tough struggle with yakuza.

The Japanese authorities know a lot about the biggest criminal syndicate of the country, Yamaguchi-gumi. Recently, the US government, its offices for combating organized crime, also joined the fight against it. American citizens were simply forbidden to go to any financial transactions with the head of the syndicate, Kenichi Synod. In the “black list” got his “right hand” Kiyoshi Takayama. And all assets of the organization in the United States were frozen. In Japan, there are also laws that are designed to break the ties of the yakuza with law-abiding business. Earlier in the Land of the Rising Sun, measures were limited only to the imposition of fines for those enterprises that cooperate with crime. The new measures were surprisingly effective.As a result, the number of representatives of the yakuza in Japan was reduced to a record level for the last half century. The Synod itself believes that the disappearance of its syndicate will be a problem for the country. After all, thousands of unemployed bandits will come to the streets, which will become a threat to public order in Japan.

Helping the needy from the yakuza.

In 2011, natural foul weather came to Japan – the country was attacked by a powerful tsunami. But among the first organizations who came with help to the affected areas, was the yakuza. And this case is not uncommon – back in 1995 after the earthquake in the large city of Kobe, members of the mafia organized the delivery of valuable goods to the destroyed neighborhoods of the metropolis. For this, the yakuza used helicopters, boats and scooters. There is even a legend that the yakuza always helps the needy when they need it. After all, members of a criminal organization are outcasts who can not but sympathize with the victims of negligence on the part of official authorities. Other people follow a more practical and cynical point of view, for them such behavior of the Mafiosi is just a form of PR and a way to get public support. Well, after such a charity call on society to fight the yakuza? However, not only the image is won by the yakuza with the help of such kind deeds. They bring criminal syndicates also a considerable financial benefit. Immediately after the earthquake in 2011, the yakuza-controlled organizations were able to obtain profitable state construction contracts. The catastrophe turned out to be so large that the authorities simply had to resort to the help of dubious firms. Moreover, underground syndicates openly do not advertise themselves, trying to act through shell companies. And go figure out which of them is connected with crime. It is interesting that one of these contracts led the head of the shell company to prison. He simply put in his pocket part of the wages of his own employees, believing that the yakuza could protect him.

Journal of the yakuza.

It is customary in Yamaguchi-gumi to distribute newsletters to all members. The last time they got 28 thousand members of the organization. In this peculiar corporate magazine called “Yamaguchi-gumi Shinpo”, haiku and articles on fishing were also published. The editors expressed the opinion of the head of the syndicate that difficult times are coming for him. At that time, the yakuza business did go badly, and so the magazine became a peculiar tool for raising the mood of its criminal readers. Surprisingly, some copies of the publication fell into the hands of ordinary peaceful Japanese. Experts believe such a “blunder” is not accidental. Yakuza understood that the rumor of the magazine’s release would leak. So the dispatch was carried out intentionally not only to members of the syndicate, but also to some ordinary citizens. So the mafia tried to reduce its prevailing violent reputation in the eyes of fellow citizens.


Ritual Yubitsume.

It is customary for the yakuza to punish those who are guilty in their own way. Bandits, who acted incorrectly from the point of view of the whole organization, are forced to chop off the tip of their own finger. This is called yubitsume. If for the first offense only the tip of the little finger is chopped off, then further faults entail serious injuries. As a result, many Japanese Mafiosi left the little finger is missing partially or completely, and sometimes there are no other fingers. On the one hand, you can see who is in front of you. And on the other, it is clear that this is not the most successful mafiosi, since he was repeatedly punished. Such a ritual even put an end to the demand for artificial fingers. It is clear that their absence on the hand is a seal of shame. It’s difficult to hide, but it’s just necessary – most of the Japanese are aware of the yubitsume ritual. A well-known English skin expert, Professor Alan Roberts, exported to Japan so many natural external prostheses that he even got the nickname “Mister Finger” in the yakuza. Obviously, his services are in demand.

Complex tattoos.

An important part of the yakuza cult is unusual colored tattoos on the bodies of criminals. Japanese mafia use the traditional way, manually injecting ink under the skin. This method is called irresumi and it is distinguished by extreme morbidity. But after going through this procedure, you can prove your courage. It should be noted that color tattoos have recently become popular among ordinary Japanese. The most popular drawings are women, dragons and mountains. And although tattoos have spread in ordinary society, members of a criminal organization are still associated with them. The mayor of the city of Osaka even imposed a ban on such nude arts for public servants. The official asked the subordinates either to get rid of the tattoo, or to look for another job.

Yakuza and the court.

We are not surprised that our criminals are being tried, but lawsuits against criminal structures are possible only in Japan. Not so long ago, one restaurant owner sued Kenichi Synod, that most powerful head of Yamaguchi-gumi. The woman claimed that the yakuza should be responsible for her representatives who extorted money from her for protection and threatened to burn her institution. The owner of the restaurant officially demanded that the yakuza compensate her for damage of 17 million yen, or 2.8 million dollars. And this is not the first time when the yakuza is sued. Something similar happened in 2008. Then several citizens went to court to evict Doinkai’s gang from their headquarters in the city of Kurum. After the organization began to collapse from within, due to internecine clashes in the struggle for leadership, a real cruel war broke out. The townspeople claimed that they had the right to live in peace, so they demanded that the bandits leave their city. But the yakuza does not always stand on the side of the defendant. In early 2013, the Kudo-kai syndicate from the south of the country was officially called “dangerous” by law enforcement agencies. Members of the yakuza were involved in a series of attacks on the headquarters of another mafia organization. In these attacks, the bandits even used grenades. At the trial, lawyer Kudo-kai said that such a characterization of his clients was unfair. The matter is that the syndicate is only one of the five that operate in this region. Such infringement of the rights of the yakuza, according to the lawyer, is a violation of the Constitution of the country.

Examinations for the Mafiosi.

In 2009, members of the organization in Yamaguchi-gumi were forced to pass a special test on 12 pages. The mafia went to such a step after the government took serious steps against organized crime. It was believed that thanks to these exams, the members of the syndicate will be able to protect themselves from various troubles and demonstrate their knowledge of the laws. In the questionnaire there were a lot of various topics, ranging from illegal emission of garbage and ending with the rushing of cars. It seems ridiculous that evil tattooed bandits sit humbly in the audience and pass the exams, carefully memorizing all the answers. However, this approach gives an overall picture of the entire Japanese economy. It has long been believed that it is the yakuza that is a kind of criterion of national culture and economy. And even if bandits admit that their organization is in crisis in these times and are ready to do anything to minimize problems, then the rest of the Japanese have no better.

Initiation into the yakuza.

It is known that in Japan new members of the Mafia are forced to perform the role of subordinates for the more experienced members of the organization. Beginners are called kobun, which literally means “the role of the child.” Over the long years of existence of the local mafia, a rather complicated management structure was developed in it. So it’s not easy to reach the top, many steps have to be overcome. The initiation ritual is based on the sake of the sake called sakazukidogo. The initiate is placed in front of his oyabun, the dominant member of the group, a kind of “father.” Other members of the mafia, meanwhile, are preparing a drink.The beginner relies on a smaller portion of the drink, whereas his teacher is entitled to a full cup. This underlines the status of a member of the gang. After everyone takes a sip from their cup, they are exchanged. So the ceremony ends. The ritual itself involves creating a connection between the oyabun and the kobun, which resembles the connection of the adoptive father and son. Ceremony of drinking sake is generally quite traditional for Japanese culture, so invisible connections between people are created. This drink itself is considered as a link between people and deities, and also helps to strengthen the relationship between people. Sake seems to bless a good harvest. This ceremony is considered historical and even religious. It is no coincidence that it is held in a Japanese Shinto temple.


Yakuza and politics.

In 2012, a loud political scandal erupted in Japan. The Minister of Justice was forced to resign after it became known about his connections with the yakuza. But Japanese politicians did not always avoid their relationship with the mafia. For example, it is known that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which ruled Japan for 54 of the last 58 years, did not shun cooperation with the yakuza. It is known that the first prime minister from the LDP, Nobusuke Kishi, actively interacted with Yamaguchi-gumi. In 1971, he, along with some other politicians, even pledged a mafia leader convicted, among other things, for murder. The premiere was also seen at the weddings and funerals of members of the mafia syndicate. In elections, members of the yakuza usually play a prominent role – they serve as agitators and bodyguards. Thanks to their organization, the gangs can provide a large number of votes to the right candidates. One yakuza representative in Kyoto said he could provide a minimum of 30,000 votes to elect a certain official. And at least four other prime ministers had quite definite ties with the yakuza. This includes, among other things, Nobur Takeshit, who came to power in 1987. Shortly before the election, ultra-right opponents began to exert pressure on him. It was necessary for the politician to seek help from the largest yakuza structure in Tokyo, Inagawa-kai. The Mafia quickly solved all the problems of the future prime minister. But in the country many began to ask questions about the excessively comfortable stay of the ruling elite under the protection of organized crime.

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