Map of Japanese Gangs of the Yakuza
The yakuza, a Japanese organized crime group, has a long history dating back over 300 years. Originating in the early 1600s, the yakuza initially started as groups involved in fairs and markets, as well as gambling. As time went on, they expanded their influence and modernized their operations various industries in the 1800s.
It was during the American occupation of postwar Japan that the yakuza truly began to rise. Seen as a threat by the occupying forces, their numbers grew as they began to control businesses, often engaging in illegal activities and invest in entertainment ventures.
The structure of the yakuza is hierarchical, similar to that of the Italian Mafia. They are organized into hundreds of gangs, with the Yamaguchi-gumi being the largest. The yakuza are known for their ideology and traditionally take blood oaths of allegiance. While membership itself is not illegal, the Japanese government has implemented stricter laws against criminal groups. It is important to note that the number of yakuza members has declined over the years but still stands at around 80,000.
The yakuza have a rich cultural heritage that includes unique traditions and practices, like full-body tattoos or severing the little finger as an apology, which demonstrates their honor and respect within their ranks. Although involved in criminal activities, yakuza groups have also shown another side to them. They have provided aid to victims of natural disasters and have even helped suppress petty criminals in certain areas.
The yakuza have a long history in Japanese society. From their beginnings with minor activities to their involvement in various industries, such as gambling, prostitution, narcotics, banking and finances, or extortion, and politics, the yakuza have left an indelible mark on Japanese culture. While their criminal activities are well-known, they also display aspects of chivalry and philanthropy, making them a fascinating subject of study.