Yakuza

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Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, criminal organizations have begun to develop within various nations throughout the world. Some of these criminal organizations consist of various national and ethnic groups who centralized themselves as a single enterprise and various illegal activity which results in monetary gains, such as drug trafficking, racketeering, human trafficking, setting up illegal gambling establishments, and corrupting the local government with members of their own. For example, the Mexican drug cartels control one of the vast drug routes in Latin America while the Sicilian Mafia have set up a large protection racketing system throughout Italy. The Yakuza have established themselves in Japan and are considered to be more sophisticated than the various criminal organizations in the world because of their colorful history. The Yakuza’s origins can be traced back to the seventeenth century; however, many Yakuza members have their own version of their origin. They are notoriously known for their strict codes of conduct, which emphasizes honor, and their sophisticated criminal structure. Their criminal activities involved various criminal activities such as illegal human trafficking activities, protection racket, while some of the other Yakuza’s activities are considered somewhat legitimate, like relief efforts during natural disaster and various activities involving realty markets and the banks. The Yakuza has also had various conflicts with the Japanese government, which has sought to take down the criminal organization.

According to Christopher Altman, the Yakuza have roots during the Tokugawa era in Japanese history. Japan had just come out of a period of civil war and the shogunate Tokugawa unified the island of Japan. This led to a period of peace, leaving hundreds of thousands of samurai warriors without duties to fulfill since there were no more wars to be fought. A portion of the samurai warriors found a living by joining the merchant class while other samurais resorted to criminal means to find a way to support themselves. The machi-yokku were townspeople who banded together against the criminal former samurais (Bruno). These townspeople formed groups of individuals who were closed together and spent most of their leisure time gambling. Although some scholars believe that these townspeople were merely legends of the origins of the Yakuza, these townspeople influenced the image the Yakuza tries to hold; an organization built by familial fashion rather than bloodline (Bruno).

The Yakuza began to form in the mid 1700’s with various members consisting of gamblers and street peddlers. The early Yakuza then began initiating newer members into their “family” (Johnson). The oyabun-kobun was a relationship where new members the kobun ‘adopted’ by the ‘father’ members who provided advice and protection to their kobun sons. As Yakuza membership began to grow, the Yakuza then was able to expand to operations involving early forms of racketeering and gambling rigs. The modernization of Japan led to the modernization of the Yakuza as the Yakuza began taking control of construction companies and dockworkings (Johnson). After the Second World War, Yakuza membership has boomed; the number was 184,000 at the time; the Yakuza had more members than the demilitarized Japanese military force. Even the American occupational force knew that the Yakuza has become powerful and that it will influence Japanese society (Johnson). The Yakuza has expanded its operations to counterfeiting, human trafficking, rigging sports games for monetary gains, and racketeering many businesses; the Yakuza were now entrenched in Japanese society (Kaplan 38).

The Yakuza adhere to strict codes of conduct throughout its organization. The codes of conduct are printed out and posted in various Yakuza offices and establishments. The codes or rules forbid any member of the Yakuza from using or selling drugs, robbery, thefts, and other...
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