Japanese Society Yakuza

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Yakuza as a part of the Japanese Society –
Their influence on the Japanese’s daily life

(By Philippe Thê Long Hegglin)

1. Introduction

2. Yakuza as a part of Japanese society

a. Origin of the Yakuza

b. Their role in the Japanese society today

3. Conclusion


It is said quite often that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, what I comparing to Germany or other countries can confirm from my own experiences. With only 19.177 per 1,000 people got Japan #34 in a world crime ranking, while Dominica rates #1, United Kingdom #6, USA # 8 and Germany #11.(United Nations, 2000) Nevertheless japanese families, in our case homestay families, are all the time in my view exageratedly concerned about safety, wherefore you could think, that this is just useless talk. But the Yakuza , the japanese Mafia is famous all over the world with Kobe and Osaka having the highest crime rate in Japan. Especially in movies, the Yakuza are shown as the japanese equivalent to the italian Mafia, but in personal interviews with my former hostmother and other japanese colleagues Yakuza were often played down and even portrayed as nice and helpful. In the city i live – Kobe – is the headquarterof the Yamaguchi - gang (山口組), the largest Yakuza group with over 20000 members. They acutally control a large part of Japan and other countries. (Blathwayt, 2008, p.41) Sometimes i see them when i go shopping or to the Kobe’s Mosque, because the headquarter of a gumi is around this area and I as well as other japanese people got used to them. It is quite easy to recognize them, because they stick out as buffed, tattooed (sometimes you can see that it is protrude from the shirt), wearing sunglasses (even at night) and having expensive cars. But of course like every other Mafia, they control popular, semi-legal or illegal businesses like prostitution, drugs, protection racket and gambling. However there seems to be a big influence by the Yakuza on Japanese society. In this report, i will examine, what kind of influence the Yakuza have on the Japanese society. In doing so i will take a look at parts of the sex industry, daily and business life, as well as in other areas like random smaller criminals as for example japanese biker gangs called Bosozoku and even normal teenagers next door. First of all i will start with the history of the Yakuza, why and how they developed and try to find here possible parallels of a influences on the modern society. Furthermore in the third part of the report, i will write about my personal experiences and experiences of friends and acquaintances, because such statement often say more than just "dry facts". I will close my essay with a conclusion and try to give a forecast about whether the Yakuza will continue to exist the way it does today or whether it will change, as every society developes dynamically and continuesly.

a. Origin of the Yakuza

The word “Yakuza” means eight (“ya”), nine (“ku”) and three (“za”) and allegorizes a combination of numbers, that is considered to be the worst hand at a Japanese card game called “Oicho-Kabu” and though is worthless.(Parkanian, 2010,p.15) The origin of the Yakuza is not clearly to allocate. Some people say that they are descendents of crazy outlandish samurai called kabuki-mono in the 17th-century, who were very conspicuous because of their outlandish clothes and hair styles. They also spoke a luxuriant slang and carried long swords in their belts. Those servants of the shogun, became leaderless ronin (wave men) and eventually rather thieves and gangsters during the Tokugawa era, an long period of peace in Japan. (Hill,2003,P.37-40) Others claim their origin to be the gambling syndicates called “Bakuto” in the Edo period. They were people of humble birth, too, like farmers, craftmen or merchants, who lost their jobs and then had no other choice than entering the gambling syndicates. As mentioned before...
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