I - The Structure and Activities of the Yakuza
Japan has had a love-hate relationship with its outlaws. Medieval seafaring bands freelanced as mercenaries for the warlords or provided security for trading vessels; when not needed they were hunted as pirates.1
Oy can act as agent predators for Y warlords or be hunted by Y when they turn on them.
Horse-thieves and mounted raiders sold their skills to military households in return for a degree of tolerance toward their banditry.2
This is like the O police that use Oy thieves as snitches in exchange for leniency, this helps to control the Y gangs.
In the 1600s urban street gangs policed their own neighborhoods while fighting with samurai in the service of the Shogun.
Ro gangs act like the Ro part of the O police along with some Oy thieves to balance the system, the samurau can be Y.
Feudal lords paid gang bosses to supply day laborers for construction projects.
Feudal lords can be Y using Oy agents to supply R laborers as prey to work on these projects.
In the 1800s gambling syndicates assisted government forces in military operations.3 Underworld societies joined with nationalists to become a significant force in politics.
The underworld is usually Oy because they are secretive, they join Y as agents. Y is nationalistic defending a territory as their own like Y lions.
For many years police colluded profitably with pickpocketing gangs before being ordered to eliminate them in a nationwide crackdown of 1912.4
O police can be corrupted by Oy gangs or use them as snitches against Y. When this contagion grows too large there is a crackdown forced from Ro community anger and the Oy thieves collapse chaotically. This is like Ro herd animals like buffalo fighting back against Oy predators like hyena, when there are O animals between them then the Oy hyena are more easily deterred.
In the 1920s yakuza bosses were elected to the Diet.5 In the postwar era police struggled to control violent street gangs. Business leaders hired the same gangs to impede labor unions and silence leftists.
Nationalist governments can become associated with Y mafia, after the war the O police were weakened and unable to control Oy gangs. these Oy were used by Y businesses to attack Ro communist inspired unions and silence R leftists.
When Eisenhower planned to visit Japan in 1960, the government called on yakuza bosses to lend tens of thousands of their men as security guards.6
Oy agents as security guards to control Ro-R unrest and protests.
Corruption scandals entwined parliamentary lawmakers and yakuza lawbreakers throughout the 1970s and 1980s. One history of Japan would be a history of gangs: official gangs and unofficial gangs. The relationships between the two sides are complex and fluid, with boundaries continually being reassessed, redrawn, or erased.
Y and Oy are similar to each other except that Y are cooperative teams while Oy are more competitive loners. However people can move from one to the other so the boundary is fluid.
The important role played by the yakuza in Japan’s postwar economic rise is well documented.7 But in the late 1980s, when it became clear that the gangs had progressed far beyond their traditional rackets into real estate development, stock market speculation and full-fledged corporate management, the tide turned against them. For the past two decades the yakuza have faced stricter anti-organized crime laws, more aggressive law enforcement, and rising intolerance toward their presence from the Japanese public.
As a Roy economy becomes more Biv wealthy Y criminals can become V businessmen but still use dishonest tactics, this can threaten a new Biv forest economy like Y animals hunting there.
The ‘ultimate symbiosis’ between the yakuza and the police that Karel van Wolferen described in 1984 does not endure today.9 Police hostility to the yakuza has intensified, with more raids of yakuza offices and yakuza-run businesses, more arrests of senior rather than street-level gangsters, and more confiscations of illicit yakuza profits. ‘Yakuza eradication’ has become popular policy, with politicians, governors, mayors, and lawyers’ associations all proclaiming their resolve to destroy the yakuza once and for all. Anti-yakuza campaigning has recently extended beyond the traditional yakuza world to address a broader sphere of activities deemed to be undesirable or antisocial.
The O police are rebalancing more towards neutrality after Ro community protests, Oy cannot be destroyed but only moderated. If they think this moderation is too severe then snitches will not work with police as there is no leniency to offer them.
However, difficulties in defining the intended targets of these countermeasures, along with a tendency to link organized crime to minority groups or ethnicity, have led some commentators to wonder whether things have gone too far. The Japanese media reports resistance to burgeoning police powers and concern that some new anti-yakuza legislation may prove harmful to legitimate businesses. The 21st-century yakuza must also deal with competition from organized gangs of non-yakuza criminals and from foreign crime gangs active in Japan. Before examining these issues, let us first take a broad look at the state of organized crime in Japan today.