The yakuza have been engaged in extortion, money-laundering, prostitution, gambling, trafficking in drugs and weapons, and more sophisticated white-collar crimes. According to a 2014 police report, there were 22,495 organized crime members or those affiliates with gangs arrested that year.
Yakuza are criminal gangs. They participate in many of the same money-making activities as all criminal gangs. Illegal gambling and prostitution are Yakuza hallmarks, while the smuggling of banned goods such as drugs, firearms and pornography is also profitable.
In Japan and elsewhere, especially in the West, the term yakuza can be used to refer to individual gangsters or criminals as well as to their organized groups and to Japanese organized crime in general.
The traditional punishment for failure within a Yakuza clan is the amputation of a part of the little finger. This act of contrition is known as yubizume. When the gangster has displeased his boss, he is merely given a knife and a bandage.
The Yakuza is a network of highly organized, transnational crime families with affiliates in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and is involved in various criminal activities, including weapons trafficking, drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraud, and money laundering.
The yakuza have done their best to portray a noble image within the public sphere. They dress nicely, are respectful and talk politely – when not trying to make money. Violence for the most part happens between gang branches or non-yakuza gangs within Japan.
In Japan, a stunted pinkie signifies membership in the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. In a ritual known as "yubitsume," yakuza members are required to chop off their own digits to atone for serious offenses. The left pinkie is usually the first to go, though repeated offenses call for further severing.
Violent yakuza crimes usually involve rivalries between families, but sometimes target civilians. Most crimes in modern times are variations on things the yakuza have been doing for decades - a white collar thrown in for good measure. Unlike other crime syndicates, yakuza operate more or less in the open.
The Yakuza is populated almost entirely by men and the very few women who are acknowledged are the wives of bosses, who are referred to by the title ane-san (姐さん, older sister).
Unfortunately, no such pathways to reintegration currently exist. Social acceptance is unattainable for most who renounce their membership in organized crime groups. As a result, they have no option but to resort to illegal activity to survive.
Yakuza membership is plummeting — the result of a decade of intensifying crackdowns targeting organized crime and the yakuza's reach into illegal activities including drug trafficking, money laundering and gambling. Opinion: Japan's yakuza aren't disappearing. They're getting smarter.
Japan's yakuza are putting away their weapons after an unprecedented death sentence was passed on a crime boss. Gangs affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi, the country's biggest crime organisation, have been ordered not to use guns “in public” after the conviction of the head of a rival crime group.
When a kobun receives sake from an oyabun, they have officially passed their initiation into their yakuza family. At this point they're ranked in a similar way to older or younger brothers. They're also required to cut ties to their real family and swear allegiance to their local boss.
A gaijin in the organisation? Straight away, the strangest thing is that a foreigner – a gaijin – gets to become a member of a Yakuza family. Not only that, but Lowell quickly rises to become a member with key responsibilities – at one point he becomes the main boss's bodyguard.
Approximately 5,200 yakuza gangs operating throughout Japan began to stake out their territories and violent gang wars occurred. These gangs controlled many businesses, engaged in sophisticated gambling and loan sharking activities, and invested heavily in sports and other entertainment.
To perform yubitsume, one lays down a small clean cloth and lays the hand onto the cloth facing down. Using an extremely sharp knife, or tantō, the person cuts off the portion of his left little finger above the top knuckle on the finger or the tip of the finger.
Unlike Western mafia wives, Yakuza wives remain outside the sphere of criminal activity. Although the women play a vital role in running the clan – managing finances, resolving quarrels and providing emotional support – they are barred from being active participants or formal members.
But unlike the Mafia in America, Yakuza don't hide their membership in the mob, because it's not illegal in Japan to be a member of organized crime. And they are so much a part of Japanese culture, they parade openly.
Suggestions for Tourists With Tattoos
While tattoos are not illegal, they can prevent people from getting the full Japanese experience. When using public transportation in Japan, such as trains, tourists with visible tattoos will want to keep in mind that their ink may be offensive to some of the locals.
Yakuza wear kimono on special occasions — rituals, important meetings, or for commemoration photos. Thus the kimono serves a dual purpose: as the national costume, it denotes belonging to the Japanese cultural milieu.
In Japanese culture, the thumb represents the self, while the pinky finger is used to signal a woman, mistress, wife, or mistress.
Gaijin (外人, [ɡai(d)ʑiɴ]; "outsider", "alien") is a Japanese word for foreigners and non-Japanese citizens in Japan, specifically being applied to foreigners of non-Japanese ethnicity and those from the Japanese diaspora who are not Japanese citizens.
Sometimes it's used as neutral filler speech to indicate you're listening. Sometimes it's used as a sign of acknowledgement. Sometimes it's used as a delineating device to indicate a change in topic. Sometimes it's used as a way of saying “here you go”.