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The Yakuza refers to Japanese illegal syndicate group that performs illegal activities. They mainly evolved from the tekiya and bakuto groups in1603 and 1868 respectively. The group has several functions, which include engaging in illegal business that lure women into prostitution. They also practice gambling and blackmail businesses as they give them a lot of money. Other activities they engage in include smuggling guns and pornographic material into Japan from US and Europe. The main group’s goal is gaining financial and political power.
The Yakuza are Japanese members of organized crime syndicates. They are highly organized in nature, and they normally have strict codes of conduct (Harold, 2001). They have close to 112,000 members, and they operate internationally. They normally use the traditional hierarchical structure that was used in Japan. This structure is called oyabun-kobun, which is formalized by sharing from a single cup. Oyabun heads the group and his role is to give orders to the subordinates. The members cut themselves away from their families and they pledge allegiance to their leaders. Each syndicate has an overall boss called kumicho and his senior advisor follows him in the hierarchy. Then follows the headquarter chief. This is followed by a second chain of command that governs several gangs. Each member is ranked by sake sharing hierarchy (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000). The kumicho controls several chief advisors who in turn have their turfs in different cities. The turfs have their underbosses, enforcers, and accountants.
The group dates back to the period between 1603 and 1868. In this period, there were two groups, which were illegal, and they were known as tekiya and bakuto. The tekiya mainly involved themselves in illicit peddling of shoddy or stolen goods. They were considered then as the lowest group in the society. The bakuto, on the other hand, were mainly gamblers. The Tekiya people started to form personal organizations where they assigned administrative duties themselves. This was mainly commercial duties such as stall allocation as well as the protection of their commercial arrangements and activities. They mainly opened stalls during Shanito festivals. The government recognized them, and their leader was allowed to carry a sword as a mark of authority (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000). This was a vital step for the traders as only noble people were allowed to do this at that time.
The Bakuto had a lower social standing as the government did not recognize gambling. Gambling was considered to be illegal. They gambled mainly in abandoned temples and shrines, at the edge of villages and towns in Japan. The gambling houses by Bakuto ran other businesses that mainly involved in loan sharking. They also had their own security personnel. This group was regarded as a disdain to the society (Harold, 2001). The Yakuza undesirable qualities are mainly thought to have originated from the Bakuto (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000). The hard economic situation in this mid period made the merchant class to predominate the market. The Yakuza was formed of the delinquents and the misfits of the society. Their main role was to extort money from customers mainly by selling fake and shoddy goods to them. The roots of these two groups are still prevalent, especially in their initiation ceremonies such as the tequila and auto rituals (Tendo & Heal, 2007).
The Yakuza has three principle syndicates. The first is the Yamaguchi-gumi that has almost half of all the Yakuza members. It is composed of more than 55 000 members, and it is divided into 850 clans. The main function of this syndicate is to control and direct criminal activities throughout Japan. It also conducts criminal activities in the United States and Asia. They also have a function of ensuring the expansion of the group activities. This caused increased activities in Tokyo (Harold, 2001). The second syndicate group is Sumiyoshi-kai, and it contains 20,000 members. It is divided into 277 clans, and it functions like a federation. The third one is the Inagawa-kai, which has 15,000 members and 313 clans. It is mainly based in Tokyo, and it initiated the forming of Yakuza operations outside Japan. These two engage in criminal activities. They ensure they gain power to garner influence.
Drug Trafficking/Illicit Sex Activities
The functions within the different groups differ. The Yamachi-gumi syndicate forbids members from getting involved in drug trafficking but the Dojin-kai encourages its members to be involved in drug trafficking. Other syndicates are involved in the sex industries. This is accompanied by human trafficking where young girls are trafficked to be used for prostitution purposes (Harold, 2001). These girls are also used as strippers. They use mainly vulnerable women from the USA; these women are so desperate that they do not fear to appear in whatever films. They use this group to perform in pornographic movies.
The members also involve themselves in sokaiya, a Japanese form of extortion. This is a protection racket where the members ensure they do not harass the small business people. Instead, they harass the stockholders of large corporations in their meetings. Yakuza operatives purchase stock of the companies to gain access into the meetings (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000).
They also set up booster clubs to solicit fake donations from the public and politicians. They make causes that are inconsistent to host them. The invited businesspersons and politicians are normally expected to take large gifts for their hosts (Schlosstein, 1990). They also organize beauty contests to shake down corporate sponsors. Other activities include holding golf tournaments where they set unusually high entrance fees. Additionally, they also sell tickets for theater events at extremely inflated prices for their own gain.
The other activity they engage in is blackmail where they obtain negative and embarrassing information about companies and their leaders. The Yakuza gain a foothold in these companies and they blackmail the leadership to pay them or inflate the scandals (Harold, 2001). These companies include the payoffs to Yakuza in their annual budget. Some of the information they gather include the secret mistresses or existence of unsafe factory conditions. They also gather information on any unpaid tax. This favors them because shame and embarrassment are avoided in the Japanese culture (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000).
Wrestling/ Financial Industry
They also have a strong influence in the Japanese professional wrestling. The interest in most instances is financial. The Yakuza supports the wrestling activities financially because the venues that host wrestling are associated to Yakuza. As such, when the avenues are used for promotion, part of the revenue goes back to Yakuza. The Yakuza has great ties with the Japanese banking realty market (Harold, 2001). This is mainly by inducing people who hold real estate to sell these properties. The estate companies use them then to carry out large development plans. They also make extremely large investments in the mainstream companies. They ensure that non-Yakuza members manage these activities because theft is considered to be illegitimate. The non-Yakuza members who conduct these activities pay protection fees to Yakuza for their activities (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000).
In the United States, the Yakuza mainly carry their operations in Hawaii. They mainly smuggle methamphetamine into the United States. They also smuggle firearms from the United States into Japan. They easily camouflage, as there are many genuine Japanese tourists in the region. Furthermore, many Americans have a Japanese descent. This makes easy for the Yakuza to carry their illegal acts (Harold, 2001). The Yakuza in this region collaborate with local gangs to force Japanese tourists to gamble and to engage in brothel activities.
The Yakuza forms alliances in California with Korean and Vietnamese gangs. They mainly use Vietnamese because they are violent (Maruko, 2008). They collect finder’s fees from business persons and guide Japanese tourists to engage in gambling in this region. They also launder money in the USA as the FBI suspects. They are also involved in illegal immigration, in Mexico. This was especially evident in 1990 when they deceived well-educated women to go to Japan for suitable jobs. The women were forced into prostitution as soon as they arrived in Japan (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000).
Illegal Casinos/Gun Supply In Japan
In New York, they have formed illegal gambling operations by establishing illegal casinos in the city. They do this in collaboration with the American Mafia groups. The group smuggles a lot of pornographic material to Japan from Europe and America. These mainly include magazines as well as films. They also control prostitution within Japan. They buy unwanted girl-children mainly from China (Harold, 2001). They raise them and eventually lure them into prostitution in their network of nightclubs and bars. The group also organizes sex tours in East Asia; these vacations are purely for pornographic exploitations. They also supply guns in Japan. They gain their market mainly from the fact that guns are prohibited in this region. The Yakuza takes advantage of this by illegally supplying to any person who needs a gun. They supply automatic guns from America and Europe.
Yakuza also engages in humanitarian activities. This was evident in the Kobe earthquake in1995. During this tragedy, the Yakuza provided support and care for the victims. These included such supplies like food and shelter as well as medical supplies. Their response was reportedly better than that offered by the government. The organization in this period opened their offices to the public. They helped people locate their families and friends. They kept their identity secret, as they feared the public would reject it (Maruko, 2008).
Goals of the Yakuza
Yakuza intends to gain political power all over the world. This is clear because some Yakuza bosses used this power to create political empires. This, in turn, served to accelerate their political power. An example of such a leader is Yoshio Kodama who sold war materials in the Second World War. He bought them from China under duress, and he made a fortune from the sales. He used his power and control to shape the politics of Japan. He also used his resources to shape the Japanese economy through the influence in the business world. This was also apparent in the case of Kazuo Taoka who led Yamaguchi-gumi (Harold, 2001). The Japanese government had low tolerance towards the power the group. The group gains political power from its resources (Kaplan & Dubro, 2000). It is known that extremely large amount of money move in and out of the Yakuza group coffers annually. The group is very powerful in political and business arena. Politically, the group is partially protected by the law because there are some politicians in the syndicates. This hinders the police from ambushing the group (Maruko, 2008).
Conclusively, the Yakuza group has much political and business control. The group is involved in purely illegal activities that deprive other people of their rights. This is especially concerning the sexual exploitation of purely innocent girls. This should not be acceptable in any part of the world. Unfortunately, the group is expanding its activities outside Asia to America and other parts of the world. They have vast resources that give them influence all over the world. They also use tactics to blackmail companies in Japan into paying them large sum of money. This group should be watched closely, and more vigor should be put to ensure their illegal activities end (Harold, 2001).