① Organized Crime In The 20th Century

Friday, September 10, 2021 10:53:08 PM

Organized Crime In The 20th Century

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Gambling was strictly forbidden during Tokugawa times and remains illegal in Japan to this day. The bakuto took to the highways, fleecing unsuspecting marks with dice games or with hanafuda card games. They often sported colorful tattoos all over their bodies, which led to the custom of full-body tattooing for modern-day yakuza. From their core business as gamblers, the bakuto branched out naturally into loan sharking and other illegal activities. Even today, specific yakuza gangs may identify themselves as tekiya or bakuto, depending on how they make the majority of their money.

They also retain rituals used by the earlier groups as part of their initiation ceremonies. Since the end of World War II , yakuza gangs have rebounded in popularity after a lull during the war. The Japanese government estimated in that there were more than , yakuza members working in Japan and abroad, in 2, different families. Despite the official end of discrimination against burakumin in , more than years later, many gang members are descendants of that outcast class.

Others are ethnic Koreans, who also face considerable discrimination in Japanese society. Traces of the gangs' origins can be seen in the signature aspects of yakuza culture today. For example, many yakuza sport full-body tattoos which are made with traditional bamboo or steel needles, rather than modern tattooing guns. The tattooed area may even include the genitals, an incredibly painful tradition. The yakuza members usually remove their shirts while playing cards with each other and display their body art, a nod to the bakuto traditions, although they generally cover up with long sleeves in public. Another feature of yakuza culture is the tradition of yubitsume or severing the joint of the little finger. Yubitsume is performed as an apology when a yakuza member defies or otherwise displeases his boss.

The guilty party cuts off the top joint of his left pinkie finger and presents it to the boss; additional transgressions lead to the loss of additional finger joints. This custom originated in Tokugawa times; the loss of finger joints makes the gangster's sword grip weaker, theoretically leading him to depend more on the rest of the group for protection. Today, many yakuza members wear prosthetic fingertips to avoid being conspicuous. The largest yakuza syndicates operating today are the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, which includes about half of all active yakuza in Japan; the Sumiyoshi-kai, which originated in Osaka and boasts about 20, members; and the Inagawa-kai, out of Tokyo and Yokohama, with 15, members.

The gangs engage in criminal activities such as international drug-smuggling, human trafficking, and arms smuggling. However, they also hold significant amounts of stock in large, legitimate corporations, and some have close ties with the Japanese business world, the banking sector, and the real estate market. Interestingly, after the devastating Kobe earthquake of January 17, , it was the Yamaguchi-gumi who first came to the aid of victims in the gang's home city. Likewise, after the earthquake and tsunami, different yakuza groups sent truck-loads of supplies to the affected area. Another counter-intuitive benefit from the yakuza is the suppression of petty criminals. Kobe and Osaka, with their powerful yakuza syndicates, are among the safest towns in a generally safe nation because small-fry crooks do not trespass on yakuza territory.

Despite these surprising social benefits of the yakuza, the Japanese government has cracked down on the gangs in recent decades. If you are interested in finding out more about the library and available resources, please take a look at our homepage! Click HERE. Want to see whats going on in the Library but don't have the time to stop by? Check us out on Instagram! In April the Library put together an exhibit focusing on Crime Fiction. Click here and here to take a look at some photos! Click HERE to take a look!

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