Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld

Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld

Known for their striking full-body tattoos and severed fingertips, Japan's gangsters comprise a criminal class eighty thousand strongmore than four times the size of the American Mafia.

Originally published in 1986, Yakuza was so controversial in Japan that it could not be published there for five years.

But in the West it has long served as the standard reference on Japanese organized crime, inspiring novels, screenplays, and criminal investigations.

The result is a searing indictment of corruption in the world's second-largest economy.This updated, expanded, and thoroughly revised edition of Yakuza tells the full story of Japan's remarkable crime syndicates, from their feudal start as bands of medieval outlaws to their emergence as billion-dollar investors in real estate, big business, art, and more.

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When it comes to Japan, people are often eager to point to low violent crime rates to make a case for a harmonious, conflict-less society. Like many parts of organised crime, there is a strong connection between mobsters and the far right, even open fascism. But what also feeds into the mob power is the extreme xenophobia displayed in japanese society towards Koreans and 'Burakumin', who face strong discrimination that accounts for the disproportionate amount of them hired by the Yakuza, and opens up a market for human trafficking and sex slavery.

But, as this book proves, there must be a pervasive acceptance of crime and corruption for groups like the yakuza to become so entrenched in the society up to the highest levels of commerce and sometimes government. Jake Adelstein seems to be on his way to bringing the world up to date on the yakuza activities that are dropped off from in the late 90s and early 00s in this book with books like his latest Tokyo Vice.

The Yakuza have a shocking history that includes the fact they've militarized numerous time and become Far Right paramilitary organizations while simultaneously being bastions for Japan's lowest castes or ethnic minorities (about 15% of the Yakuza are Korean or Burakumin). The pair of authors mostly document the systematic web of corruption the Yakuza have managed to weave around Japan's corporations, government, and public. The Yakuza keep crime in Japan organized and out of sight in a way that, ironically, that makes it very public.

It surveys the last three hundred years of the Japanese underworld groups known as the Yakuza. At times they have worked alongside of sitting political leaders to help accomplish the goals of government.

The importance of "saving face" or mantaining a reputation and apologies; resolving disputes outside the police creates fertile ground for more sophisticated crimes like blackmail or bribery.

My view of Japan has changed after having read this book.

The Yakuza are involved in a number of areas such as prostitution, pornography, drugs, gambling, loan-sharking, trucking, smuggling, extortion, and the construction and entertainment industries. They became involved in stopping Koreans, Chinese and Taiwanese who had been brought to Japan basically as slave labor, and who were taking their anger out after the war by attacking Japanese. During the occupation, the Yakuza became involved in the black market enterprises, which were numerous. The occupation also caused the Yakuza to begin to appear different, more like the American mafia groups. The author includes a listing of the major Yakuza groups as of 2001, along with their address, their leader, and their membership. The relationship between Japanese police and the Yakuza is discussed, and how some police sort of support the Yakuza due to their linking with right-wing groups. In an odd way they actually help police, since they represent organized crime and they tend to stop much unorganized crime (which is harder to solve, basically) from happening.

  • English

  • Nonfiction

  • Rating: 3.86
  • Pages: 422
  • Publish Date: February 1st 2003 by University of California Press
  • Isbn10: 0520215621
  • Isbn13: 9780520215627