Yakuza, also known as Japanese mafia or gokudo, has been in power for many years. Although acting mostly behind the screens, this crime syndicate has been in control of Japanese economy through illegal finance and business operations. What is the state of Yakuza today and is it still as powerful as earlier?
Before we talk about the position of Yakuza in modern Japan, it is reasonable to give some background of this mysterious organization. The origin of the gang is ambiguous, but it is generally considered to date back to year 1612. With time, the nature and the purpose of the gang transformed and the most powerful Yakuza became after WWII. Eventually, the syndicate became so strong that the traces of its work could be found in every aspect of Japanese life. Many speculate that the most influential Japanese celebrities, politicians, executives and businesspersons all have ties with Yakuza. The most common and influential activities practiced by the gang are drug and human trafficking, protection racket, blackmail, money laundering and international crimes.
Nevertheless, Yakuza is still not recognized as an illegal organization in Japan, and most members like to proudly demonstrate their membership. One of the reasons of its legal status is that despite the fact that the gang performs a lot of criminal actions, it also contributes to the public in a positive way. For example, Yakuza was noted to be a lot quicker than the Japanese government when it came to helping the victims of earthquakes and tsunamis that shook Japan. The reason for such actions comes from the strict code of justice and honor, which the gang follows, and its belief that you can never trust the government to help the needed.
As far as modern days are concerned, the power of Yakuza is still present all over Japan. It is estimated that around eighty thousand people are members of the gang, although their financial influence is now centered mostly on real estate and small businesses. Despite the fact that the organization itself is not deemed illegal, the actions, in which it is often involved, are still considered criminal, and recently a great number of Yakuza members have been arrested. Although the police cannot ban the organization itself, in 2010 and 2011 new laws were agreed to make any cooperation with Yakuza illegal. This was a powerful strike against the strength of the gang because it heavily relied on small businesses. The same refers to international partnership. The USA, for example, makes all the efforts to avoid doing business with any Japanese companies that have any relation to Yakuza.
It seems that Japanese legal system has finally gathered enough courage to deal with the criminal gang and is working towards eliminating its influence. However, due to the fact that members of Yakuza are present in virtually all spheres of Japanese life, it might be difficult to completely eradicate their influence. As for now, the situation remains unsolved.