Japan’s criminal underworld, the Yakuza, has links that go back 400 years to the Edo era. The various gangs that make up the Japanese mafia have different origins, but many claim that the Yakuza descend from Robin-Hood-like characters who defended their villages against roving bandits.
But their days of protecting the weak against the strong are long gone. Today, the Yakuza is a mighty and entrenched criminal network with nearly 80,000 members operating in 22 crime syndicates, and raking in billions of dollars a year.
With their links to drug and prostitution rings, corporate crimes and deadly shootings, Japanese officials want choke the Yakuza’s existence by starving them financially.
A new law, the Organised Crime Exclusion Ordinance, was implemented nationwide late last year. Under this law, the National Police Agency and other government departments are trying to get businesses to stamp out mafia links, directing banks to increase safeguards to stop money-laundering, cut off loans to mob-related companies and deny bank accounts to individuals with known gangster ties.
One of the main targets is the nation’s multi-billion dollar construction industry where the Yakuza have long run rampant by pressuring developers to pay ‘protection money’, or using front companies to win lucrative contracts.
But the mobs refuse to back down. In desperation, some are retaliating viciously against civilians while others are finding clever ways to survive.