At first, when I turned to the subject of
yakuza I planned to write one article, but then I realized that this was quite
a broad topic that required more detailed study, and it could not be fit into
one article. So I decided to split this topic into several parts and to
consider it in the context of several aspects. Today let us look at the history
of yakuza and trace its development to the present day.
History carries us into the Middle Ages to
during the reign of the Tokugawa clan. After the legendary battle of
Sekigahara, when Tokugawa Ieyasu’s troops crushed Ishida Mitsunari, the feudal
strife was over; finally Tokugawa Ieyasu unified the country, and relatively
peaceful period had eventually been established on Japanese soil. A huge army
of about 500,000 people became "jobless" and being unnecessary it had
been disbanded. This led to appearance of ronins in Japan – they were samurais who were
left without their lords.
Obviously ronins could not do anything
except fighting (or might not want to retrain for civil occupations). What
added more to this was the fact that the state had isolated the country from
the outside world and imposed significant restrictions on foreign economic
relations which led to the rise of trade within the country and agricultural
development. Therefore, there was the growing influence of traders as a class,
and the significance of samurai, on the contrary, decreased. We could even say
that the samurai fell into some dependence because their salaries were paid in
kind, i.e. rice, which they were forced to sell in the market and that trade was
supposed humiliating for once warriors.
To get rid of trading activities
disgraceful to them, many samurai began to use force methods to ensure their living.
In addition, high taxes, famine and natural disasters had led to the fact that social
situation in the country escalated, and this in turn resulted in moral values
lowering level for many of the samurai, who started to be
engaged in illegal activities. They gathered in
gangs and robbed peaceful peasants, merchants, travelers, and especially large
groups attacked villages, or even the whole towns. As a reminder for Tokugawa shogun
and whom he owes his state power to, they started to mockingly call themselves "servants
of the shogun" - Hatamoto-Yakko. Common people also gave them a nickname
of kabuki-mono which means "clown" or "crazy." This nickname
was given due to the fact that these gangs had special "theater-style"
hair and pretentious clothes like in typical performances of Kabuki theater of that
The state at that time could not ensure
the security of ordinary citizens in full measure, because it was occupied controlling
the isolation of Japan
from the outside world. Most efforts were focused on identifying all kinds of
imaginary and real spies and enemies of the government. Therefore, law
enforcement agencies were ill-equipped and poor-armed, and many officers of
police departments had not even been properly trained. It was the beginning of
establishing a sort of self-defense units and brigades that were called machi-yakko
("city guards"). Their task was to fight and defend against
kabuki-mono gangs. However, too many not very good people were recruited to
machi-yakko - the foundation of the city guards were unreliable small town hooligans,
bullies, adventurers, fans of stabbing, etc.
Actions of machi-yakko units cannot be
called unambiguous. On the one hand, the "city guards" enjoyed love
and respect from the common people, as they had won some convincing victories
over the kabuki-mono, and, like Robin Hood, were considered national heroes, in
whose honor the legends and theatrical productions
were being staged. On the other hand, there was a
downside because of the contingent of machi-yakko: most of the time they were
making rampageous tricks, gambling and drinking alcohol. Moreover, there were
cases when machi-yakko came to villages ravaged by ronins and completed the dirty
work initiated by their opponents, while farmers were doomed to death by
The government did not pay much attention
to such unbridled behavior of machi-yakko, so sometimes such robberies were
encouraged by the government for the purposes of greater loyalty of the city guards
to authorities. Thus, the shogunate was trying defeat the rampaging kabuki-mono
by hand of machi-yakko. And this is understandable, because the Tokugawa
Shogunate thought that even the former, but well-trained soldiers of the
regular army were much more dangerous than chaotically organized city guards.
Apparently the ronins, despite their war experience, but without support of the
shogunate, had lost to the latter-day machi-yakko precisely because of the lack
of material resources and their disunity. Contrary to the expectations of the
government after victories over the gangs of kabuki-mono the city guards were
not even thinking about disbanding. And after some time they became one of the
social strata which gave a start to yakuza.
In addition to machi-yakko, there were two
specific types of groups involved in not quite legitimate, and often explicitly
illegal activities: tekiya and bakuto. Let us trace the origin and history of
each of these phenomena.
Originally tekiya derived from yashi
- "quacks" traveling all over Japan, who were selling a variety of
herbal drugs, tinctures, etc. Gradually the range of their products widened,
and they became known as tekiya. With
regard to the terminology of the Middle Ages the word can be translated as
"peddlers", although in the modern sense tekiya has two basic meanings: 1. merchant counterfeiting, rogue;
2. street vendor, hawker. And indeed products offered by tekiya were mostly not good, of poor quality, fake, if not stolen.
It goes without saying that tekiya were subjected to reprisals by
disgruntled and cheated customers. In addition, such business itself included
traveling, so there were frequent cases of robberies. To avoid such problems,
peddlers began to organize themselves into groups. Accordingly, the trade began
to acquire a more orderly nature and tekiya
began to control the markets and fairs, introducing rent for retail space,
safety and security. It is believed that the modern structure of relationships
within the yakuza which is called oyabun
kobun -that is a hierarchical system that prescribes the subordination to
the head of the family, the youngest to the senior status, was originated in tekiya circles. Finally, the influence
of tekiya became so great that the
government had officially recognized these organizations, and their heads were
allowed to have a family name and carry two swords, which until then was
considered a privilege only of the samurai class and nobility.
After having official status, tekiya realized their impunity and shifted
from defending the merchants to usual extortion, or simply racketeering, when they extorted
money from the same vendors, which in theory they were supposed to protect. In
modern parlance, they became the "roof" (or associated "family”) of
markets and fairs, distributing trading platforms under control among their
After the Great War, Japan was in need of restoration
and modernization of infrastructure. The country needed new roads, irrigation
systems and other communications. Because of the lack of funds for all of these
things, the Tokugawa government went to the trick, and although gambling was not
legally permitted, it began to hire professional card players called bakuto to win back the money that
workers who were engaged in construction of various objects were given as
salary. It often turned out that a worker squandered all the money at the card
table, and the next salary paid to him was his money that he had lost the day
before. New work force was involved in the same way - if bakuto saw a lounging idler in the streets, they fraudulently lured
him into a gambling house, fleeced him to the bone, and even drove him into
debt, so that he would pay the debt by working without payment on a
construction site. Thus, we can conclude that spreading of bakuto was done on orders from above, providing virtually free
The most common and popular game is
considered oyte Cabo, reminding us of the principle of "twenty one"
or the American game «blackjack». The essence of the game was as follows: the
players could be heard on the three cards to win became one with the last digit
of the sum of three cards was more. The most unfortunate combination of cards
that could fall off the player - eight, nine and three, that is $ 20 and the
last digit is 0. This combination is called in Japanese, I-ku-sa (in
staroyaponskom I - eight ku - nine self-three). In the jargon of Bakut meant
"something useless, having no meaning," so those who, because of
their dishonest card or other professional talent could win in this situation,
became known as the yakuza, which subsequently became the name of the Japanese
Before the Meiji Restoration, the yakuza
existed in relatively unaltered form. With the loss of power of the shogunate
ended a period of isolation from the outside world, and began the process of
reforming, and reforming the Europeanized, which led to a greater degree of
democratization of the country of the rising sun. This was the impetus for the
development of trade, and especially small and medium-sized businesses, which
became fertile ground for racketeering and extortion in the light of the fact
that the traditional source of income for the yakuza - gambling was banned and
the authorities have tightened control measures in this direction. Radical
changes have affected all of society, and with it the criminal environment.
By that time it eliminated the need for
mother-Yakko, whose troops were disbanded. Existed as a separate Bakut tekiya
and began to merge into one group, discovering new areas of activity. For
example, the reforms have allowed the political parties and political scene
turned out to be very helpful for use by criminals of their abilities are not
sturdy, and most importantly the means by which they have implemented them.
Yakuza have been an effective tool in the hands of politicians who gave them
certain concessions in exchange for blackmail, bribery, intimidation of voters,
elimination of political rivals.
In a political sense for the yakuza were
most similar to the views of militarists and ultra-nationalists, better known
as "right wing" or ueku that the yakuza (in exchange for loyalty to
his attitude) for supplying the people of those or other acts of violence, as
ueku considered violence is one means of achieving political goals. But with the
beginning of World War II militaristic ruling elite decided that the yakuza are
allowed too much, so most of the gang members were conscripted into the army,
while the rest ended up in jail.
With the end of the war marked the
emergence of a new type of yakuza groups - gurentay, bands of militant youths
who seized all the black market in Japan. In the post-war devastation,
which was a country that does not have the necessary goods, which led to
extensive development of illegal trade. And even the administration of U.S. occupation
forces could not make a difference and take control of the Yakuza, admitting
that he could not do anything with an emerging organized crime. We can say that
the yakuza "Americanized" - apparently they were more like the
American gangsters, and on methods of work not inferior to them. In the early
60s of the twentieth century the number of Yakuza was a little less than two
hundred thousand people belonging to more than five thousand different groups.
It was more than the number of Self-Defense Forces of Japan!
Apart from the fact that the Yakuza are
constantly terrorized the civilian population, were frequent conflicts between
themselves and the criminal gangs. Ending beschinstvovaniyam and
"streamline" the Japanese underworld was a man named Yoshio Kodama, a
former ultra-nationalist, who in time of war was an adviser to the Prime
Minister. After taking into custody by U.S.
occupation forces, he began to work on U.S. intelligence, which later was
useful to him in the smoothing of the confrontation the Americans and the
yakuza. In addition, in mid-60s he became the main figure, which put an end to
strife between the clans, acting chief envoy to the reconciliation of mafia
structures of postwar Japan.
In a kind of credit he can deliver what the yakuza clan system became the kind,
which remains to this day.
In the early 90s, the Japanese government
adopted the so-called "Act on the prevention of illegal actions of members
of criminal gangs," which was an unequivocal ban on the "protection
racket" of business, the former chief source of income for the yakuza, and
was given the definition of an organized criminal group, borekudan. This led to
protests by the yakuza, which over decades rather firmly integrated into all
spheres of the shadow economy, society and state. But the government insisted,
and, having received public support did not change its position.
With the collapse of
bubble economy and the beginning of a prolonged recession for the Yakuza have
come on hard times. But we can not say that this will lead to the destruction
of a fairly stable system of the underworld, as illegal activities thrive
regardless of economic situation in general. And even during the global
financial crisis, the yakuza confident enough to stand on their feet.