Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yakuza in Japan

The January version of the New Yorker has a fascinating article about Jake Adelstein, an American investigative reporter in Japan who writes about the yakuza.  Some interesting bits:

1. There are more than 80,000 yakuza in Japan, "whereas in America the Mafia had only five thousand in its heyday".
2.  Many Japanese companies have ties to the yakuza.  The yakuza are involved with real estate development and run hedge funds.
3.  TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima nuclear reactors has ties to the yakuza, and many of the cleanup crew have bodies covered with tatoos.
4.  The yakuza and the police had mutual respect, and when a yakuza killed someone, they would turn themselves into the police.  The police in turn would notify yakuza before making a bust.
5.  The new generation of yakuza is much violent and will engage in theft or robbery of "civilians", which was unheard of before.

In the late 1990s, the yakuza got into finance. Yamaguchi-gumi leader Masaru Takumi set the example as first of a new breed— the economic yakuza—observing that “from now on, the first thing a yakuza needs to do when he gets up in the morning is read the business section of the newspaper.” The Yamaguchi-gumi have been particularly interested in venture firms, buying up stocks and creating markets with hundreds of listed companies, all with mob connections. In the 2008 edition of their annual report on crime in Japan, the National Police Agency (NPA) added a special section on the rapid emergence of organized crime into Japan’s securities and financial markets. The NPA report was a surprisingly stark admission of the crisis, with the police conceding they were fighting to protect Japan’s international reputation as much as its economy. The report went on to state that the yakuza had become frequent stock-traders, adept at market manipulation. The NPA warned that the yakuza’s move from “old-fashioned” crime rackets like drugs and prostitution, to mainstream financial markets is “a disease that will shake the foundations of the economy.”

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