Younger Japanese appear less likely to regard the yakuza as a menace, and one in ten of them consider Japan’s organized crime groups to be a necessary evil, a recent study revealed. The Nara Prefecture Police Department, working with the local government as part of their efforts to enact an effective “Organized Crime Exclusionary Ordinance”, issued a questionnaire in October 2010 to gauge current attitudes towards organized crime. The results, which were published this week, indicate that younger Nara residents have a weaker sense of danger concerning the yakuza than middle-aged or elderly residents.
Residents who visited the Nara driver license center were asked to participate; 1086 responded. To the question “What do you think of organized crime?”, 75 percent of those over 50 choose the response, “They are anti-social groups which society should not allow to exist.” Only 35 percent of those under 40 chose the same response.
Only 3 percent of those over 50 would say that “The existence of the yakuza is not a bad thing” or “The existence of the yakuza is a necessary evil,” while 13 percent of the younger group agreed with these statements.
With the statement, “The existence of the yakuza makes me uneasy,” 57 percent of the older group agreed, as opposed to only 37 percent of the younger group.
The Nara Police Department Organized Crime Control Division 2 speculates that there are many young people who are unaware of the way the yakuza actually operate in society. The goal of the ordinance is to shut out organized crime from society, and the police have said they will continue to work hard to make this an effective ordinance.
The idea that the yakuza are “a necessary evil” is not a new one in Japan. Even some police officers also quietly espouse the theory, arguing that the only thing worse than organized crime would be disorganized crime. Books like Necessary Evil, by a corrupt ex-prosecutor, and the yakuza fan magazines all expound on the theme that yakuza are an integral part of Japan’s public safety. Apparently, a surprising number of ordinary citizens believe this as well, but the older the citizen is the less likely he or she is to consider them (the yakuza) acceptable any longer. It’s not clear what is the cause of the discrepancy.
Note: It should be kept in mind that the respondents to this survey were answering at police run facility which probably skewed their answers towards a more negative direction. I’d imagine that in reality, the number of individuals who think the yakuza are a necessary evil and/or not a serious problem are even higher than the survey suggests. The popularity of the Yakuza video game series (Ryu Ga Gotoku) in Japan and the never-ending stream of comic books, movies, and fan magazines glorifying their lives and history suggests that many Japanese still are tolerant of their existence and in some cases, even supportive.
*Stephanie Nakajima (中島）co-authored this article.