Today on October 1st, both here in Tokyo and in Okinawa, organized crime exclusionary laws (暴力団排除条例-boryokudan haijojorei) go into effect, thus making all of Japan a lot less yakuza friendly; it’s the start of the Big Chill. The laws vary in the details, but they all criminalize sharing profits with the yakuza (aka Japanese mafia) or paying them off.
In other words, if you pay protection money to the yakuza, or use them to facilitate your business affairs, you will be treated as a criminal. You may be warned once, your name released to the public, and fined or imprisoned, or all of the above, if you persist in doing business with the yakuza.
However, what is particularly vexing to the yakuza, is that any payments to the yakuza are criminalized. For example, if the yakuza are blackmailing you or extorting cash from you and you pay them off, you are no longer a victim–you are also a criminal under the new laws. Thus, for most people the benefits of throwing yen at the yakuza to keep them quiet start to fade. Blackmail/extortion is a huge money maker for the mob in Japan. Roughly 45% of all people arrested for the crime (恐喝/kyokatsu) in Japan are yakuza members (circa 2010). Hush money is big business but only when people will pay you to hush up. When they start going to the police as soon as you try to shake them down, the business model falls apart.
A retired police detective explains the law very simply, “The new laws will make the price of paying off the yakuza, in loss of face and in penalties, much more expensive than the actual cash payments to the yakuza. It highly incentives firms not to cooperate or collude with organized crime, much as the revisions to the commerce law in December 1997, made it unacceptable for large listed companies to pay off sokaiya (総会屋) aka racketeers. After a few major company executives were arrested along with the bad guys for (利益供与/riekikyo) the pay-offs drastically declined, as did the number of sokaiya.”
The price for being publicly linked to the yakuza are not only public humiliation, increased police scrutiny, and possible punishment, but for businesses it can mean a huge loss of revenue, cash flow problems when banks refuse to loan money, revocation of licenses, and possible termination of rental agreements for office space. For any small business, being outed as a yakuza front company is more than likely to result in bankruptcy or eviction. On an individual level, it means being fired or forced to resign from your occupation, as was the case of popular comedian and TV host, Shimda Shinsuke in August.
The new ordinances do not have exclusions for foreign firms. They obligate all companies operating within Tokyo to follow the ordinance and to insert organized crime exclusionary clauses into their contracts, and make an effort not to do business with the yakuza and/or other anti-social forces. The Tokyo ordinance is unusual in that it includes, a “do tell, and we won’t ask” escape clause. If you go to the police, before they come to you, and tell them that you have been working with the yakuza, the police will exempt you from the ordinance and help you sever relations. (*Unless you have been using the yakuza to threaten people).
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has assembled a cross-divisional team of over 100 officers to put the new laws into effect. As one police source puts it, “There’s only one daimon (coat of arms) that’s allowed in the Tokyo now. That’s the sakurada-mon.*“
Prior to the law going into effect, in July of this year, President Obama, in an executive order, declared the yakuza a threat to the national security of United States and the world, and authorized seizure and freezing of any related assets in the US. Both at home and abroad, times are getting tough for the yakuza.The autumn of the yakuza in Japan, starts today, on October 1st. A cold winter is on the way. There is growing pressure to remove the yakuza from Japanese society. They are unlikely to quietly walk away with a whimper but rather they will leave with a bang. It remains to be seen how ready Japan is for that recoil.
*Memo: A reference to the Tokyo Metro Police coat of arms, 桜田紋 (sakurada-mon). All yakuza groups have a coat of arms or crest —daimon: 代紋–that represents the group. The Yamaguchi-gumi coat of arms aka daimon is often called, hishi-gata because of its shape. Organized crime cops in Tokyo, because of their similarity in appearance to the yakuza they arrest, sometimes jokingly refer to the flower-symbol of the TMPD, as their own daimon (代紋). Sakurada literally means, “field of cherry blossoms.” Sakuradamon is also the name of the closest subway station to the TMPD Headquarters.
20 thoughts on “October 1st: Nationwide in Japan Anti-Yakuza Laws Go Into Effect: "Do Tell, We Won't Ask."”
“It remains to be seen how ready Japan is for that recoil.”
I wonder. Paying off the Comorra in Italy has been illegal for quite some time, but it is still prevalent. In the words of a coworker of mine, “This will just make them hide better. You only get charged if you get caught.”
I hope his cynicism isn’t borne out to truth. Time will tell.
You mention in the headline Nationwide laws, yet you refer to a Tokyo ordinance – so I’m a bit confused as to whether this is a national law or city by-law…
What’s the actual scope of the laws being introduced?
When will they implement this in Osaka? 🙂
Osaka has already implemented laws. To make a long story short, or at least I’ll attempt to do so, the National Police Agency has urged local governments across Japan to put these ordinances on the books, one at a time.
Why didn’t they get a nationwide single unified law past? That’s because the Democratic Party of Japan, the ruling party of Japan, is tightly connected to the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group. Recently, it emerged that the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maehara, received large campaign contributions from Jun Shinohara, former advisor to the Yamaguchi-gumi Goto-gumi and also a participant in the Ryozanpaku stock manipulation scandal. DPJ politicians with heavy ties to the yakuza are not unusual and since 2007, the Yamaguchi-gumi and the Inagawa-kai have supported DPJ and urged their members to do so as well.
In exchange the DPJ has kept a criminal conspiracy law off the books. The prefecture by prefecture passing of organized crime exclusionary ordinances was done by Takaharu Ando, the head of the National Police Agency, essentially outwitting the ruling party. Not democratic but highly effective.
Now since key money is technically a bribe, if your landlord is affiliated are you paying him off? I wonder if this will infiltrate the other ingrained systems of implied “gift giving” here.
Good question. The answer would probably be yes but since key money is a one time thing, usually, you’d get a warning and that would be it.
Cheers Jake, thank you for taking the time to explain.
You’re welcome. I hope it was helpful.
Have you read the interview with the top of the Yamaguchi-gumi?
Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on what he had to say.
I have. He says some things that are true. I’m going to try and get permission to print a translation.
let’s not insinuate that the djp is the only party with ties to the yakuza, as that would be ludicrous, and possibly an attempt to manipulate public opinion here with the aim of prompting an agenda supporting the ldp, which would be even more ludicrous.
Of course, the LDP has a long history with them. However, write now the DPJ is their party of choice.
If what he says in the above quote is true, that would be a big blow to
undercover operations but I think the Kumi-cho is blowing smoke about that.
Organized crime isn’t something you can totally eliminate. You can only
“control” it from getting out of hand. Even with small street gangs, a cop
I know said “I have been arresting the same people for over 30 years.”
What about Kamei Shizuka?
I bet he should get into trouble too. That’s the most Yakuza-like politician I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just talking about his looks.
Well, senior bureaucrats in the National Police Agency, where Kamei used to work, have said he’s a yakuza associate but unless he’s caught paying the yakuza money or receiving money from them–he may be in the clear.
As far as the ordinance goes.
What does this law mean for politicians? You wrote that many of them receive support from various Yakuza organizations. Wouldn’t that constitute doing business with them? How do you know if someone has left the Yakuza? Didn’t you say that Goto Tadamasa left and became a monk and now is back in with a different gang? To me its like American tax evasion, as long as its in cash, try and prove it. Unfortunately, I think the ordinance is too ambiguous and will face alot of legal hurdles.
It won’t face many legal hurdles. Japanese justice in practice is “presumed guilty until proven guilty.”
Very interesting story. Quick question: How does this law affect Yoshimoto Kogyo or Burning Productions? If, as you’ve written in previous stories, it’s regarded as a front company for the mob, does this mean that all the networks will/should not use their celebs?
If all goes well, that will be the case.
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Perhaps the executives of Olympus will have an opportunity in the near future to deal with these new regulations. The details of what has come out in the past few days screams organized crime. The description of the overpayment of commissions and overvaluing of properties only to be immediately written down reminded me of the real estate deal in “A Taxing Woman Returns” but Juzo Itami. This could become a monster of a story about organized crime and its relationships with major Japanese corporations.