Notes On The Yakuza Lobby: How The Underworld Asserts Itself In The Political Sphere

For the student of Japanese politics and anti-social forces I’ve linked to further resources here in this post.

(From Foreign Policy 12/14/2012TOKYO — Japan’s leaders are going on trial this month — in the court of public opinion, though some of them may be concerned about facing the more traditional kind.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), who has been in power for a bit over a year, dissolved Japan’s parliament, the Diet on Nov. 16 after a series of scandals drove his poll numbers to an all-time low. The final straw was his appointment of mob-linked Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka, who resigned on Oct. 23 — ostensibly for health reasons. A weekly magazine had reported on Oct. 11 that Tanaka had strong ties to the yakuza, Japan’s organized crime groups — which presumably isn’t great for one’s health.

For the rest of article please go to the FP website.

Because of Japan’s personal privacy protection laws, created by ethically challenged politicians to discourage magazine reporters from writing about their scandals and organized crime ties, I’m limited in what I can post here for readers who would like to know more about the Japanese ruling coalition and its ties to the underworld–but here are some useful items.

This links to a PDF showing  Political contributions from a Yamaguchi-gumi boss to a DPJ member. Of the donors, only Jun Shinohara (篠原寿) was officially recognized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department as being a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi Mio-gumi, aka Goryo-kai, now known as the Yamaguchi-gumi Shimizu-ikka. His company, Media 21, was also recognized as a Yamaguchi-gumi front company in police materials circa 2007.  (The Yamaguchi-gumi is Japan’s largest organized crime group.) Mr. Shinohara was also an advisor for Tadamasa Goto, one of the most notorious and ruthless Yamaguchi-gumi bosses who was exiled from the group on October 14th, 2008–showing that the Yamaguchi-gumi has some ethical standards.

Many of Shinohara’s front companies share the same address as Media 21. I was only able to post 3 pages out of 34 pages of supporting documents due to privacy concerns. Note: Political donation records are public domain materials.  There is no evidence that anyone working for Mr. Shinohara or at his companies is also connected to organized crime or was connected to organized crime and no such implication is meant. Only Media 21 was listed as a Yamaguchi-gumi front company although it shares the same address as several other companies. 

You may notice in the records that Media 21 was listed in earlier submitted donation records as a company in Chiba and then corrected in pen. The Tokyo Prosecutors Office received a complaint that the mix-up was a deliberate attempt to disguise connections between former DPJ head, Seiji Maehara and the Yamaguchi-gumi, but this has not been proven. Attempts to contact Shinohara as to his current relationship with organized crime were unsuccessful.

The book  The Taboos About Japan That No One Can Write (誰も書けなかった日本のタブー)also has interesting chapter on the donations made by yakuza members to other DPJ member including Prime Minister Noda (as of 12/14/2012).  Senator Shoji Nishida (LDP) also wrote a well-researched piece about the problematic donations from yakuza members to the DPJ in the December 2011 edition of WILL Magazine. The article is entitled, “The DPJ Rule and Money” (民主党とカネ). Other sources, such as the Yukan Fuji article on the Yamaguchi-gumi support of the DPJ or Shincho 45 (October 2010) which had an interesting article called “The DPJ and The Yamaguchi-gumi (民主党と山口組)” are not publicly available but can found in the library or be purchased. Copyright restrictions don’t allow me to post the materials here.


The Taboos Of Japan That No One Can Write About (誰も書けなかった日本のタブー)has a fairly well-written chapter on dubious donations by yakuza associates to several members of the DPJ, including soon to be former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.



Yakuza Comix: An Illustrated Guide To The Front Company フロント企業図解

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course, if it’s a thousand words of bullshit–the picture isn’t actually that useful. Hopefully, this is worth at least 800 words.

Understanding organized crime in Japan isn’t always easy. It gets more and more difficult as time goes by and the yakuza move underground. The first anti-organized crime laws in Japan went on the books in 1992. (暴力団対策法). Yakuza groups could no longer openly display their group emblems or their names. So what they did is incorporate themselves, setting up companies or associations, creating what Takashi Arimori called “The Yakuza Company” aka “front companies.”  As the anti-organized crime laws have gotten stricter, these front companies have evolved and the yakuza associated businesses have diversified.

Last year,  in Tokyo and in Okinawa, organized crime exclusionary laws (暴力団排除条例-boryokudan haijojorei)  went  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. The laws were designed to help crush the front companies and cooperative entities that increasingly bring in major revenue for organized crime.

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.

To give you an idea of the scale of organized crime front companies in Japan, in Tokyo alone, there were over  1,000 at the end of 2010. And those are simply the ones that the police were able to identify. If you include new venture companies that were bankrolled by the yakuza behind the scenes, the numbers go even higher. A noted economist once called the yakuza Japan’s second largest private equity group. It makes sense. Yakuza are gamblers and there is no greater gamble than betting on a new company or business model. Of course, if you own a number of auditing firms, securities companies, and have the capital to manipulate stock prices—it helps get the company off the ground successfully. Sometimes an organized crime group will raise up a company, pull back, and make sure they get a steady kickback. Most of the time when the yakuza bank roll a company, they nurture it until it’s successful, often breaking the law in the process–pump up the stock prices, sell at a profit—and then loot the company out of all its assets before it goes under and start all over again.

Goodwill Group. Ltd,, a temporary staffing agency/rest home manager, now delisted,  is a prime example of what was once considered a great promising young company eaten alive by the yakuza. Whether the yakuza were on board from the beginning or not is unclear–but they were involved in feasting on the flesh of the corpse–that’s for certain. Suruga Corporation is another example of a yakuza front company that got its wings clipped.  Recently, the  Inoue Kogyo case showed how the Yamaguchi-gumi can profit from a cooperative entity. The police and the regulatory authorities have been clamping down on the nine-fingered economy increasingly since 2008, but the yakuza connections don’t always surface. For the authorities, if they can put the firms out of business–that’s enough.


The Front Company (フロント企業)is the source of major revenue for the modern Yakuza.