Types of yakuza and their businesses
atariya (当たり屋・あたりや）professional car crash dummy
con man who specializes in throwing himself in front of cars and collecting damages from either the driver or the driver’s insurance company. A dangerous hard-hitting job but one that does leave an impact on society—or automobiles.
Often considered the first kind of yakuza. Groups of gamblers who traversed the highways of feudal japan. Finger-cutting, tattoing, and the yakuza’s policy of cooperation with the police are practices that were started by the bakuto.
boryokudan (暴力団・ぼうりょくだん)、violence groups
Used by the police to refer to organized crime groups.
bosozoku (暴走族・ ぼうそうぞく）、motorcycle gangs
Structured groups of young bikers, who are responsible for a great percentage of the juvenile crime in Japan. Comprised mostly of teens who drop-out from the competitive Japanese high-schools and find themselves without many other options in the Japanese job market. Almost one-third are ultimately recruited to join the yakuza.
burakumin （部落民・ぶらくみん）、’small settlement people’
Descendents of an outcasted class from the feudal era. Burakumin held jobs considered to be unclean, or related to death. Although this has changed some over the years, they are still often discriminated against and are therefore prime recruits for the yakuza. Though estimates vary, a third of the general yakuza population is thought to be burakumin.
furyo (不良・ふりょう）no good; defective product
The word 不良 is most often used in 不良少年 (furyoshonen) or juvenile delinquent, but when used alone in the Kanto area, it refers to the yakuza. Yakuza often call other yakuza (in Kanto area) furyo. The word is sometimes used in front of civilians so that they don’t understand yakuza are being discussed.
gurentai （愚連隊・ぐれんたい) 、hoodlums
Predecessors of the modern yakuza. Though they are one of the original groups of yakuza, unlike the bakuto or the tekiya, they employed very violent means. Capitalizing on the the moral and economic depravity that followed World War II, these groups grew in number quickly. They were quite profitable, shaking down restaurants and other service industry-related businesses through threats and extortion.
jiageya（地上げ屋・ちあげや）、 land sharks, loan sharks
Eviction companies run by the yakuza to force tenants off their land in order to sell larger plots of land for a greater profit. Jiageya would drive out occupants by creating disturbances or damaging property around the target (driving into cars, playing loud music at night) and sometimes even setting the house on fire. Just one job could be extremely lucrative; during the bubble period, this was the greatest single source of income for the yakuza. The start of the ‘keizai yakuza’.
jisageya (地下げ屋・じさげや）real estate price wreckers
A spiritual brother to the jiageya, jisageya are usually yakuza hired to live in an area driving down real estate prices so that unscrupulous real estate agents can buy land or homes there at a discount. Usually they are partnered with the real-estate agent. Sometimes, the yakuza leave as soon as their real estate agent or developer has purchased the property. After a few months, the property values may raise again, allowing the owner to sell off the property at a profit.
jikenya （事件屋・じけんや）、incident specialists
As an alternative to going to court, these yakuza are hired to help resolve issues ranging from traffic incidents to contract disputes. Going through the Japanese legal system is time-consuming, costly, and often ineffective. Therefore, many Japanese citizens using the yakuza for these kinds of services, and with an attitude of resignation, often report little reservation.
sangokujin (三国人・さんごくじん) 、‘people from 3 countries’
Refers to the groups of Chinese, Koreans, and Taiwanese who were brought in to remedy the dearth of Japanese workers during the war years. They often clashed with the yakuza for control of the black markets after the war. Approximately a third of yakuza today are of Korean ancestry.
seiriya （整理屋・せいりや)、loan shark
A loan shark who handles messy contracts involving money disputes: bankruptcies, loans, debt collection. Very similar to Jikenya.
sokaiya (総会屋・そうかいや)、 corporate extortionists, racketeers
Professional extortionists who often pull in huge profits. Traditionally, sokaiya would do extensive research on a company to uncover their secrets, buy enough stocks to enter the annual shareholders meetings, and blackmail the company by threatening to spread the rumors. Eventually laws were made prohibiting this kind of activity, and so sokaiya today are paid off in more subtle ways.
songiriya （損切り屋・そんぎりや)、loss-cutting specialist
Another kind of ‘specialist`, similar to the Jiageya – extortionists working in the real estate business who would create false liens against residences and then demand payments. General real estate scams.
tekiya （的屋・てきや)、street-stall operators, peddlers
Along with the bakuto and the gurentai, one of the three original kinds of yakuza. They worked at trading centers or fairs, selling products of dubious quality or value; for example, they would sell miniature bonsai trees that didn’t have any roots, or lie about the origin of a product. Many of the burakumin became tekiya, as a way out of otherwise inevitable poverty and disgrace. Japan’s most beloved film character, the clumsy street merchant and tramp, Tora-san (寅さん), is a tekiya.
yakuza (やくざ）、traditional term for Japanese mobsters
Literally, `8-9-3’, the hand that will lead to a score of 0 in a traditional Japanese card game. Comes from their original role as gamblers, bakuto, in feudal japan.