In 2010, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation released one of the most concise but excellent documentaries ever done on the Yakuza, and now available on YouTube. The title is brutally simple:Yakuza. It is not a flashy film; there are no “re-creations” and no “dramatizations.” It may not be exciting but it is visceral and it is accurate.
I cooperated with the film production but Mark Willacy and the crew they did all the ground work even interviewing the family of the Mayor of Nagasaki. He was assassinated after refusing to capitulate to the yakuza or give them any share of the city public work projects. There is a long interview with Shoko Tendo, author of Yakuza Moon and some footage from Itami Juzo’s ground breaking film about the modern yakuza, MINBO NO ONNA (The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion). Kishi Kohei-san, the head of the National Police Agency anti-organized crime division (警察庁暴力団対策課長） also makes very clear and enlightening statements on the nature of the modern mafia. If you want to understand the recent crackdowns on the yakuza, this film is one of the most enlightening things out there.
There are still some yakuza groups that uphold a certain code of ethics and not every yakuza is an evil person. Some smaller well-run groups may actually keep street crime low in their areas and function more or less as cheap security services, like SECOM, but only better. However, the unwritten rules and the established codes of the traditional yakuza are breaking down as power consolidates among the larger groups and the yakuza become “Goldman Sachs with guns.” People like Tadamasa Goto, who’s members attacked and killed civilians; Men like Susumu Kajiyama who built billion dollar loan-sharking empires, while driving debtors into suicide, both made the general public (堅気・katagi) targets of extortion and violence.
They did this while recruiting some of the “ordinary citizens” into their ranks, corrupting civilian society as well. 共生者 (Kyoseisha) aka “cooperative entities” also represent the new yakuza—people who are willing to work with violent thugs as long as they can make a profit. They know it’s wrong and evil; they just don’t care. They are sociopaths. The new anti-crime laws in Tokyo are meant to target these entities, not the people who are victimized by the yakuza.
The only flaw in the documentary is that it does little coverage of organized crime infiltration of the money markets and FX trading. However, if you want to understand the yakuza on a gut level, and the impact they can have on the lives of innocent Japanese citizens, consider this film: Yakuza 101: An introduction to modern Japanese organized crime. It is worth seeing.