• Tue. May 28th, 2024

Japan Subculture Research Center

A guide to the Japanese underworld, Japanese pop-culture, yakuza and everything dark under the sun.

Yakuza Businesses

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bakuto (博徒・ばくと): gambler. Often considered the origin of the yakuza, as 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): Literally ‘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 competitive Japanese high-schools and find themselves without many other options. Almost one third are ultimately recruited to join the yakuza.

burakumin (部落民・ぶらくみん): Descendents of an outcasted class from the feudal era. Burakumin held jobs considered to be unclean or related to death. Although this has changed somewhat over the years, they are still often discriminated against and are therefore prime recruits for the yakuza. Though estimates vary, one third of the general yakuza population is thought to be burakumin.

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 profitable, shaking down restaurants and other service industry-related businesses through threats and extortion.

jiageya (地上げ屋・ぢあげや): 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. Just one job could be extremely lucrative; during the bubble period, this was the greatest single source of income for the yakuza and the start of the ‘keizai yakuza’.

jikenya (事件屋・じけんや): As an alternative to going to court, these yakuza are hired, often by ordinary citizens, to help resolve issues ranging from traffic incidents to contract disputes. They meet a demand created by those who want to avoidd the time-consuming, costly and often ineffective Japanese legal system.

ninbenshi (にんべん師・にんべんし): counterfeiter, forger. Those who make fake IDs, official documents, and phony money.

sangokujin (三国人・さんごくじん) : Literally ‘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): A type of loan shark who handles messy contracts involving money disputes: bankruptcies, loans, debt collection. Very similar to jikenya.

senyuuya (占有屋・せんゆうや): Someone who occupies part of a building that is to be put up for auction and demands extortionate amounts of money to leave, so that ultimately the building won’t go up for auction. Often but not always related to organised crime. Senyuuya operate successfully under Japan’s powerful renter’s rights laws.

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. In 1997, the commerce laws were revised to prohibit this kind of activity and punish companies and executives who paid off the sokaiya. By punishing the “victim” as well, the practice was drastically reduced. There are few sokaiya today and the ones that remain are paid off in more subtle ways.

songiriya (損切り屋・そんぎりや): loss-cutting specialist.Similar to the jiageya, these are 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, this is 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.

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. Originates from their original role as gamblers, bakuto, in feudal japan.

4 thoughts on “Yakuza Businesses”
  1. Thank you for all the information and your research. The yakuza section is very very interesting and will help my translation work as well! Great research really. 大変なお仕事だと思います。ありがとうございます。

  2. Good info to know. I am always delving into the world of organized crime, such as the Yakuza and La Cosa Nostra.

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