At end of 2010, the number of yakuza members in Japan, including full-members and associate members was an estimated 78,600 members, 2300 less than the year before, the lowest number since the anti-organized crime laws went into effect. The National Police Agency, which is an administrative body overseeing all 47 Police Department in Japan, announces the gang member totals every year. This is the second year in a row that the numbers have declined. It could be considered a success in some aspects. On the other hand, eighteen years have gone by and yakuza numbers still hover around 80,000 members. Obviously, something is not working right.
Police sources credit the recent decline in numbers to the massive police crackdown ordered by National Police Agency (NPA)Commissioner General, Ando Takaharu, on September 30 2009. Comissioner Ando orchestrated a concentrated clampdown on the Yamaguchi-gumi, more specifically the leading Kodo-kai faction which had 4,000 members at the time, making it control 1/10 of Japan’s largest organized crime group which had over 40,000 members at the time.
The NPA targeted the Kodo-kai because “they are belligerent, uncooperative with investigations and have even threatened the police themselves showing a complete disregard for law and order.” At one point in time the Kodo-kai was using a large private detective agency under their umbrella to gather personal information on police officers, including photos of their family members. As early as 2007, Aich Prefecture Police Department raided a Kodo-kai office and discovered photos of the family members of organized crime detectives pinned to the walls. This did not set well with the police. The final straw was when members of the Kodo-kai paraded themselves in front of the television cameras during the Nagoya Sumo tournament in the summer of 2009. It was a violation of the informal 2008 yakuza television appearance ban and a slap in the face to the National Police Agency. Within hours of the broadcast, the National Police Agency began discussing the need to clip the wings of the Kodo-kai.
In addition to increasing the number of yakuza related investigations, the NPA has encouraged The Japan Banking Association and all banks in Japan to insert an organized crime exclusionary clause (暴力団排除条項・boryokudanhaijojoko)* into every account contract. In the last year several yakuza that opened bank accounts while hiding their affiliation were later arrested for fraud and prosecuted. Access to pubic housing is also now forbidden to yakuza. One mid-level crime boss laments, “I have no bank account and I got kicked out of my apartment. Getting out of the yakuza is sounding better all the time, if I could figure out what the hell I can do other than shaking people down. These are tough times.”
The Yamaguchi-gumi despite the crackdowns still has a 44% share of the market. The Inagawa-kai, Japan’s third largest organized crime group with 10,000 members and offices across from the Ritz Carlton Tokyo is considered by some law enforcement sources to now be under the Yamaguchi-gumi umbrella. The Chairman of the Inagawa-kai Board of Directors is a kyodaibun to the number 2 in the Yamaguchi-gumi Kodo-kai. If the Inagawa-kai is indeed under the thumb of the Yamaguchi-gumi, it would mean that the Big Y now has more than 50% of the organized crime members in their control, making them the News Corporation of the underworld. Now that their Rupert Murdoch, Tsukasa Shinbobu-kumi-cho has gotten out of the slammer and is back at the masthead, we may see them expand once more under his capable management. He has a talent for mergers and acquisitions. He set up the merger with the Tokyo based Kokusuikai (国粋会）in November of 2005, which gave the Yamaguchi-gumi a foot-hold in Tokyo.
COMING UP: Next week we’ll post the most recent arrest statistics for the yakuza, crime by crime, for fiscal 2010. Not surprisingly, they still lead in number of arrests gambling and extortion, compared to the average civilian criminal. It’s good to see some traditional activities remain honored, even in the modern yakuza.
*Note: The organized crime exclusionary clause was the brainchild of deceased former prosecutor, my mentor, andanti-organized crime lawyer, Igari Toshiro. He came up with the idea after an incident involving Goto Tadamasa, former leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi Goto-gumi.
In the late nineties, Mr. Goto and his entourage stayed at the Westin Hotel causing some consternation amongst the other guests, and when the Westin Manager asked him to leave the premises, Goto refused, saying, “There’s nothing that says yakuza can’t stay at any hotel they want.” After an hour of persistent requests from the hotel manager, Goto admiring his courage, left voluntarily. Igari-sensei was consulted on the matter and then realized that if the hotel inserted a clause in the lodging agreement that 1) clarified yakuza members were not allowed to stay in the hotel, and 2) asked all guests to check a box indicating that they were not organized crime members that this would effectively bar them from most hotels. If a yakuza members stays in a hotel and checks the box, he can be arrested for fraud. BTW, If you can read Japanese, Igari’s memoirs, 「激突」Gekitotsu/collision are a fascinating look at the prosecutorial system, organized crime, and the often cozy relationships between law enforcement, lawyers and the yakuza.
While we’re on the subject of yakuza and hhe excellent 1992 film, Itami Juzo’s Minbo no Onna （民暴の女・The Gentle Art Of Japanese Extortion）, is set at a Kobe hotel besieged with numerous yakuza problems and is illustrative of the modern yakuza. In 1992, there were not organized crime exclusionary clauses in contracts because no one had thought of them yet.