10 Funny Facts about the Japanese Yakuza

The yakuza are the most famous mafia in Japan. It’s said that in the Showa period, politicians appeared to be in control, but actually, the yakuza ran things backstage.

Many cool yakuza movies were created and fascinated men.
But recently, the yakuza world is aging rapidly and the police keep a very close eye on them. Now, instead of being dangerous, yakuza have become an endangered species.

So today, I’ll share 10 funny facts about the Japanese yakuza!!


1. Status of Yakuza

In Japan, there are 24 yakuza groups that are designated as yakuza by the police.But the yakuza are not an organized company. Each yakuza is basically self-employed.

Each member of the yakuza can do whatever they want. But they need to pay a fee to their yakuza group. Then they become a recognized member and they can take part in various yakuza businesses.

So yakuza are the same as Japanese salarymen or employees.
More than their personality, what’s important is which company they work for. If you become yakuza, the first thing you learn is not underground business details, It’s how to exchange a business card. 

2. Hierarchy

The yakuza has a strict hierarchy, At the bottom, Parent-dependent yakuza get money from their parents. Around the middle,Women-dependent yakuza get money by making women work. Physical labor yakuza work as day laborers. Near the top,Organization-dependent yakuza work with other yakuza in company jobs. And above these yakuza, there are executives.

Except for physical labor yakuza, all yakuza get money without working.
Yakuza make a living off money that other people earnt.
They are the same as politicians.

3. Yakuza’s right to life

Abroad, for example in Italy and Hong Kong, the mafias are not recognized by law. Their existence is illegal. But in Japan, in 1991, the anti-organized crime law was created, Our law acknowledges the existence of yakuza by imposing a fine and imprisonment.

But in 2010, local governments passed an ordinance saying they do not recognize the existence of yakuza. Now yakuza don’t have any right to make bank accounts and rent houses. They can’t do business at all.
(Our law recognizes the yakuza but local government ordinances don’t recognize the yakuza.)

Nowadays, yakuza claim that it is against Constitution 14 which assures equality under the law.
Even though their job is against the law.

It’s like women who are against abortions except when they need one.

4. 3 types of Yakuza

The police categorize yakuza into 3 types. In Japanese, they are Bakuto, Gurentai and Tekiya. Bakuto getting money from gambling and underground businesses. Gurentai are youth gangs who threaten people
And Tekiya receive money through street stalls.

Tekiya take part in a very traditional yakuza business – street stalls at festivals. So the Japanese festivals that are organized by shrines and temples are traditional yakuza parties.

Nowadays they are stricter regarding tekiya, so there are less yakuza stalls
But some are still organized by the yakuza. Most enjoyable festivals are organised by yakuza. Tekiya usually sell okonomiyaki or food based on flour, As it’s cheap and they can make more profit. Not only in underground businesses but also at festivals, They are selling powder.

5. Yakuza and Physical Labor

It’s known that some yakuza group leaders were fishermen. So one of the yakuza’s incomes is poaching. Before, yakuza looked down on physical jobs.
But nowadays a lot of local yakuza poach fish and other seafood.
Instead of underground business, they are doing business under the sea.

It’s said if Japanese salarymen or office workers are white collar workers,
yakuza are black collar workers. But now some Japanese yakuza have become genuine blue collar workers.
Sea blue. Or should I say, aquamarine.

6. Yakuza and Start Ups

Yakuza start businesses if they think they can earn money in that industry.
Currently in Japan, among young Japanese girls bubble tea is very popular.
And some yakuza opened bubble tea shops because the cost of sales is low and the profits are high.

Before, the yakuza got women dependent on drugs and made them work in brothels to pay for it.
Now, the yakuza make high school girls dependent on bubble tea and just take cash.

7. Yakuza and Valentine’s

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is the day that girls give chocolate to their favorite boys. Several years ago, Valentine’s chocolate became very expensive as raw material prices rose, so then some yakuza bought up cacao beans.
They mix it with foreign expired cacao and sell it. Then they earn a lot of money. In Japan, this is called crime, but in China it’s called business.

8. Yakuza and career

In the yakuza world, the university graduate rate is 7%. You guys may think those 7% are elite yakuza. But in their world, the university graduates can’t move up the career ladder.For yakuza, the most important thing is how long they spent in prison. The more time they spend in prison, the more chance they have of being promoted.
For the yakuza, prison is their Harvard.

Yakuza call spending time in prison their duty. It’s one of their most important jobs. It’s said before they go to prison, they try to get more irezumi, or traditional Japanese tattoos.
If they have a big tattoo, they are given good treatment.

But nowadays, the yakuza are becoming poor – especially yakuza at the bottom are suffering from serious poverty. So they call prison their social welfare. Instead of Harvard, it’s actually their safety net.

9, Yakuza and Sumo

In the sumo world, the yakuza often organized big gambling events at shrines and sumo matches were held as entertainment. It’s like if a boxing match were organized inside a casino in Las Vegas.

And some sumo wrestlers had yakuza tattoos.But when our national sport was being decided, they thought sumo must be sacred because it was held in a shrine. Then sumo became our national sport.Now we’re going to open the first ever casino in Japan. Maybe our national sport will change.

10. Yakuza and Social Contributions

Yakuza also earn money by dispatching workers and yakuza themselves also go work. Usually they dispatch workers to unpopular workplaces. For example, it’s said many yakuza work in nuclear power plants.

And when the Fukushima nuclear plant exploded, some employees remained on-site and tried to repair it. We call them the Fukshima 50.
And there are rumors that there are 3 yakuza in the Fukushima 50.
So you could call them the Fukushima 47 and 3 yakuza.

The Japanese yakuza group Yamaguchi-gumi take part in volunteer work after a national disaster. After the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake, They sent relief supplies and volunteered at the soup kitchen. They said “We want to be helpful to people” and worked so hard. Of course, the same as celebrities, they expensed it as an advertising fee.

And the biggest yakuza group, Yamagushi-gumi, try to blend into the local community.They hold a halloween party and give snacks to kids.
The reason why they started holding Halloween events was because foreign kids who lived in the neighborhood and knew nothing about the yakuza, visited their office on Halloween and threatened them for candy.

They’re less xenophonic than the Japanese government.