The Yakuza is the name of the most famous criminal organization from Japan. However, the Yakuza is not a single homogeneous organization: it comprises several hundred of clans or gangs that operate in different cities. …
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The Yakuza is the name of the most famous criminal organization from Japan. However, the Yakuza is not a single homogeneous organization: it comprises several hundred of clans or gangs that operate in different cities. The Yakuza is involved - in some or other form - in many aspects of life in Japan and has certain interests in virtually every area of commercial activities. The Yakuza's sphere of influence is huge spreading from prostitution rackets to the government and top level businesses. At present, the Yakuza is considered to be one of the largest and most powerful criminal organizations in the world. Thus, the number of known yakuza members only in Japan is almost 85 thousand (Bruno 2007).The origins of Yakuza can be traced back to the Tokugawa shogunate. Tokugawa's unification of Japan in the beginning of the 17th century brought peace to the country, but also produced approximately half a million of samurai unemployed and with practically no employment opportunities. Although many of these samurai turned merchants this option was acceptable and available to only few of them: the rest had not other choice but to search for other means to earn their living. Thievery and other illegal activities became an option for many samurai to support themselves (Seymour 1996).However, the precise origin of the organization is still debated: the diverse gangs that constitute the Yakuza have different origins. Furthermore, the versions of origin adopted by members of each gang often differ substantially from the actual origins traced through the historical records. Therefore, the most popular version is that the Yakuza developed from several different elements that characterized the Japanese society of Tokugawa period (Kaplan and Dubro 1986). Although the Yakuza claim that they originated from the Japanese versions of Robin Hood whose main function was to protect communities and restore social justice this standpoint is reasonably questioned by many. Thus, some researchers trace origins of the Yakuza to the so-called kabukimono (crazy ones): the group of samurai who adopted unusual hair styles, dressed in a strange manner, spoke in highly specific slang, had long swords and harassed ordinary people: "Some feel that its members are descendents of the 17th-century kabuki-mono (crazy ones), outlandish samurai who reveled in outlandish clothing and hair styles, spoke in elaborate slang, and carried unusually long swords in their belts. The kabuki-mono were also known as hatamoto-yakko (servants of the shogun)" (Bruno 2007, p. 1). The adventures of kabukimono are still a popular theme in Japanese folklore literature.
At the same time, the claims of some groups of the Yakuza to have their beginnings from the communal police or machi yakko (servants of the town) that protected the community are justified. These groups of police had different types of organization and consisted of various members of the community. Some groups also included several samurais: only samurai had the right to carry swords while the rest of population was officially prohibited to do so (Kaplan and Dubro 1986).
The origins of the most well-known groups of the Yakuza, namely tekiya (peddlers) and bakuto (gamblers) have better traceability due to the specific initiation ceremony that involves rituals that directly relate to the initial spheres of interest of these groups. Tekiya began to create organizations to take over at least some administrative functions and duties relating to commerce and especially to protection of their business. Thus, during trade fairs and festivals each peddler paid certain amount to run his business safely under protection of their own security forces. These forces were eventually recognized by the Edo government, and their leaders called oyabuns (top chiefs) were granted the right to carry a sword like samurai and nobleman (Hill 2003).
Bakuto (gamblers) also represented a low caste (even lower than tekiya) of the Japanese soci
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