On Oct 1, prefectural-level anti-gang ordinances went into effect in Tokyo and Okinawa -- the last two of Japan's 47 prefectures to adopt such laws. Are they likely to have an effect? Takarajima (December) carries a two-page interview with 69-year-old investigative journalist Atsushi Mizoguchi, a prolific writer on the subject of the yakuza and regarded by many as Japan's most authoritative author on organized crime.
Takarajima: Will the wholesale enforcement of the new anti-gang ordinances in all 47 of Japan's prefectures from Oct 1 eradicate the "boryokudan" (gangs)?
Mizoguchi: Probably not. The new law does not penalize the boryokudan, but the citizens. In a Sankei Shimbun interview around the beginning of October, Shinobu Tsukasa, head of the Yamaguchi-gumi, was quoted as saying "We are not the least bit worried by the adoption of the new law."
Even though former National Police Agency head Takaharu Ando (who announced his retirement on Oct 17), while claiming that the gangs had been weakened, would not go so far as to suggest they will be eradicated. You also find organized crime syndicates in Germany, Italy, France, South Korea and so on, and laws exist in those countries banning the operation of, or membership in, such groups. If Japan were to modify its Criminal Code to state, "Organized crime groups are forbidden," it would be simple. I suppose that would be the only way to get rid of them.
Why do the gangs continue to exist?
In the Edo period, the police sergeants and constables depended on paid informers as their "unofficial deputies." Many of these were heads of "bakuto" (gambler) and "tekiya" (peddler) groups who became the forerunners of the modern-day yakuza. Police even authorized them to carry a "jitte" (a stubby metal baton carried as a symbol of authority). This gave the police two irons in the fire, so to speak, by utilizing known criminals as their sources of information about crime. So these men were useful in helping to maintain order, and their special status led to the creation of the yakuza mystique. After the war, yakuza also served the establishment by battling against the excesses of former colonials who dominated the black market, and in 1960, during the struggle over the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, they joined forces with right-wing groups to suppress leftist demonstrators.
The Anti-Gang Law that went into force in 1992 failed to root out the ambiguities that existed in Japan. It is absurd to expect that law, or the new ordinances that have just gone into effect, will eradicate the yakuza. While I don't have the actual figures, I am certain the organized crime sections in the police have increased their manpower. I would say the maintaining of such numbers are the police's subtle way of indicating they still want the boryokudan to stick around.
So what you're saying then is that the boryokudan will continue to exist in the future.
Since the first eradication campaign by the police in 1964, nearly 50 years have passed, and despite up and down fluctuations in the total number of gang members, the yakuza have barely budged an inch. They have even improved their situations through better organizing. This has also led to the three major syndicates that were once local organizations -- the Yamaguchi-gumi, Inagawa-kai and Sumiyoshi Rengo -- taking over more territory and focusing their strengths.
Saying that boryokudan can be eradicated is like asserting pigs can fly. If the police find themselves in the kind of situation they now face, it means the gangs aren't going to go away. That said, I think the ultimate fate of the gangs has already been sealed. This will come about not through the results of police investigations or dragnets, but simply in synch with the decline of the Japanese economy. Since the gangs are a parasite that lives off the economy, when that economy slumps, the gangs' economy will necessarily decline as well. That's all there is to it.© Japan Today