Yakuza Breaks Up, Japan Braces For Violent Days Ahead

Yakuza Breaks Up, Japan Braces For Violent Days Ahead
Mafias del Mundo: Yakuza Eneas De Troya / Flickr CC BY 2.0
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The largest and most powerful underworld group in Japan has decided to break up into different groups. Japan’s National Police issued a warning on Wednesday that violence may erupt as the groups may battle for new territories or seek vengeance for past bad blood.


Jake Adelstein, an author very familiar with Yakuza’s activities, said there is a “very high possibility” of violence erupting among the now segregated group. “The last time the Yamaguchi-gumi split was in 1984 and, by Japanese standards, the fall-out was very violent,” Adelstein told The Telegraph.

The clashes in 1984 left 25 people dead and 70 people injured. Encounters by Yakuza members include casualties from passersby who were caught in the fighting. At some point, Yakuza members went as far as bulldozing their enemies’ homes.

“A second reason why the police are deeply concerned is that each of these groups have working relationships with other gangs and this division of the Yamaguchi-gumi is going to cause those groups to also split. There could be a chain reaction of divisions that leads to gang warfare breaking out across the country,” Adelstein further explained.

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Adelstein could only hope that a new set of Japanese laws can hinder the Yakuza members from spreading violence. According to the author, Japan’s law now required the head of the underworld group to pay compensation for any casualties and fatalities that may result from the bloodshed.

A related report from The Japan Times said the group had expelled 13 gangs from its original 70 members. Among those who were excommunicated from Yakuza is the Kobe-based Yamaken-gumi that has 2,000 members, The Japan Times reported. Some of the expelled gangs have connections to local nuclear power plants, the report said.

Meanwhile, a Belgian reporter was given the extraordinary opportunity to take inside photos of the underworld gang. According to a report from RT, photographer Anton Kusters has been snapping Yakuza members for two years now.

“We had negotiations with them for about 10 months before we were actually allowed to take pictures,” Kusters told RT.

“My goal for this project was very simple: to understand what it is [like] being a yakuza, what it means to be one foot inside the society, and one foot outside, what it means to know you’re good and bad at the same time,” Kusters said.

“Aside from the criminal elements, people are normal people like you and me who chose the part in life to be part of the yakuza. They are definitely not all tattooed gangsters running around with swords, chopping each other’s head off. That’s not the case,” he said of his experience working with the largest underworld gang in Japan.

Kusters photo can be found here.

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