Paper on the Yakuza, its origins and schemes

Essay by SteamboatHigh School, 11th grade June 2005

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Yakuza: Samurai Misfits, Gambling Degenerates and other Assorted Ruffians

By Will Donovan

America has the Mob. Ireland has the IRA. Southeast Asia has the Triads. China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have the Tong. These are all old, powerful crime organizations. . Japan has the Yakuza. We will explore the Yakuza, from their origins, to their operations and their current day situation.

The Yakuza can trace their origins back to as early as 1612, when people known as the Kabuki-mono("crazy ones"), began to attract the attention of officials. Their strange clothing, haircuts and behavior made them stand out quite a bit in the cookie-cutter years of the shogunate. Kabuki-mono made a habit of terrorizing anyone at their leisure, even to the point of cutting people down for fun. The Kabuki-mono were eccentric samurai, taking strong names for their gangs and speaking mostly in slang. Their loyalty to one another was remarkable, as they would protect each other from any threat.

The Kabuki-mono were servants of the Shogun, in groups made of nearly 500,000 samurai. Unemployed during the peaceful times of the Tokugawa era, they were forced into becoming Ronin. Many became bandits, terrorizing Japan.

But the Kabuki-mono are not the great-grandfathers of the Yakuza. The Yakuza see the Machi-yokko( " Servant of the Town") as their ancestors. They were the ones who took up arms and protected themselves against the Kabuki-mono. They were farmers, laborers and ronin. Everyone who was part of the Machi-yokko was a skilled gambler, which helped them develop almost like a family with each other and their leaders.

The early Yakuza did not surface and start to take shape until the late 1700's. The Machi-yokko began organizing into families, using a relationship known as Oyabun/Kobun (Father/ Son). The Oyabun was the "father", providing advice, protection, and...