Battling the Yakuza
Japan has tightened the regulations against yakuza, the organized crime syndicates that have long been enmeshed in Japanese society since the Edo era (1603-1868). Called boryokudan or “violent groups” by police, there are about 80,000 members belonging to 22 divisions today.
Japan enforced Organized Crime Exclusion Ordinance in 2011, and with additional revisions enacted in the fall of 2012, the new anti-mobster ordinance has become the toughest ever law yet against the yakuza. Unlike previous measures that only targeted yakuza groups and their activities, the new law criminalizes both businesses as well as individuals who have any dealings with the yakuza. The aim is to choke off their financial resources and eventually dissolve the powerful organizations. Moreover, the revised law allows police to immediately arrest members of yakuza that have been designated by prefectural public safety commissions as being “especially dangerous” or as being involved in a turf war with rival gangs.
However, the debate to make the crime syndicates illegal remains left out, and it is not yet clear what impact, if any, the new regulations will have on gang activities. In fact, Al Jazeera’s 101 East team has recently shown how anti-mobster laws have only driven the yakuza underground, making them more invisible and harder to track down. They have responded with cunning schemes to secure revenue, quietly outwitting the police, and continuing to exist in Japanese societies.
Award: Winner – ACS 2013 National Awards for Cinematography, Australian Cinematographers Society, Golden Tripod