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Yakuza and Society
‘‘The largest yakuza syndicates operating today are the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, which includes about half of all active yakuza in Japan; the Sumiyoshi-kai, which originated in Osaka and boasts about 20,000 members; and the Inagawa-kai, out of Tokyo and Yokohama, with 15,000 members. The gangs engage in criminal activities such as international drug-smuggling, human trafficking, and arms smuggling. However, they also hold significant amounts of stock in large, legitimate corporations, and some have close ties with the Japanese business world, the banking sector, and the real estate market.
Interestingly, after the devastating Kobe earthquake of January 17, 1995, it was the Yamaguchi-gumi who first came to the aid of victims in the gang's home city. Likewise, after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, different yakuza groups sent truck-loads of supplies to the affected area. ‘‘
‘‘Although the police are making serious efforts to suppress yakuza activity in Japan these days, it seems unlikely that the syndicates will disappear entirely. They have survived for more than 300 years, after all, and they are closely entwined with many aspects of Japanese society and culture. ‘‘
‘‘Whether the yakuza are trading in drugs, running gambling rings, or engaging in racketeering, it is clear that their moral claims, economic flexibility, and political manoeuvring have given these syndicates a hold on Japanese society that is utterly remarkable.’’