A Necessary Evil? Negotiating the Future of Yakuza Control and Organized Crime Legislation in Japan

The yakuza is an organized and transnational criminal syndicate system based in Japan with a monopoly over the nation's criminal underworld. Honor-bound to a code similar to that of the Japanese samurai, the yakuza have deep historical roots and widespread influence in Japanese society. Their existence is widely known, highly visible, and largely accepted by ordinary Japanese citizens and law enforcement agencies, who take little issue with them as long as they do not threaten public affairs or safety. Since the yakuza regulate-and essentially maintain-the criminal underworld through a tightly controlled membership network, and because the public is rarely ever impacted by their activities (i.e., they do not fear random violence or attacks), the yakuza's continued existence is commonly justified by a "necessary evil" argument. Without them, the criminal underworld in Japan would be highly unregulated, unpredictable, and susceptible to undesirable foreign infiltration or domination. Despite the presence of the yakuza, or perhaps because of them, Japan enjoys a "low-crime" status relative to other countries (Leonardsen 2004).