Yakuza (やくざ or ヤクザ) also known as gokudou, are members of traditional organized crime groups that originate from Japan.
The Yakuza may be the richest and most powerful of the international crime syndicates. It's a technologically savvy organization which excels at making the most of what technology has to offer. It is one shaped by ancient traditions and ideas of honor and duty.
Which has a relationship with the megacorporations of Japan that is stronger than any other crime syndicate has with the corporations of their homeland (except for the David Cartel which is for all intents and purposes part of Aztechnology). It is also one of the most bigoted and phobic organizations in the world, certainly the most racist and misogynistic criminal organization in both the "West" and in the Far East.
In Japanese legal terminology, yakuza organizations are referred to as boryokudan (暴力団, "violence groups"), which more traditional "samurai heritage" Yakuza members consider an insult as boroyokudan is applied to any violent criminal.
Unlike many organized crime groups, like the Triads and the Mafia, which evolved from secret societies, the model of the Yakuza was the machi yakko (町奴, "town servant"), vigilantes protectors within the community (Although many citizens also view them as kabukimono or crazy ones, for their propensity toward violence, vulgar slang, and bizarre appearance) or the masterless samurai ronin.
As a result, at least in the JIS and it's protectorates, Yakuza groups maintain open offices, often with a wooden plank on the front door displaying the group name and their emblem. Yakuza members often wear sunglasses and flashy suits so that their profession can be immediately recognized by civilians (堅気, katagi). Members typically wear insignia pins on their suits, and, if needed, can display their tattoos or customized cyberware.
Ascendancy of the YakuzaEdit
With the rise of Japan and the overseas expansion of its corporations, the Yakuza itself expanded overseas, especially throughout the Pacific Rim and in North America. In the process they gained control of the drug trade in both Japan and the Pacific Rim. Due to their expansion overseas, they started to recruit non-Japanese members in various Asian countries (e.g. Korea) Tying themselves to the Japanese corporations which became global powers, the Yakuza likewise became global.
Sometimes they are confined to the Japanese enclaves populated by Japanacorp employees and their dependents. Sometimes there are so many Japanese citizens in a city (e.g. Seattle) that the Yakuza is able to operate in a normal fashion and on an equal and sometimes stronger position than the homegrown syndicates (e.g. Mafia). Recently the Yakuza has been expanding recently in Russia. Originally it started with a beachhead in Vladivostok. In the last two decades they have expanded across Russia (along with the Triads and Seoulpa Rings). The Yakuza has made inroads in most Russian cities especially in eastern Russia. It has also broken the stranglehold that the Triads held over the Golden Triangle drug trade becoming major players in the area, though the Triads still dominate in Thailand.
In the last couple of decades, the Yakuza has been suffering setbacks due to a variety of factors, including the Year of the Comet. Anti-Japanese insurgencies and terrorists working with crime syndicates (e.g. Triads) and pirates undermined the Yakuza in the Philippines, the California Free State, and Peru. Once the Imperial Japanese forces withdrew from those countries, the Yakuza began to rapidly lose territory and market share.
Over in Korea due to rising nationalist opposition from the Korean Jo-pok syndicates, they have lost their primacy in the peninsula. In China though the Yakuza established a presence in Henan, they have been unable to expand further due to the Triads crushing their attempts to do so. Over in Aztlan, the Yakuza were quickly and brutally wiped out by Aztechnology and the David Cartel.
Meanwhile, the Triads have replaced the Yakuza as the premier drug lords of the Far East when it comes to both the organic kind (e.g. opiates) and the technological type (BTLs). In Southeast Asia, the Triads have replaced the Yakuza as the region's overlords of crime. Having expanded throughout the Pacific Rim, the Triads are challenging the Yakuza everywhere. Recently the Triads have not only established a stronghold in Japan, but they have expanded throughout the island nation.
The Yakuza weren't helped by self-inflicted wounds brought about by the policies and decisions of the oyabun of the Watada-rengo. Which resulted in the Yakuza Purge, which led to the creation of a ferociously anti-Yakuza underworld in the form of the Korean Seoulpa Rings. Followed by his alienation of the Yakuza in North America which led to them breaking away from the Watada-rengo in the Shotozumi Uprising. In addition to his pushing the metahumans in the overseas Yakuza territories to join the Triads or enlist with anti-Japanese guerrillas, pirates, or terrorists.
The Yakuza are organized into clans and syndicates which are called "gumi". Leading each gumi is an oyabun who acts as a father figure that rules and guides the kobun within the gumi. The oyabun holds the ultimate authority in the gumi. A kobun swears his loyalty to the oyabun and becomes his vassal. In return for the kobun's complete loyalty and dedication, the oyabun provides the kobun with a home and the backing of his gumi (clan). Which may have anywhere from a couple dozen members to a thousand.
It's organized like a corporation with the oyabun serving the role of CEO with the wakagashira as his second in command. Below in the next level are the komon (advisors), shingiin (counselors), hisho (secretaries), kaikei (accountants), and wakagashira-hosa (underlings of the 2nd in command). At the street-level are the Street level are the kobun and kumi-in (enlisted men).
Various gumi will join together in a loose alliance called a "rengo". While individual gumi may form power blocs or rengo which are led by a powerful gumi and it's oyabun, the loyalty of a Yakuza member extends only to his oyabun and the gumi itself. Oyabun form and break alliances with other gumi at will, joining and leaving gumi whenever the oyabun decides to do so.
The Yakuza is the most racist of the major crime syndicates when it comes to ethnicity, surpassing even the Vory. Among the traditional Yakuza, foreigners are not even worthy of shining one of their shoes and therefore are not wanted in the Yakuza. Though they relented somewhat when some of the clans which expanded into Korea recruited Koreans, after the purge the traditionalists returned to a policy of racial purity. This is slowly changing, especially overseas with Yakuza clans that have relocated to other nations decades ago now having members that are of mixed blood, part-Japanese and part indigenous.
Which may have contributed to the Triads regaining their primacy in Southeast Asia from the Yakuza. As the Triads are not only far more willing to recruit from other ethnic groups (not only Asians) than the other Yakuza, but also promote non-Chinese (including into the highest position in the Triad). There are even some Triads that are predominately or completely non-Chinese now, though those are in the minority.
Outside of the Middle East, the Yakuza is the crime syndicate which is the most hostile to metahumans. Partly this is due to the racism mentioned earlier and partly it's due to Shintoism, a religion which distrusts and dislikes metahumans  Metahumans, even those whose heritage is purely Japanese are not wanted. They are willing to hire metahumans, but they won't let them join the Yakuza. Which is ironic since historically the Yakuza recruited from among the lowest of Japanese society, from the burakumin (the "untouchable" caste) and the peasant classes.
The racism toward metahumans results in the anti-metahuman Humanis Policlub receiving financial support from Yakuza leaders. A fact which the Triads have taken advantage of as they make it their policy to approach metahumans who are disaffected because they can't join the Yakuza and recruit them. Which gives them a lot of pull in the neighborhoods that are mostly metahuman.
Among the crime syndicates of the West or the Far East, the Yakuza is the least likely to accept women into its ranks. Traditionalist Yakuza clans have completely banned women from joining. Some North American clans have permitted female kobun to join their syndicates and a few of these clans have women in lower tier positions of power. The women that join have to be at minimum twice as good as their male counterparts just to receive half the respect that their co-workers get.
The traditionalists of the Yakuza distrust magic. Despite the fact that the Shinto religion accepted the return of magic and it has been reintegrated into Japanese society. Likely contributing to the Yakuza being magically weak is that when it comes to Shinto magic, the Shinto priests are all shamans and most of the shamans are female (which is a problem for the misogynistic Yakuza). Because of this anti-Awakened bias, there are Yakuza leaders that contribute financially to the Humanis Policlub.
Which has given the Triads a great advantage in the Far East due to them being magic heavy syndicates. An advantage that has given them a stranglehold on China and until recently the Golden Triangle. An advantage that may have contributed to the Triads regaining their preeminent position in Southeast Asia from the Yakuza.
Tradition of ServiceEdit
The old Yakuza code emphasized respect for the common people. In their eyes, a victim of the Yakuza had to choose to become a victim. No one forces somone to buy drugs from the Yakuza or spend their money at one of their brothels or gambling dens. A citizen whose home is burglarized, who is mugged in a back alley, or has his wallet taken by pickpockets in turn is considered to be a victim by the Yakuza because they were not given a choice. Some of the Yakuza continue to subscribe to that tradition and will police their territory to prevent violent crimes. Most of the Yakuza though have abandoned that practice and now take a cut of any street crime in the districts they control.
Back in the day, the Yakuza provided the population a kind of "justice for hire" service. In which those whom believed themselves wronged by another person or group would take his or her case to the oyabun in that area and request that they help. If the oyabun decided to help, kobun would "exact justice" from the offender. The wronged party would be charged a fee which for the service which was based on their ability to pay. It is one of the reasons that in Japanese society there is sympathy for the Yakuza, even among the authorities who usually decline to prosecute its members or even investigate crimes related to the Yakuza. Unless they commit murder (except if it was the only "appropriate" action) or kill civilians in which case the Japanese police take action.
Code of HonorEdit
The Yakuza code of honor is shaped by Japanese culture and consists of three major elements; giri, jingi, and ninjo. "Giri" means "obligation" or "duty". Which requires the Yakuza to repay their debts and follow the dictates of obedience and honor. Debts may be repaid in money but usually are done through loyalty and service. Failure to fulfill their duty or obligation brings shame on the Yakuza member, his gumi (clan), and the oyabun (boss). Yakuza take the concept of duty seriously and never forget when a favor is done for him, and will repay the debt.
"Jingi" is deference and respect for a superior. All Yakuza are expected to practice jingi and act in a proper and civilized manner. Some of the oyabun are of the opinion that only Japanese humans deserve to be treated in a civilized and proper manner. Other oyabun believe otherwise and will harshly punish any members of their gumi who fail to act in a proper manner toward other (meta)humans.
"Ninjo" encompasses things such as compassion, feelings, sympathy, and emotions. It is a quality that makes a man sympathetic to the plight of others and is instilled in an individual early in their life. Yakuza who have it are motivated to protect those who seek justice and the concept of ninjo is still upheld by some of the more honorable and traditional Yakuza.
Cultural Conflict in the YakuzaEdit
Rival Schools of ThoughtEdit
A divide has emerged in the Yakuza in the last few decades between the Old School and the New Way factions. The traditionalists of the Old School believed in Japanese superiority and are racist, xenophobic, and misogynist ultra-nationalists. In turn the reformers of the New Way embrace and accept the Awakened, metahumans, women, and those whom are part-Japanese.
The Watada-rengo are fully Old School, as every member syndicate is required to follow that path when it comes to membership. Their main rivals, the Shotozumi-rengo has left it to its members to decide what policy to follow, therefore some syndicates are Old School and others are New Way. Four Oyabun Rengo has taken a firmly neutral position when it comes to the ideological dispute. The newly established and growing Wanibuchi-rengo of Neo-Tokyo is solidly New Way, and has been recruiting extensively from the formerly proscribed classes of people.
How the Yakuza OperatesEdit
The Clans and the CodeEdit
There is great variety among the Yakuza clans. Some of them are very traditional, strictly following the old ways. Some of them are supporters of the New Way, seeking to reform the Yakuza to make sure that it will survive and prosper in the Sixth World. Some are known for bending or breaking the rules, as long as it results in them earning a profit. The Yakuza follow an ancient code of honor which prevents the many clans from destroying each other. It is so strong that the most dishonorable of the clans usually stick to operating within the bounds which have been set by the other clans, to avoid being exterminated by a coalition of clans.
Yakuza at WarEdit
Turf wars among the Yakuza clans are incredibly brutal and bloody, though the Yakuza will go out of its way to limit collateral damage to "civilians". Unlike a Mafia hitman who may blow up a school to take out a rival don who decided to attend his child's parent-teacher night, the Yakuza hitman either won't take action or more likely will use a precision weapon to eliminate only the target.
Unfortunately, an increasing number of the less traditional Yakuza (and those who are under great pressure by rival syndicates) are no longer as concerned about minimizing collateral damage. The progressive clans are concerned only when collateral damage will hurt the clan.
Yakuza and the JapanacorpsEdit
Alliance with the JapanacorpsEdit
The Japanese mega corporations work closely with the Yakuza. Usually Yakuza operations won't experience Japancorp interference, as long as Yakuza operations remain within the guidelines which have been set by the Japanacorps. Sometimes the mega corporations will covertly assist the Yakuza when it comes with the police (e.g. by stating that a Yakuza operation is corporate business, thereby bringing corporate extraterritoriality into play). The Yakuza in turn provide the Japanacorprs with valuable shadow assets.
Mitsuhama Computer TechnologiesEdit
The Yakuza have linked their fortunes to Mitsuhama Computer Technologies. The MCT uses the Yakuza on the streets to advance their interests and the Yakuza in turn use MCT to launder their money. Being inextricably tied together has greatly benefited both, though some Yakuza rengos are violently opposed to those who have such ties. Their association with MCT has given the Yakuza a ruthless efficiency.
The relation that the Yakuza has with the Japanacorps, makes them the world's most high-tech crime syndicate. The corporations often pay the Yakuza for services rendered with weapons and equipment that is cutting-edge. Yakuza members also are into cybermods in a big way, due to having access to corporate cyberdocs and clinics. Usually Yakuza kobun have cyberimplants that are top-of-the-line. Cyberware which is superior to that of the Mafia.
The Yakuza don't like shadowrunners, as they see them as dishonorable. Unless the team is all Japanese, human, and male, they will often have issues with at least one member of the team. Yakuza "Johnsons" assume the shadowrunners are idiots, often refuse to answer questions or provide more information, and prefer to pay in kind (usually vices, though sometimes equipment).
Activities in the Sixth WorldEdit
Yakuza in the late 21st century are involved in a wide variety of activities. Their main sources of income are gambling, drug trafficking, prostitution, and corporate extortion. Other activities include protection rackets, street sales of drugs, BTL chip production and trafficking, manufacturing of counterfeit goods, loansharking, organ-legging, and Matrix crimes. The Yakuza clans established and control opium fields in the Philippines. It is the Yakuza which developed the inhumane business of the bunraku, in which chips are used to turn prostitutes into meat puppets (often unwilling, many kidnapped).. The Yakuza is the criminal underworld which uses bunraku the most, spreading it around the world to their operations. A racket that is only surpassed in its horror by the organlegging racket.
Big 3 Yakuza GroupsEdit
Though there are many Yakuza syndicates, three of them are major international crime syndicates. The largest and most powerful Yakuza group is the Watada-rengo, which is a worldwide organization with branches in Southeast Asia, Europe, the UCAS, and Amazonia. The Four Oyaban Rengo is likewise a worldwide syndicate, through its control of the Mitsuhama Computer Technologies megacorporation. Shotozomi-rengo which is Watada-rengo's main rival, has branches in both North and South America.
Nations and City-States with YakuzaEdit
- Japan, Korea, Henan, Coastal Provinces, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Shan State, Pattani Islamic Republic, Javanese Republic,
- United Canadian and American States, California Free State, Tsimshian Nation, Algonkian-Manitou Council,
Rest of the World:
- Four Oyabun Rengo
- Nishidon-gumi (defunct)
- Saiki-rengo (defunct)
Other Yakuza GroupsEdit
- Hidenaga-gumi (defunct)
- Nagato Combine
In reality, the Japanese Yakuza has always been a pretty insular organization and has never dominated the underworld in any country other than in Japan. China has always been the turf of the Chinese Triads and other similar outfits. In Southeast Asia, it's the Chinese Triads (and before them Chinese pirates) who have been at the top of the criminal pecking order since the 1700s. Never have the Yakuza earned more money than the Chinese Mafia nor have they had a tenth of its manpower.
When the Yakuza has expanded outwards of Japan, first during World War Two and later again in the 1970s-90s it was not to conquer new territories or rackets but to establish operations to bring product to Japan and to provide vices for overseas Japanese. They ran gambling and prostitution rackets whose sole clientele were Japanese soldiers and later Japanese tourists and corporate expatriats (with the occasional white guy who tagged along). Methamphetamines, firearms, and women were sent back to Japan. This was the same everywhere from Korea during World War 2 to the Philippines, Thailand, Hawaii, and California in the booming 1980s-90s.
Article forked from "Yakuza" on Wikipedia
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- Mob War!
- New Seattle
- Runner Havens
- Seattle Sourcebook
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- Target: Smuggler Havens, 54
- Target: Wastelands, 73
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- Vice, 46-64, 86
- Corporate Enclaves, 98, 100-103
- Shadows of North America, 163
- Target: Awakened Lands, 27
- Aztlan, 166
- Shadows of Europe, 36, 57, 172, 196
- Run Faster, 208
- Shadowrun Fifth Edition Core Rulebook, 34
- Shadows of Latin America
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- Ancient Files Mirror: Aztlan Draft (PDF) for the Sixth World Almanac by Robert Derie which is aka Ancient History.
- Wikipedia: Yakuza
- Havoscope: Black Market Crime in Japan
- Stratfor: Organized Crime in Japan