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Why Japan’s Notorious Yakuza Gangs Are Disappearing

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    Authorities reported that members of the yakuza — Japan’s infamous collective of organized criminal gangs — have decreased for the 12th consecutive year.

    The latest membership figure is pegged at 39,100, down 7,800, the National Police Agency said. This is the first time the number is under 40,000 since 1958.

    The Yamaguchi-gumi, noted to be the largest yakuza group, saw its members fall from 14,100 to 11,800.

    According to South China Morning Post, authorities believe that the decline resulted from new laws erected in 2011, some of which made it illegal for business owners to pay gangs for protection and allowed law enforcers to prosecute gang bosses for crimes committed by their minions.

    In 2012, just after the legal revisions took effect, there were 63,000 yakuza members. The following year, they were down to an all-time low of 58,600, The Guardian noted.

    In 2015, there were 53,000 members left, 23,400 of which belonged to the Yamaguchi-gumi, according to CNN. In a separate report, the outlet highlighted the division of the Yamaguchi-gumi into two groups and the death of boss Tatsuyuki Hishida in the same year. Hishida was found bleeding from his head after sustaining traumatic blows.

    As per Newsweek, the exact origins of the yakuza are unknown, though some point to the inception of Kyoto’s Aizu Kotetsu-kai in the 1870s. It is said to be the fourth-largest gang within the collective, which originally consisted of 21 groups.

    The yakuza are pretty much just like other triads, save for their nearly mainstream existence. They actually have office buildings, according to Listverse said, and remain popular characters in many movies.

    Cover: elmimmo / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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