With a dwindling number of recruits and tarnished public image, Japan’s notorious gang may be looking to change careers. At least that’s what the Yamaguchi-gumi—the syndicate’s largest group among hundreds of smaller factions—would like to portray on their own website.
The Japanese yakuza, long reputed for their involvement in illegal activities from smuggling, prostitution, drug trafficking to gambling, is seemingly working to clean up its act and become a “banisher of drugs,” according to the website of Yamaguchi-gumi.
Interestingly, the site describes the notorious organization as the “Banish Drugs and Purify The Nation League” or Drug Expulsion of Land Purification Alliance. Founded by the then-leader of Yamaguchi-gumi, it claims the group was “dedicated to the eradication of amphetamine abuse.”
Sources say that the site may have been launched to convince people that the Yamaguchi-gumi was not “an anti-social force,” but rather a “humanitarian organization.” The site is also seems to be aimed towards attracting new recruits and shoring up public support. Police said they suspect the site may signal that the group is expanding its operations.
But the website, in Japanese, couldn’t be more clear about its anti-drug message.
Kazuo Taoka, the Yamaguchi-gumi’s former oyabun (its “father figure” or top boss), reportedly had strong opinion about drug use, a view shared by the current oyabun, Tsukasa Shinobu.
Drug use among the Japanese mafia is frowned upon. Yakuza ideals consider drug use to be a far worse crime than prostitution, gambling or blackmailing. They believe using illegal drugs “creates a weak country” and goes against the characteristics of a “noble yakuza.”
Drug addicts are deemed unworthy of membership and are dismissed.
Along with the anti-drug campaign, the site features the group’s theme song and glimpses into the daily life of yakuza members and their humanitarian efforts following the earthquakes in Kobe and Tohoku.
A video, with theme song, can be seen on their site:
Although considered one of the world’s most feared gangs, the Japanese yakuza doesn’t shy away from the public. Each Japanese crime group even has its own corporate logo, office and business cards.
Image: “Irezumi—Enoshima” by Jeff Laitila/Flickr