Fear is a natural human response. It is as natural as breathing air or eating food to live. In fact, fear is a part of survival instinct.
But in some parts of the world, fear is simply not acceptable. Anxiety and fear are seen as a weaknesses that cannot be allowed. In some cultures, ruthlessness is tempered by honor, and the rise to power is determined by one’s dedication to duty. To attain honor and power, one must live by a strict code wherein fear and anxiety are treated as grave offenses, and as powerful tools.
For the Yakuza, a Japanese secret society that has existed for centuries, signs of weakness among its members is not tolerable. On the other hand, their organization thrives and rules based on the weakness of people outside the confines of the ancient fraternity. The Yakuza is reputedly behind almost every illegal activity in Japan from prostitution, game-fixing, and smuggling, to illicit drugs and protection rackets.
For the Oyabun or masters of the Japanese underworld, anxiety can be compared to a sword with no handle. To grasp the blade and strike is to invite harm upon yourself. But a sword with a fine handle can be held and used to cut through anything that goes against the plans and desires of the Boryukudan, which is comparable to the power, influence, and violence associated with the Italian Mafia or the Chinese Triads.
Japanese organized crime is different from all other criminal organizations in the sense that their activities are carried out in the open, often in the direct line of sight of the police. The Yakuza clans flaunt their power and influence by running operations that go around the technical restrictions of Japan’s rigid legal system. For example, pachinko parlors that feature Japanese-style pinball and slot machines is are actually gambling joints allegedly run by organized crime. Despite strict anti-gambling laws, these parlors were able to operate by using balls as the “winnings.” The pachinko player can use these balls to play more games or to exchange them for prizes. By eliminating money from the gambling process, the pachinko parlors can continue to rake in millions every single day for organized criminal organizations.
The existence of the Yakuza is actually allowed in Japan despite its alleged links to criminal activities. This organization has an incomparable level of freedom to operate. The different Yakuza clans or families even have their own office buildings that are regarded as corporate headquarters. It may be unusual in other parts of the globe but the Boryukudan is actually accepted as part of Japanese society.
With its high level of social acceptance, manifestations of anxiety or fear among Yakuza members is seen as a dishonor not only to the person concerned but also for his organization. Failure to accomplish a task or actions that are thought to have brought dishonor to the clan have corresponding consequences. A Yakuza member who has failed his master and organization may be asked to cut his own finger as a sign of regret and penance.
In more serious cases, a member may be expected to commit seppuku, an act of suicide using a short sword. The Yakuza member will thrust the sword and cut it across his stomach, after which, another member will use another sword to cut the head of the one who committed the ritual suicide.
Aside from its code against the demonstration of fear, the Yakuza deliberately threatens people to create anxiety. Intimidation is actually one of the most effective weapons in the Yakuza’s arsenal. The Japanese underworld understands the Machiavellian concept that a single act of brutality can be more effective in controlling the masses than a number of attacks with less atrocity. To this end, the Japanese employ subtle methods and cultivate anxiety when they deal with ordinary citizens. Using their brand of psychological warfare, the Yakuza is able to inflict nightmarish terror among helpless civilians, and at the same time, use lethal violence on anyone who dared get in their way. The power of the Yakuza clans is legendary in Japan, and allows even a new Yakuza operative to elicit anxiety and fear by their mere presence.
However, it is a misconception to think of the Yakuza as a group of “bullies” or thugs in the traditional sense. Most people simply give in to the demands of the syndicates after hearing rumors of just how dangerous the Boryukudan members can be if a person refuses to pay protection money, or if they cheated out of a business deal. For those who have made deals with them, the Yakuza is often found willing to fulfill their end of the bargain.
The Yakuza is a phenomenon is crime history that continuous to fascinate people even as it hounds their adversaries in law enforcement. Based on how it operates today in and outside of Japan, it is possible that it would continue to expand its criminal empire through its rigid code of honor, and tools of fear, intimidation, and violence.