“Yakuza” written in katakana.
Yakuza (ヤクザ), also known as gokudō (極道), are members of traditional organized crime groups in Japan, and also known as the “violence group”.
Today, the Yakuza are among the largest crime organizations in the world. In Japan, as of 2005, there are some 86,300 known members. In Japanese legal terminology, yakuza organizations are referred to as bōryokudan, literally “violence groups”, which Yakuza members consider an insult as it can be applied to any violent criminal.
The Burakumin (部落民) – about 70 percent of the members of Yamaguchi-gumi, the biggest yakuza syndicate in Japan – are a group that is socially discriminated in Japanese society. The burakumin are descendants of outcast communities of the feudal era, which mainly comprised those with occupations considered “tainted” with death or ritual impurity, such as executioners, undertakers or leather workers. They traditionally lived in their own secluded hamlets and ghettos. Discrimination against the Burakumin continues into the present day, a legacy of the Japanese feudal/caste system.