Yakuza membership drops to just 24,000

As the number of gang members in Japan dwindles, a power struggle continues between the Yamaguchi-gumi and their splinter group the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

A report from Japan’s National Police Agency said designated gang members numbered 24,100 at the end of 2021, down 1,800 year-on-year. This is the lowest number recorded since statistics began in 1958, in the seventeenth consecutive year of declining yakuza membership.

In March 2016, police determined that the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi was in a power struggle with the Yamaguchi-gumi, from which it split in August 2015. In 2018, the Ninkyō Yamaguchi-gumi was established by an organization subordinate of Kobe Yamaguchi. -gumi. The group has called itself Kizuna-kai since 2020, and as of the end of 2021, it was responsible for 86 criminal incidents related to gang rivalry in 23 different prefectures, 70 of which resulted in charges being brought against gang members. In 2021, the Okayama Prefectural Public Security Commission declared the Okayama-based Ikeda-gumi to split itself from the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, a bōryokudan, or crime syndicate. In a separate development, members of the Kobe-based Yamaken-gumi, who played central roles within the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi before splitting, began to return to the Yamaguchi-gumi.

The table below shows Japan’s top gangs and their memberships at the end of 2021. Membership of Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest gang, stood at 8,500, an increase of 300 from the previous year, and represents 35.3% of all yakuza. in Japan. Meanwhile, membership of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, which had 6,100 members when it was established in 2015, had fallen to just over 1,000 by the end of 2021. Adding the memberships of these two gangs to those of the other major gangs (Kizuna-kai, Ikeda-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai), gives 17,200, or 71.4% of Japan’s total yakuza population.

Membership in major gangs

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the National Police Agency.

In 2021, charges were laid against a total of 11,735 gang members, down 1,454 from the previous year. The highest number of arrests were for violations of the Stimulants Control Act (2,985), followed by fraud (1,555), assault resulting in bodily injury (1,353), theft (1,008 ) and violation of the Cannabis Control Act (764). There were also 91 murder charges.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Hyōgo Prefecture police search premises related to bōryokudan the Yamaken-gumi near its headquarters in Chūō, Kobe, on November 12, 2021. © Jiji.)

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