Discover Yakuza in Japanese Pop Culture

I bet you guys all have already known about the yakuza. Yes, it is! Yakuza is the term to call the members of organized crime syndicates in Japan. Just like the other big crime syndicates in this world like Triad, Italian mafioso, and the Russian mafia, yakuza is one of the biggest and most popular crime syndicate in the world. Thanks to the anime, manga, and the Japanese video games that often insert yakuza in their stories, the yakuza name became well known in this world. Because of that, in this article we’re going to cover about the existance of yakuza in the Japanese Pop Culture. Let’s take a look…

Different than the other crime syndicates which always keep their presence secretly and silently, yakuza is more open to public since they clearly made their headquarters in a giant building and named it, usually using a piece of wooden board. This kind of thing made yakuza is still felt as a part of Japanese society, and, moreover there are lots of people who prefer to cling on yakuza rather than the police. Because of that, it became such a common thing to insert yakuza in their works like manga, anime, movie, or even in the video games. There are a lot of yakuza appearences in the Japanese Pop Culture and it’s fun to know more about it, so let’s check on some of them…

  1. Ryuu ga Gotoku / Yakuza (video game & movie )
     Ryuu ga Gotoku or Yakuza in the US is an action adventure video game for the Playstation 2. Yakuza was first released in 2005 in Japan. This game also has lots of sequels, which are yakuza 2, yakuza 3, yakuza 4, and some of the spin off series. In this game, you will play as Kazuma Kiryu, a former yakuza who was released from prison after a ten years sentence for murdering another yakuza boss. After he was released, he found out that his friend Yumi Sawamura is missing and there’s a big incident in the yakuza world because of the Tojo Clan, which Kazuma was part of it, had 10 billion yen stolen from them. This incident force Kazuma to return to the yakuza world while he has to protect a girl, named Haruka Sawamura, which somehow connected to the 10 billion lost money and Kazuma’s friend Yumi.

Daily problems…

You don’t have any idea about what kind of shit you’re getting into!

I’ve told ya son!

The yakuza appearance is pretty clear in this game since you will play the main character that was a yakuza and will have to fight lots of yakuza. Kazuma Kiryu, the main character and the former yakuza, decribed as someone who has a high sense of justice and always act to protect the weak ones. He is a kind and loyal person as well. Though Kazuma Kiryu makes the image of yakuza become good, there are still lots of yakuza in this game who would fit into your original image. But at least, this game make us realize that not all of the yakuza is a bad person and still have a high sense of justice, just like Kazuma Kiryu.

Where is it eh?? :p

  • My Boss My Hero (dorama)
    Most of the people often imagine yakuza as a group of cold blooded men who do everything necessery to gain money, like murder, extortion, drugs selling, and etc. But, what if your image of yakuza change 360 degree because of this dorama? I’m sure it will, because the story of this dorama is about a 27 years old yakuza boss, named Sakaki Makio (Tomoya Nagase), who can’t even know the answer of a simple mathematics question for junior school. On the other side, Makio is well known for his fighting ability, he’s a super strong human, and because of that he’s nicknamed as Tornado Makio and really famous in the yakuza world. On the other hand, because of his stupidity, he always ruins the transaction of his yakuza group and always make the big boss , which is his father, angry. One day, his father who’s been fed up by his son’s idiocy, forces him to go studying in one of the high school and get the diploma. If not, his father won’t let him succeed him as the big boss and give that position to his younger brother, Mikio.

Two different persona… :D

The real life

Can’t you even imagine that one of your classmate is a yakuza boss? Scary? No, not at all in this dorama!!! It turns out to be a really hilarious story, one of a kind! In the school, Makio who’s a yakuza, tries really hard to live the high schoolers life, like making homework, cleaning the classroom,  and even getting his money extorted by the snot nosed punk in his class. Makio tries really hard to cover his true identity by disguising himself into a kind and friendly person because if his cover is blown, he obviously will be dropped out of the school and he can say good bye to his dream to become a big boss. In the beginning, things was really hard for him since he really sucks at all subjects, except sport, and his classmate always teases him up because of his stupidity. Still, he does all of the things thoroughly and he even become the head of the class because of his ambition to become a leader. As the days pass by, Makio learns there’s lots of interesting things in the school, than just studying and doing exams. Although most of his classmates were making fun of him in the beginning, in the end, Makio is able to gain the supports from all of them ( he even get a girl who loved him which is starred by Yui Aragaki ).

Don’t you dare to choose me sensei!!! or I’ll kill you!!!

Another stupid face from our yakuza.. :D

This dorama is one of the best dorama that I’ve ever watched. In this dorama, you can know that, even yakuza, they are still humans and really have a strong ties between each of them. Moreover, there’re a lot of emotional moments that you can get, beside the hilarious moments that are all over the dorama.

  • Gokusen (manga, anime, and dorama)
    Originally, Gokusen is a manga series, but because of the popularity, Gokusen is addapted into anime series and dorama series. The dorama itself also gained big popularity since in each series there’s always lots of cool actors who are always starred as the students. The story of Gokusen is about Kumiko Yamaguchi, the granddaughter of a yakuza boss from the Ikka family, who just started her carrer as a teacher. Actually, Kumiko is supposed to be the next big boss of her yakuza family by succeeding her grandfather, since Kumiko parents died when she was a kid, and her grandfather has no other decendants. However, being a teacher is her big dream since she was a kid, and knowing about that, his grand father let her to choose her own path.

The dorama version of Yankumi

While teaching her students at school, Kumiko is always called as Yankumi, her given nickname from her students. Her students in her class are all boys and most of them are delinquients. However, because of her background as a member of a yakuza family, that kind of thing doesn’t enough to scare her. Instead, she tries her hardest to teach lots of things to them, both the academics and the lesson of life. Even though her students always cause her lots of trouble, like have problem with other teachers, other school’s students, or even yakuza, Yankumi always help them to solve the problem and be a great hero for them. The whole gokusen story is filled with lots of humor scene and some of the emotional scene.

Her class which is filled with delinquents

Those stories above are just some of the existace of yakuza in the Japanese pop culture, to tell you the truth there are still sooo many of story which include yakuza. The appearance of yakuza in their story also varies, most of them as the bad guy or antargonist, but some of them, they use yakuza as the good guy or the protagonist. To tell you the truth, I’d like to believe that yakuza is different than the other crime syndicates as well.

My final gift.. :)


About Randy

My name is Albertus Randy, I'm 22 years old. I live in Bandung city, Indonesia. Now I'm still studying in Parahyangan University and my major is International Relation. I like almost everything about Japanese stuffs, like manga, anime, fashion, dorama, foods, etc. It is my biggest dream to be able to live in Japan and through this blog I would try to share my ever-lasting passion of Japan. よろしくおねがいします。。。

17 thoughts on “Discover Yakuza in Japanese Pop Culture

    • Thanks Glenn, sebenernya kita memang akan ngebahas sejarah yakuza asli di Jepang tapi di post yang berbeda bro karena bakal terlalu panjang kalau disatukan sama yang ini. hehe jadi bertahap ya bro. Karena itu follow terus Japanesense ya bro. Thanks :)

      • i guess there’re two type of yakuza in japan, but this’s just my guess so CMIIW (correct me if i’m wrong)

        The one is “traditional yakuza” i used that term to addres yakuza who still have a traditional japanese style, Like wearing kimono, and used katana for battle purpose, and still used seppuku if they make a mistake.

        The other one is “modern yakuza” this term is used for yakuza who looks like mafia. They often wear tuxedo and carried a gun.

        Well that’s as far as i know about yakuza, even though this’s just my experience through watching anime~ Ahahahahahah

      • Kalau yakuza sih mereka lebih ke tempat – tempat hiburannya bro dibanding jualan film seperti itu, tapi mungkin ada beberapa juga ya yang melakukan bisnis itu.hahaha

      • @Rizuki : You’re right! Nowadays, there are 2 types of yakuza just as you said but it doesn’t mean they’re from different organization. Usually, the oyabun ( big boss) or the other boss who’s should be older, wear the traditional outfit like kimono, especially when they held a ceremony or a big meeting of the group. However, it’s possible for the boss to still wearing the modern clothes, like black suits and tuxedo. On the other hand, most of the younger and lower class yakuza members often wear modern clothes, like sunglasses and colorful suits.
        About the other things, like using the katana, doing seppuku, and carrying a gun, I think all of the yakuza doing it, whether they’re the older or younger yakuza.By the way, than doing seppuku as a penance, it’s more popular to do “Yubitsume” for yakuza, which is to cut one’s finger and give it to their boss. >:(

      • @Jarrid and Rizuki : Actually, yakuza, they’re more to have relations with the government than take a part in ruling the government itself. Yakuza is famous to have a strong relationship with “Uyoku Dantai” which are the Japanese nationalist right wing groups (traditional conservative). So I think the yakuza often uses Uyoku Dantai to keep their existence in Japan. By the way, yakuza is also famous for their involvement in Japanese economy by making large investment in legitimate, mainstream companies.

        Thanks for the comments guys! :)

    • Thanks for the compliment Rizuki. :)
      However, to tell you the truth, I’m not that knowledgeable, it’s just nowadays our access for the information is easier.. ^^
      Anyway, thank you one more time Rizuki..

  1. haha, cool..!
    nice info
    cerita yg ringan, menghibur dan informatif, kyknya kalo pengen tau sejarah yakuza ane tinggal searchign ke wiki aja ya.. haha
    keep posting popcult about japan, btw, request pop cult ttg christmast di jepang ya buat desember nanti.. LOL

    • Thanks bro!
      Siap bro, nanti kita pasti buat post yang membahas tentang Christmas day di Jepang ya. Karena itu tetep follow Japanesense ya! :)

  2. i wonder sometimes, is yakuza an organization that have specific destination in mind or is it just a big family trying to gain control? i also wonder if yakuza have deeper meaning in their name (my japan proficiency = zero X| )

    • Hi Creed!
      What you said first is the right one, since yakuza is the member of a crime organization is Japan. The organization itself has lots of members, so the members are not based from a certain family. However, the ties between each members in the organization are so strong and each yakuza consider the other members in their organization as their family, though it’s not their actual family.

      For the second question, the meaning of yakuza is 8-9-3. the 8-9-3 is a losing hand in the traditional Japanese card game, Oicho-Kabu, which is similar to Blackjack or Baccarat in the Western.
      Thanks for the comment Creed!

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