Society | Jan 31

Yakuza battle Chinese gangs for control of Japan's criminal underworld

On the afternoon of October 16 last year a brawl erupted between two groups of gangsters in a restaurant on the 58th floor of the Sunshine 60 high-rise building in Ikebukuro, a central neighbourhood of Tokyo.

A group of around 70 people crashed a private party and fighting broke out, resulting in one person bleeding from the head and sustaining minor injuries.

The Tokyo police subsequently revealed that the party had been held by members of a criminal group known as the Chinese Dragons. The Dragons were celebrating the release from prison of one of their leaders and were attacked by a rival Chinese gang.

There is increasing concern in Japan that the Chinese Dragons – or other criminal groups that have moved from China in the past 30 years – are infiltrating the Japanese criminal underworld that used to be controlled by the indigenous mafia, the yakuza.

The Chinese Dragons originated in the 1980s in Kasai (Tokyo). One of the founders recounted that it started to protect himself and his friends from the rampant discrimination against people of Chinese descent. Indeed, many of the members are “Chūgoku zanryū koji”, children and grandchildren of Japanese nationals who had been left behind in China at the end of the war, and returned to Japan as adults after the normalisation of the relationship between China and Japan. Their influence and activities remain local.

Contrarily, the yakuza are a confederation of criminal syndicates active throughout Japan. According to Japanese law, their status is not illegal: they have offices and a yakuza presence is still noticeable in many cities. ...continue reading


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