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Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld, Expanded Edition Paperback – February 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"State-of-the-art investigative reporting...must reading for those who consider themselves already highly conversant with yakuza activities...disturbing."

From the Inside Flap

"A fascinating study of how criminal enterprise can infect the very heart of modern capitalism. Here is the backstage world of political influence and organized crime in the world's second largest economy... by far the most detailed and even-handed study of this important and neglected subject."—John W. Dower, author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Reviews of original edition:

"A superb study of Japan's underworld that is both entertaining and revealing. The authors miss none of the color and curious detail of the yakuza style, but at the same time go far beyond surface observations."—Far Eastern Economic Review

"The book is laden with fascinating information, some of it heretofore unavailable in English."—Washington Post

"Blend the Mafia with the Masons. Let them simmer a while, then fold in the Ku Klux Klan and you'll have the yakuza…. Important and timely…Yakuza will serve for years as the source document on Japanese organized crime."—San Jose Mercury News

"State-of-the-art investigative reporting…must reading for those who consider themselves already highly conversant with yakuza activities…disturbing."—Journal of Asian Studies

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 422 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Second Edition, Expanded Edition edition (February 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520215621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520215627
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #924,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a solid reference work, and expands and updates on the earlier work that was itself a classic. It examines structured corruption in which organized crime, organized politics, and secretive corporate conglomerates, all help one another become wealthy at the expense of the public.
There are a number of fine points across the book that merit emphasis here, and one of the earliest is that of how the CIA and the Army G-2 deliberately nurtured Japanese criminal organizations during the occupation, because they were "anti-communist."
There is an excellent section of the book that focuses on how the US government fostering of political corruption in Japan in turn led to US corporate corruption, to include the funding of separate US corporate foreign policies anti-thetical to those Congress was trying to foster in the days before Congress abdicated its responsibilities.
Lee Kuan Yew would like this book. He says the only antidote to organized crime is strong extended families--natural families whose kinship equates to ethics. The book documents the spread of crime in Japan to every aspect of life, and one can only be saddened to see how the concepts of samurai honor and loyalty have been turned upside down.
Three ideas keep running through my mind as I read the book, two of them from the author and the third my own. First, the authors focused on the importance of following the money. He knew and wrote about this in the mid-1980's, but today the US Government is still marginally able to follow money, especially informal money that the FBI only discovered in the late 1990's with help from Dick Clarke (see my review of "Against All Enemies").
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Clark on July 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have been interested in the topic of transnational organized crime for about four years now. Most research on the topic that you will find today concentrates on the more sensational groups like the Russian (Eurasian) groups, the Colombian drug trafficking organizations, and of course the "traditional" OC groups from Sicily and mainland Italy. Very little work has focused exclusively on Asian groups, most especially the Yakuza. Kaplan and Dubro's work helps to fill that gap immensely. Their work is undoubtedly the best material on the Yakuza available. For a more comprehensive look at Asian OC in general, Bertil Lintner's "Blood Brothers" is excellent as well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Anarchy on November 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld" is a book that is almost criminally enthralling.

In the United States the world of organized crime tends to be viewed as entirely exclusive to Anglo-European or Eastern European groups. Whether it be the Cosa Nostra or the Armenian mob little is generally known about the criminal organizations of the East. Particularly Japan's Yakuza.

How many of you knew that the pervasiveness of methanphetamines throughout the world is thanks to the Yakuza? Also, how many of you knew that the Yakuza is so widely integrated into Japanese society that they have often held press conferences announcing the end of gang conflicts or that they even have their own offices? How many of you knew that the Yakuza was allowed to survive and thrive after WWII thanks to the American occupation of Japan? Did you also know that the CIA employed some Yakuza as spies against the left wing in Japan after the war? ...and that these same people that they employed and let gain power...were the same people they put in prison for Class A war crimes?

These are just a few of the interesting and altogether jaw-dropping facts you'll learn by reading this book, a very thoroughly researched study on the fairly little known but globally expansive criminal organizations of Japan. If there aren't at least a dozen parts in this book that don't shock and amaze you I would be very surprised. I could go on and on about all of the interesting facts on the Yakuza covered in this book (from its vaguely noble beginnings to its rather uncertain future) but I think if you are interested in knowing about them you should read this book firsthand. You will NOT be disappointed.

A fantastic book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Benson on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
Not as gory or glamorous as I expected, this book does paint a very vivid and true to life picture of the yakuza. Recommended if you have an interest in the underworld.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Brown on April 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
Since this book was originally published in 1986 it has been the standard reference work on organized crime in Japan. This new, greatly expanded edition only adds to its status. Organized crime in any country tends to share certain similarities. Their activities concentrate on gambling, prostitution, drugs, extortion, and smuggling. Also, they are usually very right-wing and nationalistic. The Yakuza are no exception, but there are some differences, " is as if the Ku Klux Klan and the Mafia formed an enduring, politically potent alliance." The symbiotic relationship between Japan's political system, Big Business, and the Yakuza is a disturbing indication of the depth and prevalence of corruption and bribery in the world's second-largest economy. The authors (both American journalists) trace the roots of the Yakuza to its medieval beginnings, but most of the book concentrates on the period since the American Occupation, when the present form of Yakuza organization solidified (and also exposes the involvement of the CIA with the Yakuza's post-war growth). It documents the rise of the Yakuza into a multi-billion dollar enterprise with worldwide investments in real estate, art, big business and more. The original book ended before the bursting of the "Bubble Economy", and this new version picks up the story and shows how the Yakuza have adapted since then to the new economic climate. The authors also cover extensively the internationalization of the Yakuza, particularly their various attempts to move into America. A must-read for anyone interested in contemporary Japan and Japanese politics.
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