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Definition of YAKUZA
: a Japanese gangster
: an organized crime syndicate in Japan
Origin of YAKUZA
Japanese, ruffian, gangster
First Known Use: 1964
Japanese gangsters. Yakuza, who trace their roots back to ronin (masterless samurai), often adopt samurai-like rituals and identify themselves with elaborate body tattoos. They traditionally engage in such organized-crime pursuits as extortion, blackmail, smuggling, prostitution, drugs, and gambling, and they control many restaurants, bars, trucking companies, and taxi fleets in Japanese cities. In the 1980s they also became involved in land speculation, fueling the bubble economy that burst by the end of the decade. From a high of more than 180,000 in the early 1960s, their membership has dropped to less than half that number. They are organized into some 2,000 gangs, most affiliated under the umbrella of one of a dozen or fewer conglomerate gangs. Yakuza gangs are rigidly hierarchical and follow strict codes of behaviour.