A organization of yakuza is divided into vertical hierarchy from top to bottom. The members model the structure as a family, which consists of a father, his brothers, his children, and mediators.
Taking Yamaguchi-gumi –the largest yakuza syndicate– for example, it has some kinds of leader class under the one boss (Kumicho：組長): six quasi-yonger brothers (Shatei:舎弟), and about 80 quasi-junior leaders (Wakashu or Wakachu:若衆 of 若中) , and a headquarters chief (So-honbucho: 総本部長).
Shatei and Wakashu are regarded as direct lines of the boss (Chockei-kumicho or Jikisan: 直系組長 or 直参). They also govern their own secondary yakuza group all around Japan, branching the similar fractal structure to 4-5 degrees, like a tree.1
Take a closer look at them. Among the children, Wakashu, there is a No.2 of the entire syndicate (Wakagashira: 若頭), and seven its assistants (Wakagashira-hosa: 若頭補佐). And below it, 10 members of Wakashu who are almost Wakashu-hosa (Kanbu: 幹部).
So-honbucho acts like a executive director.
Wakagashira, wakagashira-hora, and So-honbucho form the executive section.
Other members of Shatei and consultants (Komon: 顧問) are the senior direct lines of the boss, but according to Atsushi Mizoguchi they are somewhat half-retired advisers.2
The below chart has some different part from description above, but it nicely visualizes the hierarchy of Yakuza with caricature.
Money flows inside the syndicate:
In Yamaguchi-gumi, the bosses of the secondary group are summoned at the headquarter in Kobe every month. They are obligated to make certain payments.
For instance, Non-executive Wakashu must pay around 800,000 yen($7810), and Wakagashira-hosa must pay around 100,000 yen($9762) a month.
Under the current sixth-kumicho, on the top of the “tax”, the Chokkei-kumicho pay reserve fund to the group, and even buy commodities like bottled water, toothbrush,detergent,stationery, by the top. But the secondary bosses also collect money from their subsidiaries. It holds true of the lower subsidiaries as well. Totally money is sucked from the bottom of the tree.3
The system is like a franchising of legitimate company. While The members at the bottom of hierarchy make money with the infamous name of the yakuza, they must pay charge for using the name.
Another incentive of paying money for superior is carrier ladder to the top. If he contribute the group, he might have a chance to be moved up by the boss.
On the boss-side, They need not work for the money. Rather, since lowers take the risk of arrest, the boss is safe. It had a little bit changed when bosses were accused of “employer liability” though.
- Some English terms are taken from Oyabun-Kobun, Father-Child — The Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia — The Crime Library — Crime Library ↩
- Mizoguchi, Atsushi. 2011. Bōryokudan. Tōkyō: Shinchōsha.: 溝口敦「暴力団」(p. 21-22) ↩
- Mizoguchi (2011) p. 23-26 ↩