The cities of Japan are packed with sterile, cold white streets, bedecked with signs and nationalistic icons, with a constant, never-ending stream of pedestrians going about their business. Conformity is key to life in Japan; the same hairstyles, clothing and bearing mark every part of life. Students in monochrome uniform, salarymen in identical, drab business suits, workers in white jumpsuits, soldiers in imperial khaki. The entire country is a vast, well-organized system, with identical little cogs fitting into the massive machine of the Japanese Empire, the refined and perfected efficiency that allowed the tiny country to take on the two largest superpowers in human history and come away stronger than ever. An endless legion of interchangeable suits marching in lockstep.
And yet, there are those who stand out in the endless procession, walking against the crowd with long, easy strides, dressed in flowing clothes of bright patterns and colours, elaborate tattoos across their bodies, their hair carefully styled as an affront to dress codes everywhere, under which hangs a smug expression born of arrogance. These are the Yakuza. The world's second largest crime group, outstripped only by the Syndicate backed Sicilian-American Mafia.
When the Empire of the Rising Sun began its plans to fulfil its divine destiny, Emperor Yoshiro met with a man named Kazuo Taoka, a man who had taken a small criminal organization, the Yamaguchi-gumi, from a tiny street gang in Kobe to one of the largest criminal organizations in Japan in less than a decade. Yoshiro knew that a tiny country such as Japan could not stand against the world unless it was united at all levels, even the underworld. He made Taoka a surprising offer; his government would give tact approval of Yakuza activities and presence and pay them to do the dirty work of the government and zaibatsu, if Toaka could unite the criminal underworld and self-regulate it, something the Yakuza already did. Yoshiro promised that so long as the Yakuza was not overtly disruptive or corrupt, they could play an important part in, and reap the benefits of Japan's divine destiny. Taoka, a strong believer in unity and loyalty, agreed, so long as the deal was under the table; both sides would step up their rhetoric against each other while at the same time working together. Thus it was that even the criminal element of the Empire of the Rising Sun became a part of the national machine.
The Yakuza, united under the Yamaguchi-gumi, divide their activities into two broad categories; profit generating, and Muimina Hanzai, which basically means "making trouble".
Profit generating crime takes the form of a large variety of criminal operations. The most common is simple blackmail; infiltrating corporations in order to dig up scandals, then blackmailing those involved. As well as making the Yakuza boatloads of money, these blackmail operations serve to keep companies honest and the salarymen straight-laced; most executives fear Yakuza blackmail more than police intervention because where the police will simply quietly arrest a man, the Yakuza will blackmail the entire company for years with their knowledge, and can turn public trust against even the mightiest zaibatsu to make good on their threat.
The Yakuza also work heavily in smuggling. Isolationist Japan did very little trading with the outside world, so the Yakuza did it for them, smuggling out older technology that could safely be exposed to the outside world, such as guns, medicine, and simple electronics like cameras, while smuggling in fashion, news, food, and media (especially movies, music, and pornography) from the outside world, offering regular citizens a limited avenue of rebellion but making it just difficult and illegal enough to keep it from being a distraction from the National Duty.
One of the unexpected consequences of both these activities is that the Yakuza had found itself as the popular alternative to state-run news, a position it took to enthusiastically. It is widely known that every radio and television station, and every newspaper, besides the official state ones are controlled directly or indirectly by the Yakuza. In addition to being another source of income, this control of the media allows the Yakuza to capitalize on their blackmail and smuggling efforts.
Other Yakuza activities include racketeering, usury, and illegal immigration and emigration.
As part of their unofficial truce with the Japanese government, the Yakuza see to it to suppress other criminal activity, under the pretext that it "makes criminals look bad". Thieves and murderers are often caught by the Yakuza before the police, and the Yakuza have been suspected in the assassination of those who slipped through the legal system through technicalities. They also ruthlessly hunt down drug smugglers and dealers, and their public humiliation of addicts does more to demonize narcotics than any government campaign has. They also prevent foreign criminal organizations from operating in Japan, fighting never-ending battles in boardrooms and back alleys to keep out the Triads, the Russian Brotherhood, and the Syndicate.
Making Trouble is the other activity the Yakuza actively engages in as an organization. It takes many forms; random harassment and intimidation, petty vandalism, street fights, hacking and crashing corporate databases, petty, open theft, and even just loitering. Essentially, making trouble is how the Yakuza draws the line between themselves and shady businesses; raising hell to blow off steam and remind everyone (including, possibly, themselves) that they are criminals. The ideal Yakuza makes trouble wherever he can; the tattoos, dress, and bearing common to the Yakuza are all ways to subvert the system and offend the sensibilities of those around them. Typically, a young member of the Yakuza spends most of his time causing trouble, and is gradually inducted into more serious activities over time as they settle into the lifestyle. Some, however, never quite grow out of it; the Yakuza jokingly refers to these members as "bandits", though they are still useful in leading younger members in making trouble themselves.
The Yakuza at War Edit
Another duty of the Yakuza is to do the dirty work for the Japanese government. It acts as a more traditional intelligence gathering service to augment Imperial psychics, their smugglers and overseas crime groups excellently placed for espionage. The Yakuza were responsible for actually planting the Bunraku robots inside enemy countries. The Yakuza also provide the Imperial Army with rough equivalents to special forces operators, small bands of men dropped into trouble zones with the expressed purpose of stirring up trouble, doing demolition, or engaging in distasteful operations. The famous Shinobi clans are also closely linked with the Yakuza, fitting their origins as mercenaries. In the post-war period, the Yakuza have even assembled a combat group of their own, who are planning to serve as mercenaries for the Japanese government and, if necessary, the Allies.