Japan Data

Yakuza Membership Falls to Just 24,000


While the number of gang members in Japan is declining, a struggle for power continues between the Yamaguchi-gumi and its splinter group the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

A report by Japan’s National Police Agency says that members of designated gangs numbered 24,100 as of the end of 2021, which was down 1,800 year on year. This is the lowest number recorded since statistics began in 1958, in the seventeenth consecutive year of declining yakuza membership.

In March 2016, the police determined that the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi was in a power struggle with the Yamaguchi-gumi, which it splintered from in August 2015. In 2018, the Ninkyō Yamaguchi-gumi was established by a subordinate organization of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. The group has called itself the Kizuna-kai since 2020, and as of the end of 2021, it had been responsible for 86 criminal incidents related to gang rivalry in 23 different prefectures, 70 of which resulted in charges being laid against gang members. In 2021, the Okayama Prefectural Public Safety Commission declared the Okayama-based Ikeda-gumi, which itself split from the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, a designated bōryokudan, or crime syndicate. In a separate development, members of the Kobe-based Yamaken-gumi, which played a core role within the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi before splitting off, have begun to return to the Yamaguchi-gumi.

The table below shows Japan’s main gangs and their memberships as of the end of 2021. Membership of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest gang, stood at 8,500, which is an increase of 300 on the year before, and represents 35.3% of all yakuza in Japan. Meanwhile, membership of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, which boasted 6,100 members when it was founded in 2015, had fallen to just over 1,000 by the end of 2021. Adding the memberships of these two gangs to those of the other major gangs (the Kizuna-kai, the Ikeda-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai, and the Inagawa-kai), yields 17,200, or 71.4% of Japan’s total yakuza population.

Membership of the Major Gangs

Members Associate Members
Yamaguchi-gumi 4,000 (+200) 4,500 (+100)
Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi 510 (-690) 540 (-760)
Kizuna-kai (former Ninkyō Yamaguchi-gumi) 90 (-140) 140 (-120)
Ikeda-gumi 80 110
Sumiyoshi-kai 2,500 (-100) 1,500 (-100)
Inagawa-kai 1,900 (-100) 1,200 (-100)

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the National Police Agency.

In 2021, charges were laid against a total of 11,735 gang members, down 1,454 from the year before. The largest number of arrests was for violations of the Stimulants Control Act (2,985), followed by fraud (1,555), assault resulting in injury (1,353), theft (1,008), and violation of the Cannabis Control Act (764). There were also 91 charges of murder.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: The Hyōgo Prefectural Police search premises related to designated bōryokudan the Yamaken-gumi near its headquarters in Chūō, Kobe, on November 12, 2021. © Jiji.)

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