Japan Data

Japan’s Designated Crime Gangs’ Decline Continues


Japan’s designated organized crime gangs continue to decline in numbers, but loosely formed new gangs are on the rise.

A National Police Agency report on organized crime in 2023 showed that the number of members and associate members of designated organized crime groups (bōryokudan) had fallen by 2,000 from the previous year to 20,400. This is the nineteenth consecutive year that numbers have decreased and marks a new record low.

Japan’s Organized Crime Gang Members and Associates

Until 2009, there were more than 80,000 organized crime gang members in Japan. However, the numbers have been dropping rapidly since then. In addition to the increasing age of the members, the spreading enactment of organized crime (bōryokudan) exclusion ordinances by local authorities across the country has restricted economic and other association between gangs and ordinary citizens, leading to a growing number of members leaving the gangs due to the hardships they face. The membership numbers of the main syndicates as of the end of 2023 are as follows.

2023 Membership of Major Gangs in Japan

  • Yamaguchi-gumi
    • Members: 3,500 (-300)
    • Associate Members: 3,800 (-500)
  • Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi
    • Members: 140 (-190)
    • Associate Members: 260 (-170)
  • Kizuna-kai
    • Members: 60 (-10)
    • Associate Members: 110 (-20)
  • Ikeda-gumi
    • Members: 60 (-10)
    • Associate Members: 90 (-10)
  • Sumiyoshi-kai
    • Members: 2,200 (-200)
    • Associate Members: 1300 (-100)
  • Inagawa-kai
    • Members: 1,700 (-200)
    • Associate Members: 1,200 (0)

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the National Police Agency. Numbers in parentheses indicate the year-on-year change.

During 2023, the police arrested 9,610 crime gang members and associate members. This was 293 less than the previous year and the second consecutive year that the number fell below 10,000. The largest number of arrests, at 1,912, was for violations of the Stimulants Control Act. This was followed by 1,332 people arrested for fraud, 1,186 for assault, 889 for theft, 705 for violation of the Cannabis Control Law, and 460 for extortion. There were 56 people arrested for murder, a decrease of 23 when compared to 2022.

While the power of the bōryokudan is diminishing, criminal activities by loosely formed quasi-gangs defined by the National Police Agency as jun-bōryokudan, made up of former organized crime gang members and former bōsōzoku motorcycle gang members, are on the rise. Among them, criminal groups that use social media to recruit perpetrators to commit systematic special fraud and organized theft while repeatedly breaking up and reassembling, have become more prominent in recent years.

One such group is the juveniles and their masterminds responsible for a high-profile heist on a watch store in Ginza, Tokyo, in May 2023, in which they broke in wearing masks and stole watches worth approximately ¥300 million. The police have increased their vigilance of these types of gangs, which they have named tokuryū, meaning “anonymous and fluid.”

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Officers from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department investigate the scene of a shooting near JR Machida Station, Tokyo, on May 26, 2023. © Jiji.)

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