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Upstart Gangs Filling the Yakuza Power Vacuum (nippon.com)
87 points by ilamont on Dec 13, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments



From the article: Meanwhile, the Kantō Rengō members had started out working as drivers and bodyguards for the heads of major entertainment agencies. By this time, they were starting their own businesses, like loan sharking, adult movie production, and IT. The different members were pushing forward with their own various businesses. I myself had a legitimate web advertising firm that was highly profitable and growing rapidly.

There isn't much money in street crime. Unloading stolen goods is dead. Who wants a partly broken used car stereo? Any TV one person can lift is worthless. Used computers are E-waste. The old-line criminal organizations are either being bypassed or are moving into more profitable areas. Initial coin offerings, binary options, FOREX, and payday loans are the new big moneymakers.


> Unloading stolen goods is dead.

Street crime has simply moved on: From pirated movies to hacked phone cards to peddling forged goods trough legitimate-looking online fonts.

Peddling drugs is as lucrative as ever just like the various side-shows of gambling/red light district incomes, where there's often a very fluid line between commercialized "security services" and organized gang crime.

And let's not even start with "Internet crime" which is basically the new "street crime" not because it's that much more lucrative but because it's that much more convenient and less dangerous than physical involvement.

> Initial coin offerings, binary options, FOREX, and payday loans are the new big moneymakers.

That's what the Yakuza actually started out as: White collar CEO Gangsters. As I understand it the only reason the Kantō Rengō can now take over that role is because Japanese anti-Gang laws increasingly cracking down on the established old-school Yakuza, thus creating a power vacuum these Kantō Rengō are filling.

They might be less traditional in their ways, but they are pretty much running the same racket the Yakuza have been running.


Just to make sure, you mean in Japan, right? Because unloading stolen goods are alive and well in countries where cell phone prices are high and average income is low(my personal experience is with the situation in Brazil).

Phones are easy to steal, people just start using them and lose focus on their surroundings, thieves can just grab and run, they are easy to conceal and a lot of people want to own an iPhone and can't afford it, there is a market.

I know there are ways to brick the device to make it unusable after it is stolen but most people are unaware of how that works.


If “find my iPhone” is on and it’s a 64 bit iPhone there is no way to use it without knowing the iCloud details of the account it is registered to.


AI, bitcoin, and street gangs with ICOs: we really do live in a cyberpunk future.


Except when you live below the API. Then your life becomes a dystopian nightmare.


Has the label cyberpunk ever been applied to something that wasn't a dystopian nightmare?

The closest I can think of is the original Dracula, a story about a group of young, tech savvy people using all the latest gadgets, networks and information technology to fight off a threat to the urbanized world. But that is not often identified as cyberpunk and what it lacks in dystopia it certainly makes up in nightmare.


Interesting! A steampunk Dracula with precisely those themes would be fantastic.


Read the book with an open eye for all the ways the human protagonists are empowered by the latest in contemporary high tech. They are only winning because of cutting edge (at the time) information technology: shorthand, the telegraph network, wax cylinder audio recordings, expert application of knowledge about train schedules. (And souped up steamboats)

It already has everything that steampunk can be, except for the subtext of condescending mockery that often happens when current writers look at the historical technology.


Maybe it did not affect the lead characters as much, but a brutal disparity of wealth was always part of the cyberpunk aesthetic.


And we don't even get the fancy fashion and gadgets, I expected way more mohawks, gas masks, and cyber glasses.


And we got hoodies and neckbeards.


Why would you engage in street crime when you have an organization that can force someone to sell his property or business to you at half its market value and make 10,000x as much money? Street crime is for unorganized desperate people, not people who do crime as a profession.


"There isn't much money in street crime. "

Ummm i disagree. There has never been more money in drugs than today. Opioid crisis anyone? Just americans spend over 100billion dollars per year on drugs. Drugs fund a lot of things in this world.


There is plenty of money in the drug trade and human trafficking as well as wholesale theft.


upstart gangs should beware of the systemd gangs.


I imagine you could get savaged by either of them...


Was there an error in translation here?

>These criminals don’t belong to established yakuza groups, but they don’t have legitimate employment either. They make their living from violence or engage in crime on the side, in addition to their main job.

It seems to be saying they are part time criminals with real jobs, but it also says "they don't have legitimate employment".


The alternation was kind of lost. The sense of the sentence is that hangure refers to people who have neither legitimate employment nor belong to an actual criminal organization but who make a living from violence or illegal activities; or else, it refers to people who may have legitimate employment, but make money in that way on the side.


legitimate employment == full-time job I guess


I'm always interested in reading about the inner workings of gangs. It seems like these biker gangs are not particularly sophisticated nor well organized, though. The main one in the story immediately lost cohesion when their leader fled the country and were absorbed by the Yakuza. In many ways, they seem less robust and effective than biker/street gangs in America.


There is a tension on how organized you make your gang. Too organized and the power concentrates at one person who is easy to arrest or assassinate and then there is a power vacuum that pulls the organization apart.

Basically you trade off being more effective for being more robust. When any member can be arrested at any time it makes sense to retain only loose organization even though you won't get as much done.


I wonder if having all of your members be independently mobile on their motorcycles allowed them to thrive in North America. It's so much easier to commit crime when you just hop on and off a bike, access paths unavailable to cars

Recently I've been reading about Vancouver's gang wars and it strikes me just how persistent Hells Angels seem to be compared to other groups that have all but disappeared off the radar or become friendly to Hells Angels.

Perhaps decentralization is the new organized crime paradigm...we won't be seeing supercartels like Cali anymore


"Leaderless Resistance" has a long history within groups that seek to remain covert (for both legal or illegal reasons).

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaderless_resistance


Motorcycles are hyper powered horses. The war tactics of the preindustrialized world still apply.


American biker gangs in particular benefit from deep cultural roots. They originated post-WWII as associations of disaffected veterans, and continue to have a well of support in groups that follow that culture without any illegal activity. These Japanese biker gangs seem to have a much lighter base of support.

(Interesting side note, gay leatherman culture grew out of specific gay biker gangs, and mainstream biker groups like Hell's Angels have a positive view of leather culture despite their macho image.)


> American biker gangs ... originated post-WWII as associations of disaffected veterans

Based on what I've read, in any country demobilized soldiers are a challenge; they are trained in violence, and are often traumatized, have trouble fitting in with civilians, and lack valuable civilian skills. In some places they become violent insurgents (a recent example is Iraq), in some the government finds a war for them (I've read that that was a motivation for the Crusades), and in the U.S. post-WWII it appears that some became biker gangs, a sort of vigilante for a peaceful society.


And even when they did not become involved in violence, they gave demobilized soldiers a clear hierarchy, with insignia and chains of command.


That's really interesting! Do you happen to remember where you read about demobilized soldiers in countries, or about the possible motivation for the crusades?


> Do you happen to remember where you read about demobilized soldiers in countries

I've read it many times about many countries, current and historical. Find resources serious and detailed enough to deal with that kind of policy issue. There is abundant discussion in the U.S. press (e.g., the NY Times) of the demobilization of the Iraqi army after the Iraq War.

> or about the possible motivation for the crusades

Sorry, not off the top of my head, but it's a relatively well-known theory and I read it more than once. As I wrote, I've read that theory; I didn't say such things happened. That's because I don't recall whether the source was based on serious research and expertise or was repeating a semi-popular 'wisdom'.


The difference in wording when describing gang members is interesting to me - "hoodlums" kind of describes a paternalistic disappointment, but in the US the language usually describes them as sub-human.


It's the same in western Europe.

Motorbike gangs like the Hells Angels got outlawed or severely restricted and violent youths on welfare looking to get involved in crime didn't have the money for expensive Harleys either way.

They started street gangs involved in drugs and fought with brutal violence for control over the nightlife and prostitution, as they had nothing to lose either way.




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