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Yakuza suspected in Kobe port cocaine container seizure

PortandTerminal.com, November 19, 2019

KOBE, JAPAN – Japan has one of the world’s lowest rates of cocaine consumption but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a market for the stuff. What’s more, Japan’s Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has acknowledged that the annual number of cocaine cases has been rising over the past several years. In 2018 law enforcement authorities reportedly took action against 217 individuals in connection with cocaine-related charges, the highest number on record.

The latest cocaine bust in Japan took place in October at the Port of Kobe. Police in Japan are reporting that a record 880 pounds (400 kilograms) of cocaine was seized by customs authorities at the port, investigative sources said last Thursday. Organized crime syndicates are the prime suspects, with Japan’s local mob “The Yakuza” being top of the list.

The record haul by customs at Kobe more than doubled the previous highest cocaine seizure at a Japanese port set only in August at Mikawa port in Aichi Prefecture, according to local reports.

The Japan Times reports that the Kobe port seizure was the result of a smuggler attempting to import cocaine from overseas. There is however some speculation that the smugglers may have sent the cocaine to Kobe by mistake, possibly intending to deliver it to another destination, the sources said without providing details.

The Yakuza

In addition to being heavily tattooed, many Yakuza are missing a little finger. The ancient ritual of amputating one’s own finger is a way of atoning to the boss for having done something wrong.

The Yakuza is a criminal syndicate that traces its roots back to the early 17th century in Japan. Today the syndicate earns most of its money through gambling, prostitution and extortion. Some Yakuza groups are known to deal extensively in human trafficking.

While many of their activities are criminal, the organization itself is not. Part of the reason that Japanese society tolerates the gang is because of a set of internal codes which made the Yakuza appear to be an effective deterrent in society against street crime: robbery, muggings, theft, sexual assault. Yakuza members are estimated to number about 70,000 in Japan.

The largest Yakuza group are the Yamaguchi-Gumi gang from Kobe, where the most recent cocaine bust at the port took place in October. The Kobe clan’s numbers are estimated to be approximately 23,000.

Many Yakuza syndicates, notably the Yamaguchi-Gumi, “officially” forbid their members from engaging in drug trafficking, while some Yakuza syndicates, notably the Dojin-kai, are heavily involved in it. 

When the yakuza rob people, deal drugs, when they attack civilians, their family members, or their children–they’re no longer yakuza, they’re just mafia.

Yakuza boss

Gang members are highly visible within Japanese society, not least because of their tradition of heavily tattooing themselves. In the Edo period (1603 to 1868), criminals were tattooed by authorities in a practice known as bokkei, making it hard for them to reenter society and find work. The tattoo culture of the yakuza evolved in protest to this branding. In the past, it was obligatory in many yakuza clans for members to get tattoos.

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