Even mobsters need their literary fix every once in a while. The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s biggest yakuza organization has published a magazine specifically for its members. But more than just a newsletter type, it actually boasts of a poetry page and even fishing diaries from its senior members. The organization boasts of around 27,700 members nationwide and the magazine seems to be one of their ways to strengthen the group’s unity. Called Yamaguchi-gumi Shinpo (“newsletter”), the first issue, not available for public consumption, has an entertainment section (detailed fishing trips by top officials) and even a satirical haiku and stories about board games like Go and Shogi.
It also includes a front page piece written by the group’s don, Kenichi Shinoda, where he tells the younger members about the values and disciplines they should imbibe. He also talks about the fact that times are more difficult for the mafia nowadays and they cannot just rely on their “brand” to sustain their operations. There is a truth to his editorial, since the number of yakuza members has been steadily declining over the years. Recent figures from the National Police Agency show that as of late 2012, there are now 63,200 members, down from 71,000 the previous year.
The Yamaguchi-gumi owns 40% of those numbers, but they lost 3,300 members in 2012. Just like its gangster counterparts in other countries, the yakuza are heavily involved in activities like gambling, drugs, prostitution as well as loan sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime. While they are technically not illegal, the authorities crack down on their “less savory” activities.