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Yakuza - Modern Samurai?

Updated on August 27, 2011

The yakuza, one of Japan’s largest organized crime groups, consider themselves modern samurai:

"Present-day yakuza view themselves as modern samurai and maintain exotic rituals, including extensive tattooing that often covers their bodies from necks to ankles, and clipped fingers that have been self-amputated with a short sword in a ritual – yubizume – that serves as a sign of contrition for mistakes." (Abadinsky, 2003, p. 207)

The yakuza are not modern samurai. The yakuza do not value education, they pursue illegal activities, and they flamboyantly spend lots of money. Samurai live by a code that includes valuing education, knowing the difference between right and wrong, and being frugal with money.


The yakuza do not value education and they “are typically lower-working-class high school dropouts, with one or two parents of Korean or Chinese extraction – marginalized persons with a history of juvenile delinquency” (Abadinsky, 2003, p. 207). Samurai value education and understand its importance:

"If you have no education, there is no way for you to understand the reasons of things past or present. Then no matter how smart or cunning you may be, in actual practice dealing with events you will run into many obstacles." (Cleary, 1999, p. 95)

The yakuza’s lack of importance placed on education is the reason they have to resort to illegal activities for their livelihood.

The yakuza clearly do not understand the difference between right and wrong. This is evident in their illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, sex slavery trade, and extortion (Abadinsky, 2003). Samurai pride themselves on honorable and just behavior. According to the Code of the Samurai:

"The complete moron who cannot distinguish good and bad or right and wrong is not even worth talking about. Once you have determined something to be wrong and bad, to avoid demands and justice and do what is wrong is not the attitude of a knight. That is the epitome of the immaturity of modern times." (Cleary, 1999, p. 18)



Samurai do what is right, whereas the yakuza choose to do what is wrong and illegal.

The yakuza profit from their illegal activities and flamboyantly spend these profits by buying unnecessary American Cadillacs and expensive European luxury cars (Abadinksy, 2003). Samurai practice frugality. The Code of the Samurai states as a Samurai you should “live within your means, taking care to avoid useless expenses, even minor ones, spending money only on imperative necessities. This is the way of frugality” (Cleary, 1999, p. 40). The yakuza clearly do not live within their means. Their extravagant spending forces them into illegal activities to support their existence.

The yakuza are not modern samurai. Other than being based in Japan, they have little in common with samurai. The yakuza are money hungry, uneducated, wrong doers that merely try to justify their illegal behavior by calling themselves samurai. Their claim as modern samurai simply reinforces their lack of education.


Abadinsky, H. (2003). Organized crime (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth Learning.

Cleary, T. (1999). Code of the samurai – a modern translation of the bushido shoshinshu of taira shigesuke. Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing.


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      This was great. In reading it, I have learned so much about a subject which is never heard of. Thank you for writing this super hub.

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrea 7 years ago from Italy

      You are right, obviously, and there is such a big difference between Samurai and Yakuza, as much as there is between Italian Mafia and being a "Man of Honor", as they call themselves. You've got a new follower. :)

    • kea profile image

      kea 7 years ago

      @Hello, hello - thx for reading and glad you learned something new!

      @hypnodude - thx for stopping by and I appreciate the follow! Yes, it's odd how these criminals like to portray themselves as honorable people.

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrea 6 years ago from Italy

      My pleasure, then I'll wait for you to follow me:). Have a nice day!

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrea 6 years ago from Italy

      OMG you're already following me. It was a long time since the last time I reviewed my followers list, sorry. Well, sometimes I make errors too. :(

    • kea profile image

      kea 6 years ago

      @hypnodude - no worries :)

    • profile image

      Joy 6 years ago

      My friend is japanese i was talking with him and he told me that there were a lot of murdering made by Samurais and the end of the edo period just before the were expelled from the cities. If you were a samurais and your master ask you for kill, even though you didn´t want you had to do it. Is what he told me but you r saying something a little bit different and now i am confuse, Could somebody help me please???

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      Endoh 6 years ago

      Joy, what you said is true and that is attributed to loyalty and obedience. In the Samurai world, "honor" is an extremely important aspect of a Samurai's life and it also bears an important mark on his family name. Therefore, a lower ranking Samurai will - 99% of the time - slice an enemy in two without questions.

      We need to bear in mind that in the Edo period, the Samurai clans in that specific period were more of defending their grounds rather than kill for wealth and riches which in modern days we know it as "robbery" or "extortion".

      There is nothing confusing. A good analogy to help understanding the "way of the sword" is our modern day firearms. The police use a firearm to defend and protect the innocent. Whereas, a criminal gang use firearm to commit hideous crimes. Both are still killing, but for very varied reasons which are usually on direct opposite of each other.

      Furthermore, the Edo period is a feudal period when the central Government was consolidating power so naturally, the Samurai were being forced out and some were fighting (and obviously killing) to defend their positions. If you are to continue the history, it will eventually end up in the Meiji restoration.

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      Dudeimo 6 years ago

      This is a great articl about the yakuza. I never knew that they referd to themselves as the modern day samuari.(AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!)

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      I rock!!!!!!!!!!! 6 years ago

      I ROCK!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Coloro 5 years ago

      It was interesting reading this. Nowdays teh yakuza might be a bad copy of Samurais, but I've hear taht yakuza are helping their own ppl after the tsunami. They are no so bad after all. And I must say I really like their tatoos (yakuza) so awesome, stylish and cool, they rock on it.

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      ThisWriterisAnIdiot 4 years ago

      This guy is an idiot... he provides no clear argument except repeating the same opinion (note - opinion) over and over again with no knowledge on the Yakuza whatsoever other what he may have heard over the television or movies.

      Horrible read, terrible writer.

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      Shimanoske 4 years ago

      You call him an idiot, yet he understands precisely what the samurai stood for and creates a clear contrast between the conduct that is expected of the samurai and the lowly yakuza. The yakuza are worse than what you have seen in movies and in television, save for a few Miike movies. Anyone who supports them is a fool, anyone who idolizes them and spreads their propaganda is a dog. What little good the yakuza has done can never erase the needless blood they have shed for their petty vision.

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