So, you’re curious about the Yakuza. Well, you’re not alone. These infamous characters from Japan’s underworld have been subjects of fascination for many across the globe. Now, the question that’s on everyone’s mind: are Yakuzas men of honor?

It’s like asking if Robin Hood was a hero or a villain. It’s complex, layered, and depends a lot on perspective.

A mugshot of Kodama Yoshio, a prominent figure in the rise of Japan’s organized crime syndicates (Wikimedia Commons)

 On the one hand, you’ve got this group steeped in tradition, following a code of ethics that would put some knights to shame. But on the other hand, let’s remember that they’re deeply involved in organized crime. So, what gives?

It’s what makes this subject of such fascination and debate. The Yakuza represents a paradox, a blend of the honorable and the illicit, the respectful and the terrifying. 

In many ways, the Yakuza embodies a struggle between traditional values and the harsh realities of a modern, globalized underworld.

The Birth of the Yakuza

The Yakuza trace their roots back to the 17th century – when samurais were a thing, and Japan was all about that “bushido” life. 

It was during this period that two distinct groups emerged that would ultimately give birth to the Yakuza as we know them today: the “tekiya” (peddlers) and the “bakuto” (gamblers).