The Yamaguchi-gumi are the largest of Japan’s yakuza families and are famous for their practice of cutting off the fingers of members found guilty of breaking the clan’s rules. In recent year however the group has seen its ranks steadily diminish, dropping by 3,300 members in 2012 according to National Police Agency figures. Organisations like the Yamaguchi-gumi are not illegal in Japan, and have official headquarters in and around Kobe. According to The Independent, Japan’s government has recently passed legislation preventing known mafia bosses from purchasing property and reducing their access to bank accounts, steps which have proven to be a drain on the yakusa’s finances. Though these and similar measures are seen as being key to the reduction in overall yakusa numbers, they have had little effect on its organisational structures and hierarchies. Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun has suggested that bosses hope this publication will have a unifying effect on the clan, by serving as a central means of communication between bosses and more junior members.
As one might expect from a mafia magazine, precise details about the first copy’s issue date and the release schedule for future editions are shrouded in secrecy (though the Tokyo Reporter has claimed that the magazine was first made available on Friday 5th July). Sankei Shimbun has been able to publish information about the magazine’s content after managing to obtain a copy.
An editorial penned by the crime syndicate’s notorious “godfather,” 71 year-old Kenichi Shinoda suggests that, unsurprisingly, the magazine’s editorial line will echo and uphold yakusa traditions and opinions. Addressing the members of his clan, Shinoda writes that times are hard, and that the yakusa cannot rest on their laurels or rely on their “brand” if they want to develop and make a profit. Younger generations are also reminded by their august leader of the values and discipline that for decades have been key facets of the group’s power and strength.
The Sankei Shimbun also reports that as well as containing codes and guidelines outlining the type of conduct expected of clan members, Yamaguchi-gumi Shinpo also caters to its readers’ need for levity and entertainment. A poetry page with satirical haiku also features in the magazine, along with a segment that gives readers tips for playing board games Go and Shogi, among others. Meanwhile a “lifestyle” section gives an insight into the hobbies and activities of the Yamaguchi-gumi’s leading figures; in this first edition the clan’s keen anglers are treated to an article on the latest fishing trip undertaken by a small group of senior members.
As strange as the venture may seem, it is not the clan’s first foray into the media world. From 1965-75 the gang published a similar magazine, the Yamaguchi-gumi Jiho, and for a time regularly held press conferences.