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Japan's yakuza mafia faces a crackdown

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It is this 4,000-strong gang – based in Nagoya, the western city that is home to Toyota – that has earned the distinction of a special police unit dedicated to its destruction.

It is difficult for most outsiders to fathom the openness with which yakuza gangs have operated. Membership is legal. Gangs have offices, are listed in phone books, and newly formed factions have been known to call press conferences to announce their logos and names. In return, the police expect them to abstain from street crime, exchange information, and have members – or at least fall guys – confess if civilians are injured or killed in intergang troubles. The authorities' thinking has been that organized crime was better than disorganized crime. Until now.

"For a number of years now, the police have had a particular problem with the Kodokai," says Jake Adelstein, author of "Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan." "Their antagonistic attitude toward the police – collecting information on them, not allowing detectives into the gang offices for a chat, not confessing, goes against the unwritten rules of how the yakuza get along in Japan."

At a conference on Asian organized crime held by the FBI and the NPA in Seattle in 2007, Mr. Adelstein said that when the police raided one Kodokai office, they found photos of policemen and their families. The FBI's reaction was to wonder how they got away with this, while the NPA representatives squirmed, according to Adelstein.

Using sumo as a wedge

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