Are Buraku Criminal Syndicates?

Buraku have always experienced serious poverty. The historical connection between poverty and high crime rates has been carefully discussed. Statistically, however, no one has been able to show evidence as quantifiable data. Since modernization, Buraku in Hiroshima City have been called dens of crime. In the 1940s, the Buraku (pop. over 9,000) were the poorest areas, but the crime (arrested) rate was low relative to Hiroshima Prefecture as a whole. Statistics for Hiroshima Prefecture in 1917, when poverty was the most severe:

PopulationNumber of arrested personsRate of arrested persons
Buraku in Hiroshima City4,788460.96%
Hiroshima Prefecture1,695,84417,3381.02%

Generally, the crime rate is the number of crime perceptions per one hundred thousand population. Dr. Ramseyer says Buraku produced more criminals than non-Buraku. Comparing rates of arrested persons reveals the true relationship between crime and Burakumin.

Yet the discourse linking Buraku and the yakuza persists. Kaplan says that 70% of the Yamaguchi-gumi (the largest yakuza group) are from Buraku. But he has never given data to support this. This is sadly typical of western academics. Take Dr. Ramseyer’s paper on the comfort women issue.

Through these targeted subsidies, the governments built community centers and public housing. Although the buildings did improve the housing stock, they unambiguously identified the areas as burakumin neighborhoods. Worse, the large revenue at stake attracted the organized crime syndicates, colloquially called the "yakuza." Burakumin in the criminal syndicates took prominent posts in the best-known of their self-styled civil rights organization, the Burakumin Liberation League (BLL). There, they masterminded policy, intimidated officials, barred rival claimants to the funds, and diverted money to their private accounts.

The result, largely acknowledged by the BLL itself, was the diversion of substantial government funds to selected burakumin leaders and the criminal syndicates. City governments awarded construction contracts to favored companies. They bought the land for the buildings at inflated prices from powerful burakumin. Local tax officials promised not to audit tax returns of companies certified by the BLL. City halls agreed to hire burakumin chosen by the BLL. Mainstream businesses paid money to avoid accusations of discrimination. And the syndicates themselves fought each other bitterly over control of the enormous revenue stream.[Outcaste Politics and Organized Crime in Japan: The Effect of Terminating Ethnic Subsidies, pp.3]

Dr. Ramseyer cites Kadooka (2004, 2005, 2009, 2012), Miyazaki (2004 ) and Miyazaki & Otani (2000). But these are not academic papers, and they present no clear evidence. Moreover, they never addressed the general situation of Buraku. It would be a waste of time to demolish their arguments because their arguments are—in the case of the gullible westerners—silly, ignorant, cotton candy constructions. (We might as well demolish Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny.) The Japanese, who cannot plead ignorance, are simply malicious.

Yes, the tired old discourse of poverty/crime is wrong. Otherwise, logic could not explain the increase in crime during Japan's period of rapid economic growth. But let me speak empirically. Since 1970, I have visited many Buraku from Tokyo to Fukuoka to Shikoku, but I have never seen any relationship between yakuza and Buraku. I have visited and studied a huge Buraku in Kobe City, home to five organizations of yakuza. Those crime bodies have no members from Buraku. Such relationships simply do not exist in reality.

And if a few individual Burakumin ever did get sucked into crime, or heaven forbid into the yakuza, what exactly would that prove? No community, and no demographic, is wholly immune from criminality. What is this perverse desire of Kaplan and Ramseyer, to smear all Buraku collectively, and all Burakumin collectively? Under US law, libel is still criminal, the last time I heard.

Page Top