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Abstract

The yakuza, or the Japanese mob, grew from largely ignoble roots, but have come to wield an enormous amount of power. From their origins—which date to the Tokugawa shogunate—as highwaymen, fighters, snake oil salesmen, and even those who were considered to be “nonhuman,” the heterogeneous yet organized gangs of Japan have come to attain a striking amount of both political and social capital. This resulted from a combination of moral assertions, economic adaptations, and political manipulations. These gangs capitalized on traditional ethical codes, vulnerabilities in security, and ultranationalist sentiments in order to gain pervasive prestige in modern Japanese society.

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