Honors College Theses

Publication Date



International Studies (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. William Biebuyck


The Yakuza in Japan is a deeply traditional and infamous ethnic mafia, which has historically based their profits off of the protection of gambling rings and street vendors, but have developed into one of the most sophisticated and wealthy criminal institutions in the world. Reaching their peak in the 1960’s with around 200,000 members, the Yakuza has been in a slow decline ever since. However, the past decade has seen the most dramatic drop in Yakuza numbers in recorded history, as a result of increasing securitization by the Japanese state. As their power has declined within Japan, they have only managed to multiply their wealth, however. The research therefore seeks to address the question of how the Yakuza’s strategies have changed in response to the developments in securitization and economic globalization. The shift of focus from Japan’s illicit markets to an increasing role in international criminal activities is analyzed through the conceptual lens of Social Network Analysis, and describes the trends of Transnational Organized Crime in an environment of increasing economic globalization. This paper discuss at length the specific kinds of power that is wielded by these kinds of organizations, and how the changes of power within the Yakuza can be best understood. Things are not quite as they seem. While current legislative efforts by the Japanese government have crippled them in the streets of Japan, they have also encouraged the Yakuza’s shift into new, more profitable endeavors.