This (German) article states that in 1960 Japan's President Nobosuke Kishi hired 28000 Yakuza as thugs against an anti-American demonstration.

I find nothing indicating this in the Wikipedia article about him, But there is some mention of riots in 1960 against a Japanese-American mutual assistance agreement. So I'm interested in finding an article about this incident. I'd be interested to understand:

  • What was the political leaning of the protesters?
  • Can one say that the "typical" Yakuza was leaning more toward the left or right, and did this influence the decision of some Yakuza to do this?
  • Did the Yakuza have a stance on the political issue (US-Japans support agreement)?
  • Was such a use of Yakuza thugs by the state in any way typical (even at a smaller scale)?
  • Is the number of 28000 Yakuza remotely true? (3000 riot cops can be a suffocating presence, why ten times the number?) Were the events spread out over several cities?
  • What was to gain for the Yakuza?

Edit to add: The article I quote is about the loss of members the Yakuza experienced recently, and how they try to hire new guys with a webpage. It also goes into the relative openness with which the Yakuza operate in Japan. There's not much info about the incident, I'll translate the paragraph:

The criminals have good connections to the political sphere. In the last years, a few ministers had to lay down their offices as their friendships to the criminals were to close. One minister, for example, had a brother at the top of a Yakuza group - the politician had to leave office. But up till now, there a photo showing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with Ichu Nagamoto, a leading member of the Yamaguchi-Gumi. The Prime Minister claims not to know the man. That's enough (to avoid consequences). Interestingly, it is proven that the politicians grandfather, Nobosuke Ishi, then prime minister, mobilized 28000 Yakuza to beat on an anti-American demonstration in 1960.

  • 1
    That's over half the Yakuza in the entire nation of Japan in 1960. The number is wrong. I believe the Yakuza political standpoint on the US is that its a nice place to buy cheap guns and get liver transplants, so they are pro-USA.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 17:24
  • 2
    I think this will quickly grow to be more complex. I am not a scholar of the Yakuza, but my friends who have studied it suggest that the relationship between the Yakuza and the state is perhaps unique. A very simplistic analogy is that the state granted the Yakuza a limited monopoly over criminal activity in exchange for assistance in rebuilding and organizing the country. A good answer would have to address the unique features of Japanese nationalism. I'd also like to be able to evaluate the source article for bias.
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 19:06
  • 1
    "Ministerpräsident" translates to Prime Minister rather than President. Japan does not have a President.
    – NL7
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 19:14
  • @MarkC.Wallace I've translated the relevant part of my article, this should give you some clue as for bias.
    – mart
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 7:53

2 Answers 2


The source of this information comes from the personal memoirs of Yakuza crime boss Kodama. The event never took place, though, so verifying or disproving it is impossible. According to Kodama, he was asked to raise a small army to put down the protests and protect the US president's motorcade and says that he prepared to do this. His proof is that in exchange Ishi signed his memoirs.

The protestors were almost entirely supporters of the Socialist Party. There is some evidence some were also right-wing. While the new treaty would be a great improvement for the status of Japan, it renewed some terms for American military bases and thus any group opposed to American military presence would not support it. The Yakuza would be ultra right-wing, but its political interests would likely be mostly to support the prime minister and thus bolster their power through the political establishment by granting favors. The Yakuza under Kodama were probably used for anti-communist political activities, but the sources for the claims are highly conspiratorial and thus difficult to verify which if any information is true.

The information is included in the book Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld. It is a book by investigative journalist, David E. Kaplan. It is an award-winning best-seller, but not a scholarly resource.

President Eisenhower did visit Okinawa in 1960. US soldiers were used to secure the president against the large numbers of protestors. There were over 100,000 US soldiers in Japan in 1960, so it is a suspicious claim that it would be necessary or thought appropriate to use Yakuza. The Secret Service did exist for the purposes of presidential protection at this time. The president's visit to Tokyo was cancelled after a student protestor was killed at the request of Ishi also making it less likely that Ishi planned a heavy handed crack down on protestors using a criminal gang.

  • I don't understand your second sentence: If the event never took place, it is disproven, I would think. Can you clarify? Can you name the sources for the claims that Yakuza were used for anti-communist activities?
    – mart
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 7:42
  • 3
    @mart I mean that I can't disprove if the Yakuza would have been used if Eisenhower hadn't canceled his visit. Googling Kodoma will bring up many crazy things. He's supposed to be some kind of CIA asset. That's why without going to the declassified documents I don't know if any is true. I think his Wikipedia page is particularly bad-no sources- but you can use it to get an idea.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 8:44

Archive.Org — JPRI Working Paper No. 11: July 1995

This is an article archived from the Japan Policy Research Institute in which they cite former Director of Central Intelligence Admiral William O. Studeman talking about the mobilization of the yakuza. The whole article is more about the funding of the LDP by the CIA but it might have relevant information.

  • 2
    This would be better if you quoted the key points from the article since even Archive.org pages can rot.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Feb 28 at 17:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.