The underground world of mafias is one that most people actively avoid on the public streets but are secretly excited to read about.
Movies and books about the criminal activities of gangsters showcase their lavish lifestyles, exciting day to day adventures, and occasional heroic deeds, giving them redeeming qualities that make them almost relatable.
However, in reality, these movies and books rarely depict what the life of a Yakuza or triad member is really like.
Are you interested in learning more about these mafias? We’ve curated some interesting information below about both mafia groups for you to read to your heart’s content.
Who Are Yakuza?
The Yakuza is an internationally recognized Japanese criminal syndicate that has a long and rich history in Japan’s society. They have been around for centuries but rose exponentially in prominence after World War II.
During their historical roots, they were involved in heightened criminal activity such as turf wars and undertaking protection responsibilities for money. They eventually gained favour with the Japanese government through cooperation and saw freedoms with certain gang activities.
Post-war, the number of the Yakuza rose by more than 100% throughout Japan. Their activities heavily expanded into gang wars, sophisticated gambling efforts, loan sharking, drugs (only certain groups), and smuggling goods.
Over the years, the Yakuza have evolved from being a feared criminal organization to becoming a (begrudgingly) accepted part of Japanese society. The structure of the Japanese mafia is often referred to as being similar to a family, with its familial tiers, or a business, with its hierarchical power structure.
In recent years, the Yakuza have branched out from their mostly Japan-centralized criminal activity to locations around the world, such as in the U.S. For example, one of their favourite investments is luxury golf courses.
Make sure you also read our blog post about Yakuza Facts.
Who Are Triads?
Triads are traditional organized crime groups originating from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
Unlike the Japanese mafia, Chinese triads always have been operating as completely illegal underground criminal groups and trade associations. Whilst they do offer similar services to the public such as protection, they’re still regarded as a ‘dangerous and secret society’ by the majority of the public.
The number of triad gang members is unknown, but at its peak, was estimated to be in the millions. These days, due to historical government crackdowns and slowly falling out in government favour, triad gang member numbers are reduced drastically.
In saying that, there are heavily circulated rumours of the Chinese government secretly consorting with triad gang members to use their manpower to suppress those who openly speak out against the government.
There are still many triads located across Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and China’s population, albeit they are spread out a bit thin.
Yakuza vs Triads – The Main Differences
On the surface, they appear to be quite similar, with their organized crime activity, underground operations, and levels of hierarchy.
However, beneath the surface, they’re different in many ways.
Formality of Membership
Joining the Yazuka is a commitment for life. It is a serious pledge that an individual takes to be undyingly loyal to the organization, its leaders, and his Yakuza family. Being a Yakuza member requires discipline and heavy responsibility.
If you are found to have wronged the organization in any way, you may have to cut off your little finger in the ‘yubitsume ritual’ to prove that you are deeply sorry.
On the other hand, triad gang members, although still bearing a weight of responsibility to represent the organization, have a less formal relationship with each other and their cohort.
There are still labels of hierarchy that must be adhered to and take years to climb, yet they’re not considered as ‘ritual’ as the Yakuza.
The Yakuza is a highly organized crime syndicate that makes the majority of their money through extortion, protective services, and financial crimes. They follow an honour code that runs almost parallel to the Japanese cultural honour system and they consider themselves above petty crimes.
They will often even restrict themselves from dealing with drugs!
In contrast, the triads are decentralized and have no specific honour code. They involve themselves in all levels of crime, beginning with drugs, weapons, and theft.
Their largest money-making scene involves trafficking drugs such as cocaine, and they’ve been known to also be involved in human trafficking and even soliciting endangered plants and animals for money.
Many years ago, triad gang members were powerful enough to assert themselves in politics and have major influence. These days, however, due to falling into unfavourable light with the public and their violent history, their political power has dramatically decreased.
The Yakuza are still known as a criminal organization, but they’re also accepted as a part of society by its people and authorities. Their presence is considered a necessary evil to keeping Japan balanced.
In their attempt to appear more legitimate to the public, they’ve even set themselves up with front offices, corporate addresses, business cards, and even employee pension plans.
Yakuza vs Triads – Who Are The Most Powerful?
Both the Yakuza and the Triads are known globally as powerful organizations with high numbers of gang members and heavy involvement in criminal activity.
In terms of who is the most powerful, it will depend on the timing that you ask.
At the peak of the triad’s activity, they had millions of members spread across Asia and were one of the most heavily feared groups. Their lack of moral code and willingness to be involved in all levels of crime made them powerful enough to command all sorts of authority.
However, due to unwavering government efforts over the years, the number of triad members has ceased and so has their power.
The Yakuza are still a prominent group in Japanese society. They are not growing at as fast a rate as their peak growth phase (post World War II), but they are not stagnant.
Their intense hierarchy of power, moral code of conduct, relatively favourable social standing, and consistent and strong financial stream makes them a force to be reckoned with. They’re a criminal syndicate that holds a great level of power.
Yakuza vs Triads – Who Are The Deadliest?
Both the Yakuza and the Triads have historically been involved in bloodshed. Their violent histories have been documented and have inspired many novels, films and series.
The Triads are known for their openly violent attacks against both outside gang members and the public. Their lack of sense of moral code meant that no one was spared from their attacks.
Turf wars and gang fights pepper the history of triad violence, but in more recent years, triad members have made headlines for their violent attacks on the anti-government protestors in Hong Kong. This heavily fortifies the belief that the Chinese government and certain triad gang members are connected.
The Yakuza don’t have an openly violent history as the Triads, however, their bouts of violent crime throughout history have had some deadly consequences.
For example, they have been linked to the murder of the head of a fisherman cooperative, a hand grenade attack on the Chinese consulate, and even a petrol bomb attack on the Japanese prime minister’s home.
They’re also known to avoid violent acts towards citizens, but they will not hesitate to act out if they’re wronged. For example, a Chinese-run massage parlour set up shop in Japan without the permission of the Yakuza and was violently attacked as a result.
Yakuza vs Triads – Did They Ever Fight?
The Yakuza are primarily based in Japan whilst the triads are primarily based in countries such as China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. It is unknown whether gang members from either organization have fought each other, but it doesn’t appear so.
As both gangs are fairly infamous within the global circle of crime syndicates, if there were a full-blown fight between them, there would also be heavy coverage from the media. Rumours and news would also spread like wildfire because it is quite rare for two opposing criminal organizations to go head-to-head in a gang war.
For now, if the Yakuza and triads have ever fought, it would have been a small, unreported incident.
These globally recognized criminal syndicates have been around for centuries and have evolved with the times. A Yakuza gang member today does not hold the same aggression as one from 60 years ago; similarly, a triad gang member today does not wield the same amount of power as one from 100 years ago.
We hope you enjoyed our article about the Yakuza and the Triads! What was your favourite part to learn about? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
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