Starting in January, approximately 340 “snack” bars and hostess clubs from within the Saitama Prefecture Drinking and Lifestyle Trade Association are posting stickers on their storefronts that indicate yakuza groups are not allowed inside the premises. It is believed that such efforts will reduce extortion practices — such as mikajimeryo, or the collection of protection money — often carried out by criminal syndicates.
According to prefectural police, the initiative is a first in Saitama. A kickoff event, in which 34 business representatives were in attendance, was held on January 17. “By showing that there is a lot of support, pressure will be put on organized crime groups,” said Shinichi Sato, the board chairman of the association, which last year made 600 of the anti-gang stickers.
After the event, the male manager of one bar said, “Customers can now enter clubs with peace of mind.”
Independent proprietors have been targets in the past. In addition to mikajimeryo practices, yakuza groups also often demand that establishments take out lease contracts for indoor plants or paintings for use on their premises.
Such activities are illegal under the Anti-Organized Crime Law. In October of 2011, pressure was further applied on gang groups when nationwide legislation was enacted that prohibits ordinary citizens from doing business with organized crime groups.
In the year following the nationwide legislation coming into force, the number of incidents of gangsters making threats or demands of citizens in Saitama totaled 104, a decrease of 12 from the year before, according to prefectural police.
A police official says that the legislation gives restaurant and bar owners a reason to refuse to deal with gangsters. “Before the enactment, police would have a lot of cases of proprietors coming to them to receive advice about dealing with a mikajimeryo request,” says the official. “But after implementation, they now have a ‘just cause’ in refusing (to deal with organized crime).”