Life as a yakuza mobster is getting so hard that some are resorting to shoplifting food.
Two members of an organized crime gang were arrested for allegedly trying to steal grocery items worth ¥76,120 ($683) at a mall in Nagoya, police said on Wednesday.
“They are members of an affiliated gang group of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi,” a police spokesman said, referring to an organization that split off from the biggest yakuza crime syndicate, Yamaguchi-gumi, in 2015.
The gangsters, aged 52 and 59, reportedly tried to steal 198 items including a watermelon, rice, eel and prepared dishes, in the company of their gang boss, the Asahi and Mainichi dailies reported.
One of the men told police that “the group is so poor” members have to steal food, the Mainichi said.
The yakuza blossomed from the chaos of post-war Japan into multibillion-dollar criminal organizations involved in everything from gambling, drugs and prostitution to loan-sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime.
They were long tolerated as a necessary evil for ensuring order on the streets and getting things done quickly — however dubious the means.
Unlike the Italian Mafia or Chinese triads in other countries, yakuza have long occupied a peculiar gray area in Japanese society — they are not illegal and each group has its own headquarters in full view of police.
But waning social tolerance, a weak economy and steadily falling memberships have hurt their bottom line.
Stiffer anti-gang regulations are also making life a struggle as regular businesses are banned from dealing with mobsters, who struggle to even open a bank account or receive mail at their office.
Such factors have been cited as contributing to the high-profile split of the Yamaguchi-gumi.