The ‘reintegrative shaming’ and ‘benevolent paternalism’ models, traditionally used to describe the Japanese criminal justice system, have been periodically criticised for their orientalist approach. Nevertheless, no critique addressed the fact that these models ignored the presence of long-lasting crime syndicates, the yakuza, in Japan. Meanwhile, since 1991 the Japanese government has passed different sets of anti-yakuza countermeasures, increasingly punitive towards members and ex-members of the criminal group, that transferred more policing and surveillance duties to common citizens. In light of the evolution of anti-yakuza countermeasures in the past 25 years, this article argues that an analysis of these laws and regulations can provide a chance to reappraise the ‘reintegrative shaming/benevolent paternalism’ models, and proposes ‘shaming paternalism’ as a more realistic description of the current Japanese criminal justice system. According to this model, criminals are shamed and struggle to reintegrate, and the state’s intrusiveness is operated at various stages. Given the gap in English-speaking literature regarding this topic, firstly the contents of anti-yakuza countermeasures are outlined, followed by an evaluation of their effects on the yakuza population. The levels of reintegration of ex-yakuza members are considered, corroborating the hypothesis that the contemporary Japanese criminal justice system is not focussed on reintegration: actually, the most recent tendencies show an increase in punitiveness and stigmatisation. The paper argues that this trend can be understood as an index of increasing authoritarianism in the Japanese government, and concludes that civil engagement is the only viable option of resistance.
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Ritual of cutting one’s own fingertip as an apology to the bosses.
From hereafter the data refer to a crime committed within five years from the first one.
These are referred to ‘people related to the yakuza’, therefore including active members as well as yakuza members who quit in the previous 5 years.
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The author would like to thank the Law Department of Rissho University (Tokyo) for hosting her in 2017-2018, and especially Dr Maruyama Yasuhiro for the support.
This work was funded by the Japan Foundation Endowment Committee [grant number 6101017] and the Great British Sasakawa Foundation [grant number 5342].
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Baradel, M. The rise of shaming paternalism in Japan: recent tendencies in the Japanese criminal justice system. Trends Organ Crim 24, 23–41 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-019-09357-8
- Organised crime
- Criminal justice