(Japanese: "tough gang"), any of various Japanese criminal gangs of centuries-long tradition, which combined in the 20th century into Mafia-like organizations. Members, often called yakuza ("good-for-nothing"), or gyangu ("gangster"), adopt samurai-like rituals and often bear elaborate body tattoos. They engage in extortion, blackmail, smuggling, prostitution, drugs, gambling, loan sharking, day-labour contracting, and other rackets and control many restaurants, bars, pachinko parlours, trucking companies, talent agencies, taxi fleets, factories, and other businesses in major Japanese cities. The boryokudan were also involved in criminal activities in the United States.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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