Japanese gangs and delinquents – Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

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Do you know the gangs and the Japanese delinquents? There are several kinds of them that even received names and titles like Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban. In this article we will see all about the Japanese delinquents, especially those mentioned.

Some do not belong to gangs and may act differently in the streets or bullying in schools. It doesn’t matter if a Japanese delinquent is a bully at school, a gang member and a biker. Let’s see different kinds!

They all end up having things in common and still differ a lot from Western delinquents. Some may not look like delinquents or act that way, so we need to watch them and know them.

The animes, doramas and movies show a lot of the style and look of a standard delinquent and how they usually act. They tend to transmit a sense of anger and can’t control themselves. Some dye their hair, do thunderous hairstyles and wear unusual bleached blouses.

Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

Types of delinquents in Japan – Yankii

Delinquents in Japan are often called yankii (ヤンキー), a reference to the word yankee that Americans use to refer to citizens of various ethnic groups. The Japanese have probably adopted this word because of the peculiar tendencies of the subculture of Japanese delinquents.

Yankii was once used in Japan to refer to the poor of Kansai at the time of 1975. Soon the term was also used to refer to those Japanese who imitated Americans, until finally the term focused on defining young rebels who did not follow school norms and standards. The film Kamizake Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari) portrays the life of the Yankii well.

There are several subcultures, gangs, and types of delinquents that can be categorized and listed. Below we will briefly share some terms from the Japanese language and what kind of delinquents this term refers to.

  • Bosozoku – These are wild biker gangs;
  • Bancho – A leader of a group of delinquents;
  • Tsubari – Term used to the bad boys of the 1970s;
  • Sukeban – Refers to a group of female delinquents or a boss;
  • Yakuza – Refers to the Japanese Mafia;
  • Gyaru – A style of fashion and culture that can be kind of aggressive;
  • Hashiriya – literally means street runner, a movement similar to bosozoku;
  • Ijime – literally means bullying, something that happens in Japanese schools;
  • Furyo – Also means delinquent or some bad person;
  • Chinpira – Little yakuza, yakuza apprentice, punk, delinquent, delinquent girl;
Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

Identifying Japanese delinquents

There are so many things to talk about Japanese delinquents that I don’t even know where to start or the order I write. I will start by quoting something quite interesting that the yankii, delinquents or gang subculture do, which is to squat and stay in a position called unko zuwari or yanki zuwari. It looks like a fecal position where the person gets their ass on the ground and their legs open showing some kind of attitude. You’ve probably seen it in some anime.

Delinquents who follow a culture usually wear bandanas, surgical masks, piercings and excessive jewelry. In addition, some stick their pants in their boots or roll them up on their knees. Some even make scars and tattoos to look hardcore. Female delinquents often wear a disheveled school uniform, scarf, loose socks, and a very short or long skirt.

The behaviour of Japanese delinquents is the same as you expect: they like to fight, disturb the peace and do not get along well with society. Their main interests involve baseball, motorcycles, fighting and martial arts. You don’t necessarily have to have a look or style to be a delinquent, you will notice it by his attitude. Yakuza don’t usually get along with young delinquents, they consider themselves professionals, while young people just want to play punk.

Even cool and fun people can be considered delinquents in Japan. Anyone who does not obey the rules, cannot live with others or looks different is usually called furyou (不良) which can be translated as something not good, bad, inferior and delinquent.

There are so many things to talk about Japanese delinquents that I don’t even know where to start or the order I write. I will start by quoting something quite interesting that the yankii, delinquents or gang subculture do, which is to squat and stay in a position called unko zuwari or yanki zuwari. It looks like a fecal position where the person gets their ass on the ground and their legs open showing some kind of attitude. You’ve probably seen it in some anime.

Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

Bosozoku – The Young Japanese Rebels

Bosozoku! Have you ever heard of that term? It would never occur to you that a disciplined country with a strong ancient culture like Japan would have a subculture of delinquents prowling the country, disturbing the peace and giving work to the police. This is a stereotypical view of bikers who claim to have a good cause!

Well, Japan also has its own group of angry youngsters who go out there doing molecular surgery. These are the Bosozoku, a gang of motorcyclists who customize motorcycles, go around committing traffic infractions and have links with the Yakuza. In this article, we will detail what bosozoku are and their activities:

Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

Origin and Activities of Bosozoku

The term bosozoku (暴走族) was coined in the 1970s, and literally means “tribe out of control. They emerged in the 1950s, when Japan was recovering from war and the automobile industry was growing. Young people from the lower class came together to express dissatisfaction with Japanese society at the time, forming motorcycle gangs for this.

At that time, they called themselves kaminari zoku. The motivation behind all this was basically that typical rebellion against the norms of society. However, since bosozokus are young people under the age of majority (which is 20 years in Japan), some ignored the fight for freedom and became bosozoku just to be part of some group.

Bosozoku – Japanese rebel youth
You know that youthful need to be part of a collective? That’s right. They’re just a little ball club. However, it was in the 80s and 90s that they gained notoriety by committing serious acts of vandalism and confronting the police.

Of course they claim to do all the acts mentioned for a good cause, which seems to be something cool, but I personally don’t sympathize with people who make a mistake to justify or fight others. Maybe I’m talking a little negative about the bosozokus, but I hope you’re not offended by that.

In 1982, there were 42,510 bosozokus and they used to wander the streets in large numbers. Their activities consist of cleaning up bullshit, making noise with the motorcycles, violating traffic laws, taking a crack, among other clowning to call society’s attention.

Bosozoku are a family and have principles like the members of the Yakuza.

Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

How do Bosozoku dress?

They usually wear a uniform consisting of a jumpsuit like those worn by manual workers or a Tokkou-fuku (特攻服), a type of military overcoat issued with slogans written in kanji. They wear baggy pants and a pair of cotton to go with it. They decorate their motorcycles to the point that they look like they have left some samba school or Bom Dia & Cia.

Nowadays, bosozoku are almost extinct for those who like silence. It all started in 2004, when the Japanese government enforced traffic laws to give police officers more power to make arrests. In 1982 there were more than 40,000 bosozoku, by 2004 the number was less than 10,000.

The government measures caused the number of motorcycle gangs to decrease dramatically. Thanks to this, in 2011 the amount of 9,064 bosozoku was registered. Currently, bosozoku ride in small groups, and instead of riding motorcycles, they usually ride scooters.

Today, some neighbors still bother with bosozoku noise during the night. They are well portrayed in Japanese animes, doramas and movies. It is believed that the daily distractions of the modern world have contributed to discouraging youth from getting involved with motorcycle gangs. Most spend money on games and live in their rooms watching animes.

From a dangerous gang, the bosozoku have become a much more friendly neighborhood group, but they are still noisy and still have their goals. Have you ever met a bosozoku? What is your experience with these wild bikers? We appreciate your comments and sharing.

Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

Sukeban – The Japanese Girls’ Gangs

Have you heard of Sukeban [スケバン|女番], the gangs of delinquent Japanese girls? To be more precise this term refers to the leader of that group. These groups were very popular in the past century. Today they are practically extinct.

This term was first used in the late 1960s. In Yakuza and other gangs in Japan, women were barely allowed to participate. This led them to create their own. Sukeban currently acts more like a stereotype or fashion among young people. But in the past it wasn’t just that.

A writer named Jake Adelstein, a crime expert in Japan, comments on the rise of Sukebans. He says that because of the male-dominated culture in Japan, women tried to seek their space. The world was talking about feminism and liberation, which may have led these women to also feel entitled to rebel like the gangs of men. We will learn more about Sukebans in this article.

Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

The Sukeban lifestyle

Unlike other gangs (mostly male members) who committed crimes and promoted fights between rival groups, the Sukeban were different. They maintained and enforced an organized and strict code of justice. Each group of girls had a hierarchy and their own punitive means. These girls had moral values and held fast to them.

In general, they were indicated for having dyed hair or some shiny and different hairstyle. And most always wore their school uniforms most of the time. Provocative clothes and lots of makeup were frowned upon. At first, gangs started with small groups of girls, bringing knives and cigarettes into schools. But, they soon grew in number and in the level of crime. Groups range from 50 to 80 girls. However, a group known as the Kanto Women’s Delinquent Alliance said it had about 20,000 members.

The Sukeban phenomenon peaked in the 1970s, along with the emergence of the most fearsome Sukeban. This group called K-Ko the Razor, coming from Saitama, Tokyo. This name refers to the weapon they used, a razor to cut throats. They wrapped her in a cloth and placed her between her breasts. No other group has been more recognized than this. Achieving even the status of urban legend.

Japanese gangs and delinquents - Yankii, Bosozoku and Sukeban

Rules, punishments and fame

Among Sukeban groups there were many rules. And, breaking these rules was not good, and could result in “lynching“. Lynching involved varying degrees of different punishment. Starting from a “light” punishment like applying a cigarette to bare skin. Going to apply the lit cigarette in the private parts, considered as “medium” punishment.

The causes for these punishments are numerous and distinct, ranging from gang to gang. These may include showing disrespect to older members. Talking to enemies and getting caught with drugs were also valid for punishment. But the most common cause for lynching was by messing with the opposite sex.

Cheating on a boyfriend would certainly cause lynching. These girls acted and looked older than they really were. Another surprising fact is that they were super conservative when it came to dating, romance and sex. But, as time went by, gangs began to shrink, and participants became more integrated into society.

Even so, since then, the media has taken advantage of this very well. Several films, anime, manga and even games have been created around Sukebans. To this day, traces and influences are noted in pop culture and in everyday Japanese life.

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