Yakuza could be banned from using all expressways in Japan within a decade

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One of the many modern conveniences escaping from organized crime.

In 2011, Japan’s prefectural rule passed Ordinances on the exclusion of organized crime which prohibit companies from doing business with members of organized crime groups. Expecting convenience stores to screen every customer for criminal affiliations is unreasonable, but making legal deals is extremely difficult for members of groups like the yakuza.

It is uncertain whether this was intentional when planning the ordinances or not, but they are making life more and more difficult for yakuza members as more and more services rely on contracts. For example, many yakuza members are blacklisted when it comes to buying new smartphones, and now it looks like their days on the expressways are numbered.

In Japan, expressways require a toll which is traditionally entered into a vending machine or tollbooth operator who then authorizes entry. In 1997, Japan introduced the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system, which allows cars to simply bypass tolls and pay when their transponder detects highway entrances.

▼ If your ETC is ready, you can simply drive through the toll at approximately 20 kilometers per hour (12 miles per hour) without stopping.

Thanks to the convenience of ETC and its ability to reduce congestion, in 2020, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced its intention to replace all toll collection points with ETC lanes. It is planned to gradually replace it with a total ETC saturation throughout the country by 2030. This will be very problematic for yakuza members who will be blocked from signing up for the ETC card.

In fact, gang members may have applied for the card due to a gap in documentation. While the terms state that membership found to be linked to organized crime will be revoked, there is no wording that prohibits a mobster from applying for and receiving a card in the first place, which is a de facto “no don’t ask, don’t tell.”

▼ Demonstration of using the ETC card in action

As a result, nine yakuza members were arrested for possession of ETC cards between 2015 and 2021, but in each case the charges were dropped due to unclear wording of the agreement. However, Japan’s six major highway companies announced they would fix this to refuse to handle organized crime from the start.

So, with this support from ETC operators and infrastructure upgrades, it looks like the yakuza will have to resort to long journeys going to different places. However, some online commentaries were unsure whether this was the best way to deal with organized crime, both for practical and ethical reasons.

“It would be better to ban them from owning cars altogether.”
“They can’t have ETC, but they can have a driver’s license? Why?”
“It seems like having ETC cards would help the police track them, so maybe they should let them register.”
“Do cashless payment services have the same setup? I don’t think the yakuza will be able to use them either.
“They seem to make the job of toll collectors more dangerous.”
“Not that I support the yakuza, but even criminals should have human rights.”
“So how do they buy cars and insure them?”

We probably shouldn’t leave organized crime groups to find ways around these increasingly restrictive restrictions on everyday amenities. Still, given the speed at which contract-based services seem to be emerging and evolving, it will be hard for them to keep up. For example, if Netflix finally cracks down on common passwords, the yakuza might have bad luck and be forced to visit friends’ houses to watch future seasons Bridgerton.

On the other hand, it seems the Organized Crime Exclusion Ordinances should make them immune to NHK hoarders as well, so I guess it’s not that bad.

Source: Asahi Shimbun, hate blog, Nikkan Gendai
Top image: Pakutaso
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