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Japanese yakuza goes online to update its image

Japan's largest organised crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, is turning to the Internet in an effort to change public opinion as membership numbers fall to an all-time low.

Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest organised crime syndicate in Japan, has reportedly launched a Web site to reform its image in the eyes of the public as well as drive recruitment.

The yakuza group's online site comes with a corporate song and anti-drug messages, in a bid to portray the mobsters as neighbourly. Videos of yakuza members are available for viewing on the site, including one where its members make a New Year procession to a shrine, as well as pictures of the mobsters helping with clean-up efforts after the 2011 tsunami.

The AFP report quotes journalist Jake Adelstein, who has been covering the yakuza in Japan since 1993, as saying that online offering was an effort to "prove its humanitarian credentials."

Adelstein also added that self-interest played a part in the mobsters' clean up efforts, as it would be "easier for them to get a share of the reconstruction money."

Yakauza membership in Japan has fallen to an all-time low -- police numbers indicate that membership has dipped below the 60,000 mark for the first time on record. The Japanese economy hasn't been kind either, which makes membership less attractive, apparently.

Given how outdated the Web site looks, perhaps the Yamaguchi-gumi should look towards recruiting a Web designer first to make its site more appealing for potential recruits.