The reason why there are so many yakuza is what else is there to do in Osaka. There is no culture whatsoever except for trying to pay slutty looking 15 year olds for companionship or eating what is basically a Korean scallion pancake or a doughnut with one teency piece of octopus in it. I guess if you call slapping your buddy on the back of the head Three Stooges style when he says something stupid- culture; or watching the Japanese comedians, gravure idols, and sports figures throw pie in each other’s faces while saying “Oishi des” (Tasty) when eating noodles on prime time, then there is culture. Back to the yakuza question= they control the flow of 15 year old cheap looking girls.
When I went to Osaka I was surprised by the lack of cultural activity. I was told that is because it was traditionally a town of merchants, who were in feudal times the lowest social class. There are really only three obvious activities to do in Osaka. Mainly shopping, eating although the range of Japanese food is limited to takoyaki and a couple of other things and finally if you are Japanese, the hostess bars. At night you will find hundreds of young girls hanging around outside bars talking on their mobile phones. It all felt very vacuous to me.
I’m not sure the merchants/ no culture connection makes sense historically. For one thing, ukiyo-e was entirely aimed at and supported by the merchant class, who were not allowed to display their wealth in the same way as samurai and therefore spent it on the arts as much as more fleeting pleasures
I’m guessing Osaka historically is the big commercial port city too far or different from the center of government and culture to be considered civilised, a phonmenon common to quite a few countries (check out Marseille, Liverpool, Glasgow, Naples, Sao Paulo, Guayaquil, Tijuana, New Orleans, Baltimore, Antwerpen, Rotterdam, Hong Kong/Guangzhou, Pusan, etc… all rife with criminal tradition and activity).
The second thing is that Osaka was traditionnaly a concentration spot for the lower casts of japonese society for whatever reason : lower artisans, salesmen, and gamblers (their guild was one ofthe original pillars of yakusa culture, yakusa being a term derived from a dice game). This underclass was both a recruiting ground and a negliged ressource to be parasited by the yakusa.
Finally it’s the historical seat of the Yamagushi Gumi, by far the most powerful family of japanese crime, active in many major cities across the country.