On April 13, the commissioner general of the National Police Agency, Takaharu Ando, announced inside an eighth-floor meeting room of Fukuoka’s Kokura Kita Police Station that society must rid itself of gangster activities. “Success or failure will be vital to the Kita-Kyushu area,” said the 60-year-old. “The elimination will be a war of mountain-sized proportions.”
The target of Ando, a member of the cabinet of former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto between 1996 and 1998, is the Kudo-kai, Kyushu’s biggest gang, boasting a roster of 690 members and another 510 personnel in subsidiary groups.
Fukuoka Prefecture has five yakuza organizations, the most of any prefecture in Japan, and, perhaps not surprisingly, between 2004 and 2009, it had the most gun-related incidents.
It is believed that putting an end to yakuza collection rackets, whereby money is obtained in the name of protection, would result in the demise of the gangs. As a result, on April 1, a non-payment regulation was enacted in Fukuoka Prefecture, the first of its kind in Japan. Citizens and companies, according to the legislation, are now held liable for contributions made to gangster activities. Penalties include a fine of up to 500,000 yen or one year in jail.
Heated disputes arose prior to the enactment. In early March, the Kudo-kai moved its headquarters to an area near a kindergarten and elementary school in Ogura Minami Ward — a relocation that was met with resistance by a local civic group. On March 15, the head of the organization had a gun shot enter his house.
Two weeks later, a threatening letter was received by the mayor of Kita-Kyushu, Kenji Kitahashi, who is also a supporter of the elimination campaign. The message indicated that he and his family will be subject to violent activities.
On April 6, an executive employee at energy supplier Saibu Gas had three gun shots hit the house of his parents in Fukuoka City. The next day, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (Apr. 29), five rounds from a Makarov pistol were fired at the entrance of a firm affiliated with the gas company. The tabloid adds that the firm had recently not succumbed to gangster requests regarding a construction project in Kita-Kyushu.
Satoru Nomura, 63, the fourth generation Kudo-kai president, had his house searched four days later.
“Historically, Kyushu yakuza get angry easily,” a prefectural police member tells Friday. “The Kudo-kai is the best example. They strongly oppose the police. In the summer of 2002, they placed a dynamite-looking contraption inside a police dormitory. This resulted in arrests.”
However, should the police begin to significantly hunt down the Kudo-kai the retaliation will be massive, says a person related to the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s biggest gang, with a headquarters in Hyogo Prefecture. “Kyushu yakuza fight with pride,” says the source. “A conflict would not be a small matter.”
The source goes on to say that the Yamaguchi-gumi is carefully monitoring the situation and maintaining a good relationship with the Kudo-kai. “The Kudo-kai receive most of their revenue through protection money” — termed as mikajime, or literally a payment to be made on the third day of each month. “In the past, they never had financial concerns. But with this new legislation to eliminate yakuza, their collection rackets will be reduced. It’ll be harder to make a living.”
The question about whether the elimination campaign can eliminate the Kudo-kai or not is complicated by the fact that they are not afraid of anyone, believes the source: “Now they are biting like dogs.”
In the future, the police will be targeting all groups, and the Yamaguchi-gumi is not seeing Fukuoka situation as a case of “a fire burning on the other side of the riverbank,” the source concludes.
Somewhat ominously, a person related to the investigations unit of the Fukuoka Prefectural Police notes that a major concern is that membership within the Kudo-kai has not dropped. “With the recession, the gang has found new recruits, young guys who cannot get jobs elsewhere,” explains the source.
Friday is not sure how the battle will play out, but the local citizens are keeping quiet and waiting for the future. (A.T.)
Source: “Kudo-kai keishicho hametsushirei hatsudo de bopatsu no kyoi,” Friday (May 14, pages 22-23)
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