After members of the Yamaguchi-gumi visited Kobe’s Gokoku-jinja Shrine on November 17 and 18, the head priest was informed by the gang that it will not appear for New Year’s Day prayers as a matter of “self-restraint.”
The concession follows the enactment in October of nationwide legislation that prohibits ordinary citizens from having business dealings with criminal organizations.
For decades, roughly 15 members the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest criminal organization, have come to the shrine for roughly five minutes on New Year’s Day to pay respects.
Regarding gangsters praying at shrines, the Association of Shinto Shrines, based in Tokyo, raised concern on November 7. “There is a worry about fostering gangster activities,” read a message issued nationwide by the association.
On November 17, the Hyogo chapter of the association, located in Kobe, agreed at a board meeting to uphold the mandate and exclude gang members from the prefecture’s approximately 3,800 shrines.
“We were in support of the Association’s directive even before the offering made by the Yamaguchi-gumi,” said Umetsugu Kubota, the head priest at Gokoku-jinja.