The Tokyo Reporter

Ghosts, goblins, gangsters: Halloween at Yamaguchi-gumi HQ

Shukan Jitsuwa Nov. 20
Not known for an ear-to-the-ground aptitude for the latest trends, Japan’s largest organized crime group, however, may have been an early adopter of the nation’s participation in Halloween, according to Shukan Jitsuwa (Nov. 20).

On the afternoon and evening of October 31, the Yamaguchi-gumi once again handed out candy to approximately 500 children at its headquarters in Nada Ward.

But the origins of the gang’s participation in All Hallow’s Eve date back much further.

“Long ago, back to the days of the third-generation boss (Kazuo Taoka), foreign children living in the area came to our headquarters to get candy,” says a Yamaguchi-gumi member. “At first, we didn’t know anything about Halloween itself, and the headquarters didn’t have any candy for the kids. So we started handing out 1,000 yen.”

After rumors began spreading among kids in schools that the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters was the place to go for candy, participation by the gang evolved over time.

“Instead of being empty-handed when a bunch of kids showed up looking for candy, we set up a distribution area at a park for Gokoku Shrine,” says the same gangster. “However, those who couldn’t make it to the park came to the headquarters.”

This year, members of the gang raised the compound’s garage door at around 4:00 p.m. to accommodate the finishing of classes. Inside, two tables had been placed under a tent striped in red and white.

For the arriving children, attired in a number of different costumes, about 10 gangsters had inserted confections inside roughly 700 large purple bags covered with caricatures of a Jack-o’-lantern and a witch and the writing “Happy Halloween: Trick or Treat.”

Another 10 gang members served as crowd control.

Make no mistake — this was not a task only for underlings. Upper-level members taking part included bosses Zencho Mori, Takashi Nomura and Takeshi Shimizu.

One rule was strictly enforced: Recipients must be no older than elementary-school age. As a means of enforcement, Shunpei Yoshimura, the fourth-generation boss of the Yoshikawa-gumi, carefully examined each child’s height and asked his age.

Halloween at the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe (via @yonakiishi)
The event is widely viewed as a part of a continuing attempt to foster positive public relations as law enforcement cracks down on its money-making efforts.

In July, the group issued the eight-page Yamaguchi-gumi Shinpo to communicate goals and policies from top boss Shinobu Tsukasa, who wrote a preface on the paper’s first page, to the gang’s approximately 27,700 members.

Also that year, the Yamaguchi-gumi began promoting a Web site that seeks to remove narcotic drugs from society.

Observers are applauding the mandate.

After an interview with the Azuma-gumi, freelance journalist Tomohiko Suzuki arrived at 7:00 p.m. (On his Twitter account, he posted a photo from outside the compound.)

“It makes me happy to see so many smiling faces,” said the journalist. “With legislation now restricting gang activities, all groups nationwide should do this.” (A.T.)

Source: “Yamaguchi-gumi no harowin ni hatsu sennyu!” Shukan Jitsuwa (Nov. 20, page 213)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.

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