HYOGO (TR) – On the yakuza calendar, the holding of the koto hajime shiki ritual, usually around December 13, allows members of crime syndicates to gather and discuss plans for the new year over cups of sake.
Following the dissolution of the Yamaguchi-gumi over the summer, law enforcement is observing this year’s meetings closely to garner any intelligence on the gang and that of its recently formed rival, the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, reports the Sankei Sports (Dec. 13).
Likewise, the Yamaguchi-gumi held a similar gathering at its compound in Kobe’s Nada Ward on the same day.
“If each gang acknowledges the existence of the other, the chance of a confrontation intensifies,” said a member of law enforcement.
According to the paper, the license numbers of vehicles entering the headquarters were being noted by members of the Hyogo Prefectural Police.
The meetings typically involve the giving of thanks for work over the past year and a look ahead to activities for the next year. For the Yamaguchi-gumi, this year has been one the gang’s most challenging over its century-long history.
The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi formed following the departure of 13 gangs from the Yamaguchi-gumi in September. Since then, the Yamaguchi-gumi has been coping with diminished ranks. The number of top bosses in the gang has fallen from 72 to 55. Notably, Hirofumi Hashimoto, formerly the gang’s number-three boss, left earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the number of bosses in the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi has jumped from 13 to 20 since its formation.
Law enforcement has been viewing the development as a potentially volatile situation, and has been taking measures to mitigate potentially violent conflicts between the two gangs.
Earlier this month, members of the Yamaken-gumi, an affiliate of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, blocked traffic with eight passenger vehicles on a road in Himeji City. The move was very likely an attempt to disrupt a meeting between Yamaguchi-gumi boss Teruaki Takeuchi and members of its affiliate gang, the Tanaka-gumi.
Thus far, a significant outbreak of violence has not taken place, but, says one investigative source, “The Yamaguchi-gumi is in flux.”