Underside of crackdown on Yamaguchi-gumi in Ginza reveals yakuza elimination far off

Shukan Bunshun June 29
Shukan Bunshun June 29

As part of a crackdown on organized crime, investigative sources with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police last month revealed that eight members of the Yamaguchi-gumi had been arrested over the alleged extortion of entertainment establishments in the ritzy Ginza area of Tokyo’s Chuo Ward.

But rather than a squeeze being applied to gangs operating in the area, the bust is a reflection that the underworld maintains ties that are tough to break, according to Shukan Bunshun (June 29).

Beginning in 2013, Hisachi Umeki, the 54-year-old boss of the Kokusui-kai, a third-tier gang of the Yamaguchi-gumi, and seven other gang members, are alleged to have demanded payment of around 50,000 yen per month for mikajimeryo — or “protection money” — from a few dozen high-end clubs and bars in Ginza.

There are approximately 2,000 bars, restaurants and clubs in the Ginza area. Since 2009, the suspects are believed to have collected at least 50 million yen in the extortion racket.

An employee of one long-standing club tells the magazine that a lot of people work in the area — for example, porters to watch the cars of customers, drivers to take hostesses home, people working at flower shops who provide special displays for shops — in order to make it tick. “And the yakuza are not an exception,” the insider says.

The collection of mikajimeryo is prohibited under the Anti-Organized Crime Law of 1991. However, the practice is still very common with payments made under the table. Every year, the National Public Safety Commission issues orders to cease the practice in about 500 cases across the nation.

In 2005, the Tokyo-based Kokusui-kai, which operates in Ginza, joined the Yamaguchi-gumi as an associate gang. Since then, law enforcement has been monitoring the gang’s activities closely.

At the end of last year, police began an investigation into the collection of mikajimeryo in Ginza. The results of the probe revealed that the going rate for about 50 establishments was around 50,000 yen per month. “Additionally, it was requested that shops continuing to pay the protection money file damage claims without fear of retribution,” an investigative source tells the magazine.

In spite of the arrests, the magazine speculates that the removal of organized crime from Ginza is still some ways off. The investigative source says that Ginza’s revered traditions — including the exclusion of outsiders — are being slowly eroded by unruly street touts and illegal massage parlors employing foreigners that have crept into the area.

“There are more than a few club personnel who think that [these types of businesses] are not suitable for Ginza,” says the investigative source. “The reality is that they ask the local yakuza to provide so-called ‘counter measures.’ Yakuza may not be allowed into the clubs [due to anti-gang ordinances], but they do still maintain ties with management-level employees.”

Source: “’Mikajimeryo’ de kumi kanbu taiho Ginza kara yakuza ga kieru hi,” Shukan Bunshun (June 29)

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