KOBE (TR) – Hyogo Prefectural Police were on high alert on Friday morning as a shakeup within Japan’s criminal underworld is stoking fears of a turf battle, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Sep. 4).
As upper members of the Yamaken-gumi filed into the gang’s headquarters in Kobe’s Chuo Ward, officers in bullet-proof vests stood watch. The tense atmosphere is the result of the breakup earlier this week of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest criminal syndicate.
On Tuesday, the Yamaguchi-gumi chose to finalize the excommunication of 13 affiliate gangs, a move that essentially results in the dissolution of the gang. Relations with eight gangs were cut, though with the possibility of reinstatement, while ties with another five groups, including the Yamaken-gumi and Takumi-gumi, which is based in Osaka, were severed completely.
As reported last week, the Yamaguchi-gumi’s 72 affiliate groups had become divided over the management policies of current boss, 73-year-old Shinobu Tsukasa. It is believed that the remainder of the gang will be spearheaded by the Nagoya-based Kodo-kai, a gang co-founded by Tsukasa in 1984.
Prior to the dissolution, the Yamaguchi-gumi operated in 44 of Japan’s 47 administrative districts. According to data from the National Police Agency, the gang, including affiliate organizations, had a membership of 23,400 through the end of last year.
Law enforcement is now concerned that conflicts will result between the renegade gang and the Yamaguchi-gumi — a worry that is well-founded.
In 1984, the Ichiwa-kai seceded from within the Yamaguchi-gumi. Over the next five years, disputes between the two gangs resulted in more than 20 deaths and 500 arrests.
This time around, officers feel the rivals could engage in disputes as they attempt to bring in members who have not yet chosen sides.
The breakup comes in the middle of an ongoing push to remove gangsters from society. In 2011, all prefectures in Japan enacted legislation that prohibits ordinary citizens from doing business transactions with criminal syndicates.
Atsushi Mizoguchi, who writes about organized crime, believes the anti-gang push is working. He says that the Yamaguchi-gumi is increasingly having difficulties with money-making activities as law enforcement continues its crackdown.
“The split-up this time is an incident that symbolizes such a transitional period of gangster organizations,” Mizoguchi says in the Asahi Shimbun (Sep. 4).