Gangsters consider allegiances after Yamaguchi-gumi split

Flash Oct. 20
Flash Oct. 20

On September 29, tension filled the air in Tokyo’s Roppongi entertainment district as Teruaki Takeuchi, a possible successor to the top boss of the Yamaguchi-gumi, emerged from a heavily guarded vehicle and entered the headquarters of the Inagawa-kai.

For two decades, the two gangs have maintained cordial relations. Now, following turmoil within the Yamaguchi-gumi, which is Japan’s largest gang, Flash (Oct. 20) says that those ties remain in place — but others may be more fragile.

“On September 15, Inagawa-kai executives visited the Kobe headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi,” a journalist well-versed in organized crime tells the magazine. “The message was: ‘It is a relationship that will not change in the future.’ The visit this time (to Tokyo) was to return the favor.”

Two weeks before the visit to Kobe, the Yamaguchi-gumi excommunicated 13 affiliate gangs, including the Yamaken-gumi and the Kyoyu-kai.

The renegade gangs subsequently formed the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, a rival gang to the Yamaguchi-gumi that is headed by Kunio Inoue, the 67-year-old boss of the Yamaken-gumi.

The affirmation of ties by the Yamaguchi-gumi was certainly strategic: The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi had already begun seeking for partners in crime. Hideyuki Kato, a top boss in the Sumiyoshi-kai, which is Japan’s second-largest crime syndicate, visited the headquarters of the Yamaken-gumi on September 5.

Since the split, law enforcement has been concerned about violence. A member of a Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate says that similar worries existed while he was in prison.

“From the time of the split, the prison separated the Yamaguchi-gumi and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi members,” says the gangster, who was released in the middle of September. “If fights had broken out, it would have been a big problem.”

Teruaki Takeuchi on the cover of Document
Teruaki Takeuchi on the cover of Document

But the gangsters do talk — and a sense of uncertainty surrounding the split has only made a very dreary experience even worse, with some Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi gangsters considering switching allegiances.

“For these guys, it is a desolate existence,” continues the gangster, “and the prospects for success in the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi (once released from prison) seem small. Already, I’ve had guys requesting that I look out for them.”

But for many gangsters in prison (and there are about 6,000 currently incarcerated in Japan), membership in a particular gang may not be meaningful in the end.

“For a gangster who has been released after serving a long sentence, he will be an old man,” says the aforementioned journalist. “The clout he may have had in the yakuza world as a famous member of any gang will have been changed.” (K.N.)

Source: “Yamaguchi-gumi, Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi ga gokuchu yakuza hikinuki gassen,” Flash (Oct. 20, pages 18-19)

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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