KOBE (TR) – Perhaps the most challenging year in the century-long history of the Yamaguchi-gumi has — finally — come to a close.
For Shinobu Tsukasa, the 73-year-old boss of the gang, paid a visit Gokoku Shrine, located near the gang’s headquarters in Nada Ward, to welcome the New Year, reports the Kobe Shimbun (Jan. 1).
At just after midnight, Tsukasa, who is also known as Kenichi Shinoda, arrived at the shrine’s grounds. During most visits, the boss makes a point of lining up with the general public. But this year was different.
According to Nippon News Network (Jan. 1), Tsukasa, attired in a robe, used a special path to reach the shrine as approximately 40 officers from the Hyogo Prefectural Police stood watch. He left 10 minutes later.
The police presence is a reflection of recent problems facing the gang, which was founded in 1915 by former fisherman Harukichi Yamaguchi as a union for dockworkers.
In September, 13 affiliate gangs bolted from the Yamaguchi-gumi to form a rival, the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. The loss of allies continued thereafter. Since the split, the total number of top bosses in the Yamaguchi-gumi has fallen from 72 to 55.
Fears of violence with the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi has caused law enforcement to increase its watch over the gang. As a result, some of its activities have been halted, notably a Halloween party for children in October and a mochitsuki event, in which rice cakes are made with a wood mallet, scheduled for December.