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Tokyo police uncover real-life ‘Shinjuku Swan’ tale in Kabukicho

Police have uncovered a tale in the red-light district of Kabukicho that resembles the film 'Shinjuku Swan'
Tokyo police have uncovered a tale in the red-light district of Kabukicho that resembles the film ‘Shinjuku Swan,’ which was released in 2015

TOKYO (TR) – The ring, if he had just forgotten about the ring…

In February, Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested a 23-year-old woman and an organized crime member in the alleged extortion of her former boyfriend.

According to the Sankei Shimbun (Mar. 3), the background of the case is a real-life version of the manga “Shinjuku Swan,” which chronicles the maneuverings of street scouts and other denizens in Tokyo’s red-light district of Kabukicho.

The story starts at a coffee shop in the district on the chilly night of November 9. Kazutoshi Sato, a 60-year-old member of a gang affiliated with the Matsuba-kai, had summoned the victim, a former host who was 31 years old at the time.

The meeting

During the meeting, the gang member mentioned the former host’s ex-girlfriend, a hostess named Asami Iketani. The couple used to live together.

“Because of you she was hospitalized,” the Sato said. “Hospital fees run 10,000 yen per day. That means a total of 500,000 yen.”

Nervously, the former host converted a brand-name bracelet wrapped around his wrist into 55,000 yen in cash at a pawnshop, apparently, on the spot. However, the intimidation persisted. “I’ll give you a month,” the gang member said, “to hand over 150,000 yen, yes, that will be enough.”

Sato then told the former host that he would become a street scout to obtain the money. “As a host, you introduced customers to sex parlors [so that they could pay off debts to the club] for a commission. So you’ll be all set in getting the 150,000 yen.”

“Shinjuku Swan”

Written by Ken Wakui, the manga “Shinjuku Swan” tells the story of Tatsuhiko Shiratori, a street scout employed for an agency. In painting a dark picture of the underside of Kabukicho, the manga typically includes trouble developing between hosts, hostesses and gangsters. The comic was turned into a film directed by Sion Sono in 2015.

The story indeed offers some parallels to that of the former host. Out of a job, Shiratori meets a scout who introduces him to the streets of Kabukicho. He then takes up the trade himself, battling with rival scouts and members of criminal syndicates in recruiting women for the adult entertainment (fuzoku) trade.

There is one key difference between real-life story and that of the manga: The former host consulted with the Shinjuku Police Station. Sato denied the allegations following his arrest for attempted extortion. A henchman of the gang member was also charged in the case.

The relationship

The hostess (Iketani) and former host began their relationship in July of last year. While together, they fought. In October she entered the hospital due to poor health, largely as a consequence of his intense screaming at her.

Kazutoshi Sato of the Matsuba-kai
Kazutoshi Sato of the Matsuba-kai

The pair continued communication via the smartphone chat app Line. The content of the messages shifted from wondering whether the former host would come to the hospital to visit to that of an angry tone. However, he eventually stopped responding to her messages.

Frustrated, the hostess turned to Sato, one of her customers, for help. On the day before the meeting at the coffee shop, the gang member instructed one of his henchmen to pick up her belongings from his residence. During the retrieval, the host told the henchman, “I want the ring I gave to her back.”

The ring

The ring proved to be just what Sato needed. Under the pretext of returning the ring, the gangster arranged the meeting at the coffee shop.

“There would not have been an attempted extortion case if this had ended with the picking up of the belongings,” an investigative source tells the Sankei.

The case followed a pattern.

“It is standard practice for gangsters to take advantage of trouble to steal money,” the investigative source says. “It is a real-life version of what happens in the manga.”