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Dwindling yakuza ranks breeds new gangsters

Shukan Bunshun April 9
Shukan Bunshun April 9

On March 26, Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested Kazuya Kusaka, 34, the leader of a criminal organization composed of 150 members nationwide, on suspicion of fraud.

Over 18 months, the group is believed to have stolen approximately 300 million yen from victims — most of whom were elderly — through schemes carried out on the telephone.

Last July, a 71-year-old Tokyo woman was defrauded out of four million yen by a caller claiming to be her son and in need of help in replacing a lost bank check.

As the crackdown on organized crime groups continues in Japan, Shukan Bunshun (April 9) believes that such fraud rings are filling this void, with the perpetrators representing a new type of gangster spawned from bosozoku motorcycle groups largely based in Hachioji City, in West Tokyo.

“Kusaka is an ex-leader of a (bosozoku) group in Hachioji,” a reporter covering the police beat tells the magazine, “and the majority of the members in the fraud ring are former bosozoku members.”

Collectively, these cast-offs come under the hangure categorization. The term is an amalgamation of Japanese words that roughly mean a clam shell that does not close snugly.

Kazuya Kusaka
Kazuya Kusaka

The magazine cites a number of violent incidents involving former and current members of bosozoku groups Kanto Rengo and Dragon, which is composed of second- and third-generation returnees from China who came to Japan after the end of World War II. The most notable of which was the drunken brawl involving a former leader of Kanto Rengo and kabuki star Ebizo Ichikawa and in 2010.

But the clans in Hachioji can hold their own when it comes to causing trouble. In 2013, the National Police Agency began classifying bosozoku gangs as “pseudo-yakuza” groups to better reflect the true state of their activities. Among those receiving the designation was Uchikoshi Specter, which was formed in the 1970s in Hachioji.

“In Hachioji, it is a matter of the ends justifying the means,” says the aforementioned reporter.

Kusaka himself was previously arrested one year ago for tying up a woman and robbing her in Shizuoka Prefecture. “But he’s not the baddest of them all,” the aforementioned reporter assures.

Kunizane Saito, a 28-year-old former member of Uchikoshi Specter, is regarded as the most notorious in Hachioji. In February, Saito was charged for a second time in the death of Akihiro Tsuchiya (24), with whom he had been working in a fraud ring.

According to police, Saito was among those who beat Tsuchiya and robbed him of three million yen on December 11 and 12, 2010. Three years later, the victim’s corpse was found buried at a cemetery in Saitama Prefecture, according to the Asahi Shimbun (Feb. 1).

“The glaring facial expression displayed in the publicly released photo of him speaks volumes about his ferocity,” continues the reporter, in speaking of Saito.

Kunizane Saito
Kunizane Saito

Saito’s most notorious incident may have taken place seven years ago. In the early morning hours of March 16, 2008, Takahiro Kanemura, 32, was discovered beaten in Nishi Shinjuku. He died from a cerebral contusion five days later. As of now, no arrests have been made in the case.

In recent years, it has been speculated that the beating death of Ryosuke Fujimoto in Roppongi in 2012 was a response to the attack of Kanemura, an importer of Korean foodstuffs who was known to have associates in organized crime and in bosozoku groups. In the Fujimoto death, an ex-Kanto Rengo leader received an 11-year prison term for murder.

According to a police source quoted by Shukan Bunshun, Saito may have knowledge regarding Kanemura’s murder.

“There is talk that Saito has information,” an investigator tells the magazine, “and this might be the start of a clean sweep of the problems associated with fighting among han-gure groups.”

Source: “Furikome sagi kara goto chishi made taito suru ‘Hachiōji-koku’ no akuratsuhido,” Shukan Bunshun (April 9, page 49)