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Follow the money: Extortion rackets key to coming yakuza conflict

The emblem of the Kyosei-kai
The emblem of the Kyosei-kai

The bread and butter of the yakuza is now on trial.

On March 9, three male employees at sex parlors filed a suit in the Hiroshima District Court against an organized crime group over the extortion racket known as mikajimeryo, or the payment of “protection” money.

The suit, filed against the head of the Kyosei-kai, 73-year-old Atsumu Moriya, and four members of an affiliate organizations, requests at total of 22.4 million yen in compensation over payments made between December of 2012 and July of the following year.

According to Nikkan Gendai (Mar. 13), the practice of mikajimeryo may down but it is certainly not out as organized crime groups continue to rely on it for steady revenue.

Take Tokyo’s red-light district of Kabukicho, for example.

According to Tomoyuki Ueno, a journalist who covers the underworld, kyabakura businesses (hostess clubs) are expected to outlay between 100,000 yen to 200,000 yen each month, while for “health” parlors — which offer blow-jobs — the figure can reach 300,000 yen.

Traditionally, rights for each building in the district had been demarcated as follows: the Inagawa-kai floors one through two, the Sumiyoshi-kai floors two through three, and the Yamaguchi-gumi the fourth floor and above.

However, last year’s split of the Yamaguchi-gumi and formation of a rival, the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, has complicated matters, with both gangs staking claims to the same parlors.

“Shops have become caught between a rock and a hard place,” says Ueno. “Some will pay both to avoid the wrath of the Devil. A chain six hostess clubs might have three pay the Yamaguchi-gumi and the remainder pay the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.”

To not pay the protection money is to ask for trouble. In the Hiroshima case, gangsters busted the windshields of vehicles belonging to the sex parlors with bats.

Over the eight-month period, the plaintiffs wound up paying a total of 600,000 yen. The basis of the suit is a revision to the Anti-Organized Crime Law enacted in 2008 that renders the responsibility of illegal activities of employees to employers, who in this case are gang bosses. Each plaintiff is seeking between 6.5 million yen and 8.9 million yen.

The case has precedent. Shinobu Tsukasa, the top boss of the Yamaguchi-gumi, was sued twice (in 2013 and 2015) over extortion of restaurants in Nagoya.

The Ichiban-gai gate in Kabukicho
The Ichiban-gai gate in Kabukicho

Nikkan Gendai sees mikajimeryo as a key jostling point for the Yamaguchi-gumi and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. Last week, the National Police Agency officially acknowledged that the groups are in a “state of confrontation.”

The paper believes the widely predicted conflict will eventually result as the gangs compete over mikajimeryo turf.

“At first, there might be fisticuffs out of the public eye, such as in a building’s emergency stairwell,” says Ueno. “Then, such dust-ups will spill out into the public’s view. From there, it will be a full-fledged war.” (A.T.)

Source: “Yokodori, ubaiai mo…Yamaguchigumi koso ni ‘mikajime-ryo’ toiu hidane,” Nikkan Gendai (Mar. 13)