TOKYO (TR) – Nowadays, a celebrity or businessman associating with a gangster is generally frowned up. In fact, it could be even considered a violation of the law.
That wasn’t the case four decades ago. The guests attending the wedding banquet of the son of Kazuo Takaoka, then the boss of the Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate, in Osaka City on May 23, 1974 included numerous notable politicians, industrialists and celebrities.
It was a similar situation at the opening gala of the infamous Celebrity Choice Club in Tokyo the year —and a newly uncovered photograph collection sheds light on exactly who was in attendance at the event, which was quickly followed by the downfall of Hisayuki Machii, the grizzled gangster who presided over the club.
Known simply as TSK.CCC Terminal, the building, located in the Roppongi entertainment district, boasted the headquarters of the Tosei-kai gang, night clubs, a beauty salon, a spa, a rooftop garden and a tennis court.
According to the site for weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun, “TSK Album” was produced as a memorial for the building’s opening event held on July 11, 1973.
Among the businessmen appearing in photographs are Minoru Segawa, the chairman of Nomura Securities, and Shigeru Okada, the chairman of department store chain Mitsukoshi.
Shown standing at a microphone is Sunao Sonoda, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party. Shigeo Nagashima of the Yomiuri Giants is pictured giving his autograph to a boy. Meanwhile, singer Naomi Chiaki poses in front of a large bouquet of flowers.
The Greek ambassador to Japan also made an appearance, though he was not included in any of the photographs published by Bunshun.
Other photographs show Teru Miyata of public broadcaster NHK serving as the master of ceremonies and power broker Yoshio Kodama raising a glass of beer while giving a toast.
Though not photographed, actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi, who would later go on to serve in the House of Representatives, assisted Miyata in hosting the event.
Machii was a first-generation Korean who headed the Tosei-kai and the Toa Sogo Kigyo Co., which was founded in 1966.
Through a close relationship with Kazuo Taoka, the chairman of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Machii expanded Toa Sogo Kigyo’s empire in Japan and South Korea. A key element was the Kanpu ferry, which linked Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture and Pusan.
Membership in the Tosei-kai swelled to around 1,500 in the 1960s. Meanwhile, the gang’s presence in Ginza became so large that Machii became known as the “Ginza Tiger.”
Also important to Machii was his relationship with Kodama. Together, they made the boxy, maze-like TSK.CCC building their stronghold.
Resort in Fukushima
TSK.CCC was actually eight buildings, covering a more than 3,000-square-meter plot. Some of that opulence comes across in “TSK Album.” In one photograph, couples dance in the ballroom. Another shows a large crowd gathered around a crystal-like display highlighted by the text “TSK.CCC.”
TSK.CCC was more than just the seven-floor building; it was also a members-only club that had several locations.
There were also plans for a resort in Shirakawa Kogen, Fukushima Prefecture. The resort was to span 26,000 square meters and include a hot springs, hotel, 50 tennis courts, a farm, a swimming pool and medical facility.
TSK.CCC targeted foreigners as members. In an advertisement taken out in the August 16, 1974 issue of Tokyo Weekender, the club was described as boasting “a Beverly Hills atmosphere of elegance witih a Disneyland recreation appeal.”
There were some heavy hitters behind the scenes. Tsuneo Watanabe, the chairman of the group that publishes the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and writer Kazuo Dan were among the members of the club’s board of directors — though neither appeared in “TSK Album.”
Documents later presented in the Diet showed that Machii used a Korean government-supported bank to guarantee payment of 6 billion yen for a loan for TSK.CCC. The loan from Nippon Credit Bank (today known as Aozora Bank) totaled yen 5.4 billion yen (2.1 billion yen for building TSK.CCC and 3.3 billion yen for the resort development).
However, Machii’s fortunes began to sour not long after the opening party due investment failures. Further complicating matters was Kodama’s involvement in the Lockheed Scandal.
Toa Sogo Kigyo declared bankruptcy in 1977, and TSK.CCC slowly fell into disrepair. However, Machii continued to live inside the structure until his death at the age of 79 in 2002.
During the development of TSK.CCC, Machii failed register the various buildings with local authorities. That made determining ownership after his death very difficult.
“In his later years, [Machii] said he didn’t remember who he had borrowed money from,” a reporter tells Busnhun. “People claiming to be creditors appeared one after another, and the registered ownership was repeatedly rewritten.”
As well, the site of TSK.CCC — whose structure was demolished in 2008 — had become highly sought after. The year after Machii’s death, the nearby Roppongi Hills complex opened. Located even closer is Tokyo Midtown, whose doors opened in 2007.
The TSK.CCC property was put up for auction. In 2011, the site was acquired by Sumitomo Realty & Development. The site was dormant for years due to legal hurdles.
However, a 34-floor building is currently under construction. Several posters from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police that are tacked to walls surrounding the site urge local residents to not associate with gangsters.