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Japan’s underworld bracing for an end to the ‘silence’

Flash June 21
Flash June 21

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?” — Don Corleone, “The Godfather.”

On the morning of May 31, Tadashi Takagi, a 55-year-old executive of an affiliate gang of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, was shot in the chest and abdomen in a parking lot of an apartment building in Okayama City.

Takagi was transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition. He was confirmed dead about one hour after arrival.

Surveillance footage taken in the area just before the incident showed a suspicious man on a motorbike wearing a helmet that covered his face. Five days later, Hideyuki Yamamoto, a 32-year-old member of the Kodo-kai, an affiliate gang of the Yamaguchi-gumi, turned himself over to police. He was subsequently prosecuted on charges of murder.

According to Flash (June 21), the shooting represents the end of a temporary “silence” that existed between the Yamaguchi-gumi and its newly formed rival — and what happens next is anybody’s guess.

“This is no longer a truce,” a gangster based in the Kanto area tells the tabloid.

Last year, 13 gangs defected from within the Yamaguchi-gumi to form the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi as a rival syndicate. Since then, a number of shooting and car-ramming incidents involving the two gangs have taken place across the nation.

The Ikeda-gumi was one of the renegade gangs that defected to the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. The head of the gang is 71-year-old Takashi Ikeda, who is known as the “money man” due to his financial influence.

“There have been a number of shootings at gang offices but this time an executive directly subordinate to the top was killed,” says a Tokyo-based gangster. “We can expect to see payback on the part of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.”

It was widely reported that the Yamaguchi-gumi and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi told their affiliate gangs to not cause trouble — something of a cease-fire that amounted to a temporary “silence” — until the end of the Ise-Shima G7 Summit in Mie Prefecture. The two-day summit concluded on May 27.

According to the magazine, the Yamaguchi-gumi used the time during the Summit to broker a mediation. At the end of May, the gang’s Godfather, Shinobu Tsukasa, 73, visited Tokyo. The following day, two upper-level executive visited the home of a top boss of a major gang.

Among the items on the table, according to the aforementioned Kanto gang member, were that number-two boss, Kiyoshi Takayama, 68, would retire and Kunio Inoue, the 67-year-old top boss of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, would return to the Yamaguchi-gumi. (Inoue’s gang, the Yamaken-gumi, was among those that spearheaded the effort to form the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.)

“The real intention of these gangs does not include things like firing guns at one another, but that scenario is impossible,” a journalist covering organized crime comments on the rumored resolution. “In going against the excommunication order (for the Yamaken-gumi), the Yamaguchi-gumi would lose its honor.”

Kunio Inoue of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi
Kunio Inoue of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi

However, the shooting in Okayama appears to have changed that, with tensions on both sides growing — which is leading to speculation about whether someone important might get bumped off.

“If negotiations break down, Inoue wouldn’t become a target,” says a gang member in Osaka. “Rather, the aim would be an executive near the level of Inoue or a young person who has management responsibilities.”

Indeed, speculation is all over the map but for law enforcement there is one certainty: A resolution is not a realistic outcome. An investigative source says that neither side wishes to compromise regarding taking responsibility for the dissolution of the Yamaguchi-gumi last year. “From the beginning, a settlement was never possible,” the source says.

Flash suspects that the second act has just begun.

Source: “Yamaguchigumi koso wakai o tsubushita 4-patsu no kyodan,” Flash (June 21, pages 13-15)