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Rival yakuza groups heading in opposite directions as New Year arrives

Flash Jan. 3
Flash Jan. 3

To borrow from Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

For the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest gang, and its rival, the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, the year-end period is shaping up quite differently, according to the weekly magazine Flash (Jan. 3).

The annual closing ceremony for the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi was a tense affair. All members were on high alert, carrying steel-reinforced bags as they welcomed the top boss, Kunio Inoue, upon his arrival.

“They didn’t have the usual red and white banner decorations, and the pretty ladies they invited to entertain members last year were nowhere in sight,” says a journalist familiar with the criminal underworld world. “The place was surrounded by about fifty policemen, and the air was tense.”

The ceremony was held at the headquarters of the Kyoyu-kai, an affiliate gang of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, in Awaji City, Hyogo Prefecture on December 13.

The meeting is said to be the most important event of the year, one in which announcements are made as to the direction for the organization in the following year. This year, the atmosphere was completely different.

“They were mourning a senior member of the Ikeda-gumi faction who was shot to death by a Kodo-kai gangster in May,” says the aforementioned journalist. “And there was also the fatal beating in October of the head of the Kishu Rengo-kai, an organization under the Yamaken-gumi, which is the central syndicate of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. There’s a boiling sense of tension among the members as they wonder why they aren’t retaliating. I think that’s why they weren’t able to hold their ceremony in a celebratory mood.”

The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi formed as a result of the splintering of 13 groups from the Yamaguchi-gumi in 2015. As of December, it had expanded to include 25 factions. An extended fight related to the recruitment of members between the two gangs appears to have settled down, and disputes have not occurred recently.

However, a source close to a gang group in the Kanto area tells the magazine that internal trouble is another reason why the year-end meeting had been such a dour gathering.

“A year and four months have passed since the split from the [Yamaguchi-gumi], and members at the bottom of the [Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi] hierarchy are really struggling to make a living,” the source says. “Affiliated syndicates are holding year-end ceremonies, but you hear complaints that their members don’t even have the train fare to get to the events. The money that they earn still continues to go to their groups, and rumor has it that they’re getting unhappy with their bosses. There’s also talk about discord between the leaders.”

At the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi year-end ceremony, a policy named “fuso jinsui” was announced for the New Year.

“It means doing one’s best in the face of hardships and devoting oneself to making efforts for the future,” the same journalist explains. “It’s facing the present situation straight on, and not retaliating despite the existence of victims.”

The rival Yamaguchi-gumi held its year-end meeting, referred to as koto-hajime” (starting event), on the same day. It was said to have been a flamboyant affair.

“Last year, it was a quiet meeting as it was immediately after the organization split and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi formed,” continues the aforementioned journalist. “But this year, it was a celebration complete with catering. I heard that two people from each regional block were doing karaoke, and it seems that this side of the Yamaguchi-gumi has settled down completely.”

They also announced their slogan for next year: “washin goitsu.”

“It means that they are solidifying themselves internally with a sense of harmony, tolerating evil and cleansing it,” the journalist explains. “It’s included among the general principles that were established during the reign of the third Yamaguchi-gumi boss, Kazuo Taoka. Shinobu Tsukasa, the sixth and current Godfather, is calling on the organization to return to its origin and also telling young members who have left for the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi to come back any time.”

Prior to its dissolution, the Yamaguchi-gumi had 72 affiliate gangs. It is now down to 53. Yet as far as one could see at the koto-hajime event its members appeared perfectly content. It seems that the two organizations have wrapped up the year on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Source: “Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi no nenmatsu nokai kotoshi wa konpanion mo yobazu kinpaku,” Flash (Jan. 3)