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Yamaguchi-gumi boss makes first public appearance since split

Shinobu Tsukasa
Shinobu Tsukasa at the grave of Yoshinori Watanabe

HYOGO (TR) – Since the split of the Yamaguchi-gumi over the summer, the gang’s top boss on Tuesday made his first public appearance in Kobe, reports Mainichi Broadcasting System (Dec. 1).

At approximately 10:00 a.m., Shinobu Tsukasa, 73, exited a black Mercedes Benz sedan at the Nagamine Reien Cemetery, located in Nada Ward, and proceeded the grave of his predecessor, Yoshinori Watanabe, who passed away three years ago on Tuesday.

Upon arrival at the tomb, Tsukasa, attired in a brown robe and zori sandals, made an offering of burning incense prior to clasping his hands together in prayer. Other top bosses of the gang, including Hirofumi Hashimoto and Teruaki Takeuchi, were also in attendance.

Watanabe served as the fifth Godfather of the Yamaguchi-gumi between 1989 and 2005, a historical period for Japan’s largest organized crime group. During Watanabe’s reign, he divided the gang’s operations into smaller regional groups to reduce law enforcement’s ability to monitor their businesses.

Watanabe will likely be most remembered for the Yamaguchi-gumi’s relief activities following the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, when the gang provided 20,000 meals to survivors in Kobe. In the post-quake redevelopment, the gang prospered tremendously, primarily due to its dealings in construction and real estate.

Tsukasa has presided over the gang during perhaps the most challenging period in its century-long history. In September, a power struggle lead to the gang’s dissolution and the formation of a rival syndicate, the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

Law enforcement has since raided the headquarters of a number Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate gangs in search of intelligence related to the possible future direction of the organization.