A number of luxury cars began to line up near Kobe’s Gokoku Shrine just after the clock struck midnight to welcome the new year. Their arrival was for the well-known first shrine visit of the year (or hatsumode) by senior-level members of the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate.
A male figure emerging at the center of the subsequent gathering, wearing traditional Japanese clothes and being guarded by men in black, was Kiyoshi Takayama, age 62 and the number-two boss in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza mob. He was followed by other leaders of the family, including the senior director, 65-year-old Tadashi Irie. Following his prayer session, Takayama explained: “I was praying for the safety of our old man.”
The “old man” refers to Shinobu Tsukasa, the sixth and current leader of the gang, which weekly tabloid Friday (Jan. 22) reports will be moving to boost its power in the run-up to his release from prison next year. He is currently serving a six-year sentence at Fuchu Prison in Tokyo for illegal possession of weapons.
With recent conflicts now in the past — including a full-blown gang war with the Sumiyoshi-kai in early 2007 and the excommunication of Tadamasa Goto, the former boss of an affiliate gang, the following year — the Yamaguchi family, the tabloid believes, is now focusing its authority on strengthening its headquarters and moving into financial activities in the Tokyo area in an effort to increase its power and expand operations.
“The boss is expected to be released in the spring of 2011, and this is helping them gain more momentum,” explains a person with knowledge of the gang. “Their activities are being based on the assumption that the boss will return. Many organizations under the Yamaguchi-gumi did not include positive messages in their New Year’s nengajo greeting cards given that the boss is still in prison.
“They are also purchasing land and building new buildings for him,” the source continues. “They have built a building in Kobe that has been designed to be a venue to celebrate his release. They have also purchased 1,500 tsubo worth of land in Nagoya, the area where the Kodo-kai, the original organization of both the boss and Takayama, is situated.”
The weekly adds that locals are speculating that the gang will be establishing itself in Nagoya with the property being used as a residence for the boss.
At the same time, Tokyo’s financial industry is increasingly within the family’s plans. “Usually, they establish a front company as a foundation for financial activities,” another knowledgeable individual tells the tabloid. “Over the last year or two, they have formed group companies in preparation for penetrating the financial sector. Subsidiaries led by the Kodo-kai have used their deep pockets to purchase entire buildings and have installed their front companies into every floor to further facilitate communication in monitoring cash flow as well as keeping confidentiality more intact. The Yamaguchi-gumi is tough to deal with since they employ these kinds of organizational strategies.”
Yet the police are taking action. Law enforcement last year conducted four searches of the mob’s headquarters, a contrast to the once-a-year raids of the recent past, and is more frequently utilizing statutes within the Anti-Criminal Organization Law to coral upper management’s activities — all moves that Friday feels will make 2010 a year in which the game of cat and mouse intensifies. (A.T.)
Source: “Yamaguchi-gumi ‘shinin rokuyome kumicho shusho ni mukaketa fuon dosei,'” Friday (Jan. 22, pages 88-89)