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Gangsters consider allegiances after Yamaguchi-gumi split

Flash Oct. 20
Flash Oct. 20

On September 29, tension filled the air in Tokyo’s Roppongi entertainment district as Teruaki Takeuchi, a possible successor to the top boss of the Yamaguchi-gumi, emerged from a heavily guarded vehicle and entered the headquarters of the Inagawa-kai.

For two decades, the two gangs have maintained cordial relations. Now, following turmoil within the Yamaguchi-gumi, which is Japan’s largest gang, Flash (Oct. 20) says that those ties remain in place — but others may be more fragile.

“On September 15, Inagawa-kai executives visited the Kobe headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi,” a journalist well-versed in organized crime tells the magazine. “The message was: ‘It is a relationship that will not change in the future.’ The visit this time (to Tokyo) was to return the favor.”

Two weeks before the visit to Kobe, the Yamaguchi-gumi excommunicated 13 affiliate gangs, including the Yamaken-gumi and the Kyoyu-kai.

The renegade gangs subsequently formed the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, a rival gang to the Yamaguchi-gumi that is headed by Kunio Inoue, the 67-year-old boss of the Yamaken-gumi.

The affirmation of ties by the Yamaguchi-gumi was certainly strategic: The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi had already begun seeking for partners in crime. Hideyuki Kato, a top boss in the Sumiyoshi-kai, which is Japan’s second-largest crime syndicate, visited the headquarters of the Yamaken-gumi on September 5.

Since the split, law enforcement has been concerned about violence. A member of a Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate says that similar worries existed while he was in prison.

“From the time of the split, the prison separated the Yamaguchi-gumi and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi members,” says the gangster, who was released in the middle of September. “If fights had broken out, it would have been a big problem.”

Teruaki Takeuchi on the cover of Document
Teruaki Takeuchi on the cover of Document

But the gangsters do talk — and a sense of uncertainty surrounding the split has only made a very dreary experience even worse, with some Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi gangsters considering switching allegiances.

“For these guys, it is a desolate existence,” continues the gangster, “and the prospects for success in the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi (once released from prison) seem small. Already, I’ve had guys requesting that I look out for them.”

But for many gangsters in prison (and there are about 6,000 currently incarcerated in Japan), membership in a particular gang may not be meaningful in the end.

“For a gangster who has been released after serving a long sentence, he will be an old man,” says the aforementioned journalist. “The clout he may have had in the yakuza world as a famous member of any gang will have been changed.” (K.N.)

Source: “Yamaguchi-gumi, Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi ga gokuchu yakuza hikinuki gassen,” Flash (Oct. 20, pages 18-19)