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Yakuza power struggle emerges in Kyoto

Flash Jan. 31
Flash Jan. 31

On January 10, a fax sent in the name of Mitsugu Baba, the boss of the Kyoto-based Aizukotetsu-kai, arrived at organized crime organizations throughout the country. The message declared that he would be stepping down and be succeeded by his junior leader, Noboru Harada.

Confusing matters, however, was another fax, sent immediately after the first, again in the name of Baba, which said he had had no knowledge of the previous note. The subsequent fax added he would be severing ties with the lieutenant.

What exactly transpired during the course of those messages is not exactly clear, but sources tell Flash (Jan. 31) that the Yamaguchi-gumi and its chief rival are embroiled in a struggle to take control over the venerable Aizukotetsu-kai, reports weekly tabloid Flash (Jan. 31).

With a history dating back to the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Aizukotetsu-kai is one of the oldest gangs in the nation’s criminal underworld. It is estimated to comprise about 140 members.

The source of the crisis surrounding the gang is the splintering of the Yamaguchi-gumi. Prior to 2015, there was one single Yamaguchi-gumi. However, that year members left to form the rival Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi — and this has led to complications internally for the Aizukotetsu-kai as far as lasting relationships.

According to a journalist who covers the yakuza world, the Kodo-kai, the central gang under the Yamaguchi-gumi, has supported Harada. However, his boss had previously aligned himself with what is now the opposite side.

“I heard Baba was a ‘brother’ of Kunio Inoue, boss of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, and the Aizukotetsu-kai made a decision to go with them, severing ties with the Yamaguchi-gumi at the end of 2016,” the source says. “Harada didn’t like that, and he decided to tap the strength of the Yamaguchi-gumi to remove Baba from his position. So a proxy war is going on between the gangs over the Aizukotetsu-kai.”

At some point prior to the start of the turmoil, Harada and members of the Yamaguchi-gumi camped themselves at the Aizukotetsu-kai headquarters. But the moment they stepped out, it was Baba, together with members of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, who besieged the place. A tense situation ensued, and the Aizukotetsu-kai headquarters was subsequently surrounded by about 200 investigators and riot police.

Kyoto Prefectural Police eventually intervened, and the headquarters was closed. No entry was permitted, and, as of January 14, the office was still surrounded by police standing guard.

“[Prior to the split in 2015], the Aizukotetsu-kai had always had close ties with the Yamaguchi-gumi,” a source close to organized crime groups tells the magazine. “Kiyoshi Takayama, the Yamaguchi-gumi’s second-in-command, supported Baba when he became the gang’s sixth Godfather, and they have been like relatives. But because Baba sided with the Kobe group, there have been dissatisfied Yamaguchi-gumi members who see him as a traitor, which may have led to the coup d’état.”

As well, it has been learned that a person on the side of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi attacked and injured an Aizukotetsu-kai member late on January 13.

Given the events to this point, one may wonder: Why are the Yamaguchi-gumi and its rival so interested in the Aizukotetsu-kai?

“Not only is the Aizukotetsu-kai an old establishment; it’s an organization that had gained its wealth through gambling,” says the aforementioned journalist. “It’s said to be connected to various business interests in Kyoto Prefecture, and it’s an organization that both gangs want to form close ties with.”

Source: “Kyoto gekishin! Futatsu no Yamaguchi-gumi ga yakuza-kai no meimon Aizukotetsu-kai wo bunretsu saseta,” Flash (Jan. 31)