ヤクザの分割 Japan’s Gangsters Find Extortion No Longer Pays, Forcing Yakuza Split

Yamaguchi-gumi

The Yamaguchi-gumi was founded in Kobe in 1915 by Harukichi Yamaguchi as an association of Harukichi_Yamaguchidockworkers. The man credited with building the Yamaguchi-gumi into Japan’s largest yakuza syndicate was Kazuo Taoka, the charismatic third don dubbed ‘the bear’ for clawing his opponent’s eyes during brawls.

Alexander Martin reports: The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest and most powerful yakuza crime syndicate, is undergoing a major split on its 100th anniversary after years of police crackdowns and financial strains.

YAKUZA-WSJ

“Such exploits furnished material for countless yakuza movies over the years, some of which implicitly celebrated the gangsters as upholders of traditional Japanese values of loyalty and sacrifice.”

Japanese police, fearing the outbreak of a bloody gang war, have been on alert since news broke in late August that groups within the Yamaguchi-gumi were parting ways with its sixth-generation don. The result is two groups– the Yamaguchi-gumi and a rival syndicate, both of which are based in central Japan.yakuza

“Even today, the existence of yakuza groups isn’t technically illegal. They have offices as well as fan magazines dedicated to their underworld endeavors.”

Experts say the split reflects the harsh environment facing the yakuza, Japan’s homegrown mafia, following a slew of anti-gang laws that have choked off their revenue.

“Clampdowns against the yakuza have been enforced at all points, making it increasingly difficult for them to rack up profits.”

— Yoshiaki Shinozaki, an attorney with decades of experience fighting organized crime

Once tacitly accepted as a necessary evil to handle society’s dirty work, the yakuza are now taboo for large corporations, and gang members are having more trouble extorting money through protection rackets or serving as muscle men in real-estate schemes.

The Yamaguchi-gumi was founded in Kobe in 1915 by Harukichi Yamaguchi as an association of dockworkers. The man credited with building the Yamaguchi-gumi into Japan’s largest yakuza syndicate was Kazuo Taoka, the charismatic third don dubbed “the bear” for clawing his opponent’s eyes during brawls.

“Once tacitly accepted as a necessary evil to handle society’s dirty work, the yakuza are now taboo for large corporations, and gang members are having more trouble extorting money through protection rackets or serving as muscle men in real-estate schemes.”

During Mr. Taoka’s reign from 1946 to his death in 1981, the Yamaguchi-gumi expanded its membership, developed ties with show business and spread its tentacles into political and financial circles.

Yakuza-02

“Public attitudes toward the yakuza hardened over the years. Racketeers known as sokaiya were especially feared by corporate Japan for extorting money by threatening to publicly humiliate and expose corporate secrets at annual shareholders meetings.”

Such exploits furnished material for countless yakuza movies over the years, some of which implicitly celebrated the gangsters as upholders of traditional Japanese values of loyalty and sacrifice. Even today, the existence of yakuza groups isn’t technically illegal. They have offices as well as fan magazines dedicated to their underworld endeavors.

Top members of the Yamaguchi-gumi arrive in Kobe in 1988 for the funeral for their boss, Masahisa Takenaka, who was killed by a splinter group’s gunman. Photo: Associated Press

Top members of the Yamaguchi-gumi arrive in Kobe in 1988 for the funeral for their boss, Masahisa Takenaka, who was killed by a splinter group’s gunman. Photo: Associated Press

“We will undermine them by moving ahead with strategic and focused crackdowns on both their human resources and funding sources.”

— Ichiro Kume, police chief of the prefecture that includes Kobe

But public attitudes toward the yakuza hardened over the years. Racketeers known as sokaiya were especially feared by corporate Japan for extorting money by threatening to publicly humiliate and expose corporate secrets at annual shareholders meetings. In 1997, the former chairman of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank (now part of Mizuho Financial Group) committed suicide after the bank was found to have lent tens of millions of dollars to a sokaiya leader.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

The government’s top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, confirmed signs of recent disorder in the Yamaguchi-gumi and described them as an opportunity to weaken the groups.

“We will undermine them by moving ahead with strategic and focused crackdowns on both their human resources and funding sources,” said Ichiro Kume, police chief of the prefecture that includes Kobe.

Atsushi Mizoguchi, a nonfiction writer considered one of Japan’s foremost experts on organized crime, said two main factors are behind the rift in the Yamaguchi-gumi: resentment among some groups about dues that are funneled up to the leadership, and speculation that…(read more)

Source: WSJ

Write to Alexander Martin at alexander.martin@wsj.com


2 Comments on “ヤクザの分割 Japan’s Gangsters Find Extortion No Longer Pays, Forcing Yakuza Split”


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