Yamaguchigumi vs. Police Authorities “7 Years of Split War” Unknown Deadly Struggle Revealed
Three incidents in one day…
Japan’s largest gangster organization, the Yamaguchigumi VI, split in August 2015, with the breakaway group launching the Kobe Yamaguchigumi, and the state of rivalry and warfare between the two sides has been unusually prolonged for more than seven years. As the rivalry intensified in the fall of 2019, both sides were designated as specified rivalry-designated gangs in January 2020 and their activities are severely restricted. Not only is the rivalry between the two sides, but the offensive against the police authorities, who are under increasing pressure, is also protracted.
During the seven years of rivalry since the split of the 6th Yamaguchigumi, about 90 incidents have occurred, including not only murders using guns, but also shooting at offices, throwing Molotov cocktails, and back-ramming large vehicles such as dump trucks, resulting in a total of eight deaths. A total of eight people were killed. Including internal disputes over transfers, more than 100 incidents have occurred and more than a dozen people have been killed. For a while after the split, however, both sides initially maintained a wait-and-see attitude.
Although there were incidental incidents such as troubles within the organization and brawls in the downtown area, there was no all-out confrontation and warfare. However, in February 2016, incidents began to occur on a daily basis following a shooting incident at the then Kobe Yamaguchigumi’s Masaki Gumi office in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture.
In that month, a car was raided at the home of a 6th Yamaguchigumi-affiliated executive in Yamatokoriyama City, Nara Prefecture; a Kobe Yamaguchigumi-affiliated gang member was assaulted by a group in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture; a car belonging to a Kobe Yamaguchigumi executive was set on fire in Mishima City, Shizuoka Prefecture; a gun was fired at the home of a Kobe Yamaguchigumi executive in Yashio City, Saitama Prefecture; and an attack on a Kobe Yamaguchigumi executive in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, and others. There was a day when three incidents occurred in one day.
In October 2019, two members of the Yamaguchigumi Yamaguchigumi Yamaguchigumi-affiliated Yamaken-gumi (at that time) were shot dead simultaneously in Kobe City. The following November, a brutal incident occurred in Amagasaki City, where Keiichi Furukawa, a senior member of the Kobe Yamaguchigumi gang, was killed by dozens of bullets from an automatic rifle. All of those arrested were executives and former members of the 6th Yamaguchigumi.
The “heinous attack” took place in a downtown area in the evening.
A senior police official in charge of organized crime countermeasures at the time said, “The fact that two people were killed at the same time was a great shock. Furthermore, the Amagasaki incident took place in the evening downtown area. The Amagasaki incident took place in the evening in a busy downtown area, and there was a high risk that stray bullets could cause damage because of the traffic of ordinary citizens. He also pointed out that “the number of organizations that left the Kobe (Yamaguchigumi) organization increased because of the viciousness of these two incidents.
In light of these heinous incidents, the Yamaguchigumi VI and the Kobe Yamaguchigumi were designated in January 2020 as “designated specific anti-conflict gangs” under the Anti-Boryokudan Law, which has more stringent regulations. Designated gangs are designated by the Public Safety Commission when there is a risk of harm to the general public due to rivalry among the designated gangs.
The Public Safety Commission establishes a warning area and prohibits “gathering of five or more members of the same gang” and “establishment of new gang offices and entry into them” within the area. Violators are immediately arrested without having to go through administrative procedures such as cease and desist orders.
There was a precedent for designated gangs. In December 2012, the “Dojinkai” and “Kyushu Seidokai,” both based in Fukuoka Prefecture, were designated as specified anti-trust groups. The Dōnin-kai split over the appointment of its chairman, leading to a confrontation that resulted in about 50 incidents and the deaths of 14 people on both sides. The rivalry lasted for more than six years, but it came to an abrupt halt when the organization was designated as a specified rivalry-designated crime syndicate.
Why is it important to “meet regularly?
A senior police official who knew the situation at the time said, “Since the two groups were designated as “specified warriors” and their offices were located in the restricted area, they could no longer hold regular meetings. Even with the development of communication devices such as cell phones and e-mails, there is still a distance between the two groups in terms of feelings unless they meet regularly face to face. The number of defectors increased due to the lack of control,” he said.
The Dojinkai submitted a written oath to the Fukuoka Prefectural Police to end the conflict. The Kyushu Seidokai has reported its dissolution. The designation of the group as a designated gang for specific conflicts was lifted in June 2014. The group “raised the white flag because it was stuck in the middle,” said a former senior police official. However, Kyushu Seidokai has changed its name to Namikawa-kai and continues to operate. Although they were able to suppress the war, they were not able to stop their activities as a gang.
More than seven years have passed since the rivalry between the Yamaguchigumi VI and the Kobe Yamaguchigumi, and more than two and a half years have passed since they were designated as a specific anti-fighting designated gang. The Kobe Yamaguchigumi began to downsize its organization following incidents such as a murder by firing automatic weapons in the city of Amagasaki. Since then, the Yamaguchigumi VI side has gained the upper hand, and as of the end of 2021, the Yamaguchigumi VI has approximately 4,000 members, while the Kobe Yamaguchigumi has approximately 510 members, leaving a large gap in power.
From last year to this year, the rivalry had quieted down, probably due to the COVID-19 crisis, but in June of this year, shots were fired at the home of Kunio Inoue, the leader of the Kobe Yamaguchigumi in Kobe City, and in May, a vehicle was raided at the home of Tadashi Irie, the leader of the Takumi clan of the Kobe Yamaguchigumi in Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture. In May, a vehicle was also raided at the home of Tadashi Irie, the head of the Yamaguchigumi Takumi gang in Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture.
Nevertheless, the Kobe Yamaguchigumi is trying to keep its organization alive, and senior police officials are taking a hard look at the 6th (Yamaguchigumi) and Kobe (Yamaguchigumi), saying that they need to be designated as a semi-permanent specific anti-tank war. However, it was decided in September that Kobe Yamaguchigumi, Ikeda-gumi, and Kizumikai would become a federation, and if Ikeda-gumi and Kizumikai were to cause a conflict with the 6th Yamaguchigumi, it is possible that a new designation would be made in the future as a designated specific anti-fighting gang. (Honorifics omitted in the text, some titles are current at the time)
Interview and text： Masahiro Ojima
Nonfiction writer. After working for Sankei Shimbun in charge of the National Police Agency Press Club, Metropolitan Police Department Cap, Kanagawa Prefectural Police Cap, Judicial Press Club, and National Tax Agency Press Club, he went freelance. His most recent book is "The True Story of the Yamaguchigumi Split" (Bungeishunju).
Photographed by： Shinji Hamasaki