Growing Number of “Tokuryu” Designated as a New Target of Police Investigation | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Growing Number of “Tokuryu” Designated as a New Target of Police Investigation

Nonfiction writer Masahiro Ojima delves into the dark side of this newly created criminal force.

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Yuuki Watanabe was repatriated from the Philippines. Last year, “black market jobs” became a major social issue.

While nationwide gang members are positioned as antisocial forces and are on the decline as they are eliminated from economic activities, police authorities are stepping up their crackdown on the activities of the growing number of “semi-gres,” or delinquent groups, as an important target of investigation.


In the midst of this trend, there was a major change in 2023. A series of robberies by an instructor claiming to be “Luffy” occurred in various parts of the country, including the murder of an elderly woman in Komae City, Tokyo. There was a great deal of concern about the increasing viciousness of these crimes. The National Police Agency, in an effort to comprehensively crack down on such groups, newly designated them as “anonymous and fluid criminal groups” (a.k.a. Tokuryu) in July of last year. In 2024, investigations of “Tokuryu,” which can be considered an evolution of the semi-gres, are expected to make progress.

Generally, gangs are organized in the form of a pyramid with a gang leader at the top, and new gang members are required to obey him or her absolutely under a strong hierarchical relationship. A senior official of a designated gang based in the Kansai region emphasized that “being a yakuza also means swallowing absurdity,” and revealed the following about joining a gang: “You have to accept the boss’s sake cup and formalize it.”

“The official status of being a henchman after receiving the sake cup from the boss means that one must follow the boss’s orders no matter what. It is often said that if one’s boss says, ‘What is white is black,’ one obeys him. In the event of a conflict, even if you have no personal grudge or motive, you must not hesitate to go to war for the sake of your own clan. Be prepared to serve a long prison term.”

He adds about the semi-gres.

“Not many young people these days want to become yakuza,” he adds. “I think they don’t like the unreasonable customs and traditions of yakuza society. They are more comfortable working in a semi-gure-like group with like-minded friends.”

Most of the semi-gres are young men in their 20s to 40s, and it is estimated that there are 60 to 80 groups nationwide, with approximately 4,000 members identified by police authorities. The reason for the wide range in the number of groups is that “it is as if there is no organization. A senior police official explained with a sigh, “There were people who belonged to a certain group, but they didn’t know who they were.”


“It is not uncommon for a person who was supposed to be a member of one group to be active in another group. A yakuza does not leave his own gang to join another gang, nor does he return to his original gang. They consider it “shameful” to leave or join a gang, but this is not the case at all with the semi-gure. They communicate with each other via social networking sites and other means on a case-by-case basis, and members are free to switch places. That is why they are so troublesome.”

Many of them are believed to use extortion, illegal adult entertainment, illegal drugs, and black market casinos as their source of funding, in addition to special frauds such as the “Oleore” scam. A senior official of a designated crime syndicate, who is not mentioned above, said, “Young guys from the semi-gres are greeting each other.

“A young guy from a semi-gang came to see me and said, ‘I want you to give me some money,’ so I gave him a reasonable amount. I didn’t ask him what he was doing because I knew it was probably some kind of scam, like an Ore Ore scam. If the police came out later and knew what the job was, we might be in trouble.”

In general, many people may think that the gangsters are in the upper echelon in the relationship between the two parties. However, while there are young people who ask gang leaders to invest in their companies in this way, there are also cases in which gang members are used as subordinates of semi-gres in special frauds, and the relationship between the two seems to be diverse.

Mato Imamura, who has been involved in a number of heinous crimes under the name “Rufi.”

The police authorities became aware of the roughness of the semi-gres in the “Ebizo beating” incident that occurred in November 2010. Popular Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo was seriously injured in a bar in Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo, when a person who stopped him assaulted him after he became intoxicated and became involved with the customers around him. He was later arrested by a man who was an alumnus of the motorcycle gang Kanto Rengo.

In recent years, there have been incidents in which the roughness of the semi-gres has been laid bare. At a French restaurant on the upper floors of the Sunshine 60 complex in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, about 100 members of the semi-gore group “Chinese Dragon” gathered to celebrate the release of their former leader from prison, when another group, upon hearing the news, stormed in and a brawl ensued. When police officers were called to the scene, the tables were overturned and the party was in ruins, leaving only a few people injured.

In addition to these semi-robbery groups, the National Police Agency has announced that it will investigate a broad concept of “anonymous and fluid criminal groups,” including a group that has been involved in a series of robberies across the country under the name of “Rufy” and other names. Regarding the group that has been carrying out robberies, a senior police official said, “It is believed that they used to engage in special fraud, but they seem to have changed their modus operandi. In contrast, robberies are a quick way to get money.

The National Police Agency has indicated its intention to strengthen investigations by removing the barriers between prefectural and metropolitan police forces, and a new battle between the police and Tokuryu is expected to begin in 2024.

  • Interview and text Masahiro Ojima

    Nonfiction writer. After working for the Sankei Shimbun in charge of the National Police Agency Press Club, the Metropolitan Police Department Cap, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Cap, the Judicial Press Club, and the National Tax Agency Press Club, he went freelance. His recent book is "How We Live: Money, Women, and Quitting Time of the Modern Yakuza" (Kodansha + Alpha Shinsho).

  • PHOTO Shinji Hasuo

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