Ehime Starbucks Shooting: Unusual Timing and Surprise Motive. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Ehime Starbucks Shooting: Unusual Timing and Surprise Motive.

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Starbucks, where the incident occurred. The crime, committed in broad daylight in a café where people relax, sent shockwaves throughout the world.

On a Sunday evening, when many shoppers were crowded, a completely inappropriate gunshot rang out in a coffee shop in a shopping mall in Shikokuchuo City, Ehime Prefecture. The store was supposed to be a place where people could chat in peace while enjoying the taste and aroma of coffee, but amidst the smell of gunpowder smoke from the shooting, a man was killed, bleeding from the chest. Police officers soon arrived on the scene, and the restaurant was in an uproar.

The incident occurred on January 14, some time after the New Year’s slaughtering mood had worn off and normal social activities resumed. Yuichiro Ishikawa, whose occupation is unknown, was hit by several bullets and was unconscious when police officers arrived at the store at around 4:00 pm. No other customers were injured.

The Ehime Prefectural Police identified the man who shot and killed the man as Yuichiro Maeya, a young leader and number two in the Ikeda clan, and issued a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of murder. The murdered man used to be a member of the Ikeda-gumi, but had transferred to the 6th Yamaguchigumi several years ago. The police authorities also recognized the transfer in January 2023, one year before the transfer.

The sixth-generation Yamaguchi-gumi is in a state of ongoing conflict with the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. The Ikeda-gumi, having separated from the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, is an independent organization based in Okayama City, known for its substantial financial resources. Apart from the conflict with the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, the Ikeda-gumi is also in a state of opposition with the sixth-generation Yamaguchi-gumi. Both groups have been designated as specified organized crime groups under the Anti-Organized Crime Law, leading to strict regulation of their activities.

Police authorities’ executives state, “It is currently unclear whether the incident is due to gang rivalry or if personal grievances are the motive. However, using a handgun in a coffee shop where an unspecified number of ordinary citizens are relaxing is extremely dangerous, with a high potential for harm to those around. It is an intolerable act,” condemning the situation.

In response to the police authorities’ perspective, a designated organized crime group executive revealed, “While it’s not common to discharge firearms in a coffee shop, it does happen occasionally.” He went on to provide the following explanation.

“In discussions aimed at resolving issues with other organizations, it’s not uncommon to use a coffee shop. This is similar to how ordinary law-abiding people use coffee shops for business negotiations, meetings, and breaks. Even if discussions about disputes are scheduled, as there are many regular customers in the coffee shop, the summoned party may feel at ease, thinking, ‘I won’t be shot here.’ Exploiting this situation, they use firearms to make their move.”

Recent incidents involve organized crime groups resorting to gunfire in coffee shops amid conflicts or disputes. In May 2023, a senior member of the sixth-generation Yamaguchi-gumi was shot and killed in a coffee shop in Machida City, Tokyo, leading to the arrest of a former executive associated with the Inagawa-kai, who had voluntarily surrendered. The incident occurred at “Doutor Coffee Shop Machida Terminal Store.” The Yamaguchi-gumi executive was initially shot once, escaped outside the shop, but was pursued and shot again. The coffee shop, located in a building adjacent to Machida Station with many pedestrians passing by, resulted in no injuries to the general customers inside or outside Doutor.

One well-known incident of a Yakuza member firing a handgun in a coffee shop, resulting in serious consequences, is the killing of the then-Wakagashira (underboss) of the fifth-generation Yamaguchi-gumi, Masaru Takumi, in August 1997. Takumi was shot and killed by a hitman from the same Yamaguchi-gumi Nakanokai while chatting with other high-ranking members in a coffee shop inside a hotel in Kobe. The incident led to senseless casualties, including a dentist sitting near Takemiya, hit by a stray bullet and killed. This unjustifiable harm sparked public condemnation of the organized crime group.


In addition, in September 2002, a Sumiyoshikai-affiliated executive was shot and killed by the Chinese mafia at the “Parisienne” coffee shop in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo. A discussion was held inside the restaurant to resolve the trouble between the two sides, but it turned into a shooting incident, and the Sumiyoshikai-affiliated executive was shot several times and killed. The general customers in the restaurant were not injured. A senior police official, who stressed that the incident was inexcusable, further criticized the incident.

“This year, on New Year’s Day, a massive earthquake struck the Noto Peninsula, causing significant devastation to many residents. Typically, during such disasters, the Yakuza tends to remain subdued. While there may be a certain level of self-promotion involved, historically, during the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the Yamaguchi-gumi provided relief efforts in Kobe. Similarly, after the Great East Japan Earthquake, many Yakuza groups delivered supplies to the affected areas. However, this time, instead of keeping a low profile, they not only acted disruptively but also caused an incident in a coffee shop where there were many unsuspecting people. This is unacceptable.”

Gangs sometimes refrain from their activities not only during disasters but also when national events are taking place. In recent years, during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2021 and the Hiroshima Summit in May of 2023, the Yamaguchigumi VI issued a notice to its affiliated organizations’ members, telling them not to cause problems. The voluntary restraint on activities was supposedly to avoid causing trouble in society and, above all, to avoid angering the police while large-scale police security was in place.

The reason for executing this incident at this time remains unclear, possibly related to Maeya being on the run. Moreover, Maeya is still at large while in possession of a firearm, making it uncertain that another shooting incident won’t occur in a public place with unsuspecting individuals. To alleviate the concerns of local residents, swift police investigation is crucial. (Titles and honorifics omitted in the text.)

  • Interview and text by Masahiro Ojima PHOTO Kyodo News

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