Why do they “share” the train?
A “top priority” for police authorities
It has been seven years since the 6th Yamaguchigumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate, split in August 2015 and has been at loggerheads with the breakaway Kobe Yamaguchigumi. Rivalry incidents intensified around the time Seiji Takayama, a young Yamaguchigumi VI head, was released from Fuchu Prison in October 2019, so in January 2020 both sides were designated as specified rivalry-designated gangs under the Anti-Gang Law and their activities are severely restricted. Although their activities are restricted, “diplomacy,” such as exchanges with friendly organizations, is not lacking, and the reality is that measures are being taken to evade the restrictions of the Anti-Boryokudan Law, for example, in the use of bullet trains.
The rivalry had temporarily quieted down, but in May 2022, a vehicle raided the home of Tadashi Irie, the deputy head of the Kobe Yamaguchigumi’s number two gang, and in June, a shooting incident occurred at the home of the gang leader Kunio Inoue. In addition, there have been a number of other incidents in which the Kobe Yamaguchigumi side has been attacked.
In all of these cases, members of the 6th Yamaguchigumi and related persons have been arrested. Amid fears of a resurgence of rivalry, ascertaining the movements of the leader of the Yamaguchigumi VI is a matter of utmost importance for the police authorities.
Under these circumstances, the police authorities obtained information in advance that “the top leaders of the Yamaguchigumi, including the 6th Yamaguchigumi leader Shinobu Tsukasa, would visit the headquarters of the Inagawa-kai Yamakawa family in Kawasaki on the morning of June 17. They will arrive at JR Shin-Yokohama Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train between past 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and drive to Kawasaki.
A senior police official explained, “The point is that the arrival time of Tsukasa and other top executives is between 10:00 a.m. and half past 10:00 a.m.
Because the Yamaguchigumi VI and the Kobe Yamaguchigumi are designated as specific gangs, if five or more members of the same gang gather in a restricted area, they will be arrested immediately. Because Nagoya City, where Tsukasa and Takayama’s home organization, the Kodokai, is located, is in a restricted area, there is a possibility of being arrested if there are more than five people on a Shinkansen train at Nagoya Station. For this reason, they must have staggered their boarding times and dispersed to several bullet trains.
Dressed in a bright white suit…
Other prohibited acts include “establishing or entering a new gang office” and “following a rival gang member,” which are direct punishment provisions that result in immediate arrest without a cease and desist order or other administrative procedures. So far, in December 2020, a Kobe Yamaguchigumi gang leader and others were arrested on suspicion of violating the Violent Gangs Control Law (multiple assembly) for having dinner with five or more people at a restaurant in Okayama City, which is in the restricted area.
On June 17, as per the advance information obtained by the police authorities, young leader Takayama and others arrived at Shin-Yokohama Station at around 10:00 a.m., followed by the appearance of the gang leader Tsukasa at around 10:30 a.m. When he came out of the Shinkansen ticket gate, he was wearing a bright white suit and blue shirt, which caught the attention of many ordinary passengers.
Since Yokohama City was not a restricted area, Tsukasa and his group gathered together, got into a car, and headed for Kawasaki. Since there were more than a dozen people in the group, including Tsukasa, it was assumed that they arrived at Shin-Yokohama after splitting onto several bullet trains.
The purpose of the visit was to celebrate the recovery of Jiro Kiyota, president of the Inagawa-kai, a friendly organization, who had been ill. On the way back to Nagoya, the group was so considerate that they staggered the time of their arrival at Shin-Yokohama Station so that there would not be five of them when they arrived in the city.
The general headquarters is required to be notified…
Initially, the warning zones under the Violence Prevention Law were set up in six prefectures and ten cities, mainly in the Kansai and Tokai regions, including Osaka City, where there are many bases of both sides, Nagoya City, where the headquarters of Kodokai, the core organization of the 6th Yamaguchigumi, is located, and Kobe City, where the office of the Sanken-gumi, then an affiliate of the Kobe Yamaguchigumi, is located.
Each time a confrontation incident occurred, the warning area was added, and at one time it expanded to 20 cities and towns in 10 prefectures. Subsequently, the Ikeda-gumi, based in Okayama City, which was the main organization of the Kobe Yamaguchigumi, left the group, and the Okayama Prefectural Public Safety Commissioner excluded the city in October 2021, and the alert zone is now set at 16 cities and towns in 9 prefectures.
A Yamaguchigumi VI-affiliated executive who is active in the Tokyo metropolitan area reveals, “Since we have been designated as a specified anti-trust group, we are obliged to notify the person in charge at the general headquarters when we use the Shinkansen.
For example, if five members of the Yamaguchi-gumi VI were to get off the Shinkansen train from Tokyo Station to the west, when they arrived at Nagoya or Shin-Osaka Stations, which are designated as restricted areas, by chance they would get off the train. The police who were waiting for them might arrest them, saying, ‘You five got together. The police may take such a forceful action even if it is a coincidence and we have not arranged it at all. It means that we must remain vigilant.”
Under the restrictions as a designated gang for specific fights, the group continues to be forced into a self-regulating style of behavior out of wariness of the police. (Honorifics omitted in the text)
Interview and text by： 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).
Photography： Shinji Hamasaki