Yakuza visibility

One of the distinctive characteristics of Japan’s yakuza, as compared with similar mafia type organizations in other countries around the world, is their sometimes incomprehensible blatantness. Where the American Mafia used to officially deny its own existence, Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest Yakuza “family”, has a sign outside their headquarters and a PR officer.

The other weekend Joe and I were in Osaka and happened to pass through the lobby of the Rihga Royal Hotel in Naka no Shima coming out of the subway and noticed that there were signs out advertising meeting places for two parties with rather unusual names:  昭成会 and 朝日会. 昭成会 (Shou-sei-kai) is obviously a reference to 昭和 (Showa) and 平成 (Heisei), the former and current Emperor/historical period of Japan, and 朝日会 (Asahi) just has a nationalistic ring but could mean almost anything. A quick mobile phone Google confirmed that 昭成会 is a known Yakuza group and Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate based in Ishikawa Prefecture. Asahi-kai is far less obvious. A few minutes of poking around just now showed a medical group and an Asahi newspaper distributor, but no obvious gangs of that name.

So basically, one confirmed Yakuza conference at the Righa Royal Hoten on January 24.

6 thoughts on “Yakuza visibility”

  1. It’s strange that a Ishikawa-based yakuza gourp has a meeting in Osaka. Such meeting should cause strife with Osaka-based yakuza groups. If you google with 昭成会 plus 大阪, you can find another 昭成会 that is a medical foundation based in Ikeda, Osaka prefecture. Googling also shows that there are many 昭成会 in Japan, e.g. a citizen’s organization for social gathering in Matsudo, Chiba prefecture, a medical foundation in Kumamoto, a medical foundation in Nagasaki, and a medical foundation in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo. Is there any other reason than the group’s name that you concluded it to be a yakuza organization?

    Also, a yakuza organization named 朝日会 would be unimaginable for Japanese, although it might be possible to give the name to a fictional yakuza organization in a gag manga, considering the result of googling with 朝日新聞販売員逮捕.

  2. OK for some reason I missed the medical Shouseikai. I did do the google search from my phone so it didn’t exactly go very far… Maybe they were both actually medical groups. Oh well, sorry guys!

  3. There was an article earlier this month about how some hotels are adopting resolutions to exclude organized crime groups:


    Here’s a quick & dirty summary:

    A hotel in Sumida ward decided to refuse the Sumiyoshi kai permission to hold a year-end party in their banquet rooms. These “parties” are actually fund raisers and the guests for this one were to have been construction and real estate industry executives. They would have paid 10,000 yen to attend and probably would also have handed over “gifts” of 50-100,000 yen. The article makes it sound like the hotel got support from police and their refusal brought no reprisals. Things were more tricky for a well-known Shinjuku hotel which introduced a similar resolution in May. Two months earlier, they had contracted to hold a wedding party for the daughter of a local yakuza boss. The hotel claims it was unaware of the who the father was, which seems unlikely, but they entered negotiations to cancel the event. The boss was very displeased and pushed to hold them to their agreement at which point the police acted as mediators. It was agreed that the event would go ahead with a police presence on the day. The father would attend but his henchmen would not.

  4. Just found an article on the Mainichi website related to the topic and wanted to share it. The neighbors’ reactions are interesting if what is described is correct – amazing that lawyers had to go in and convince them that having a crime boss live next door is not a good thing.

    My favorite quote is “It is a staunch anti-police gang, and as it prohibits its members from coming into contact with investigators, police do not have much information on the group” – before reading this I had thought that all gangs are “anti-police” by definition…


    Residents team up to force eviction of gang from apartment in Azabu Juban

    In a victory for local residents, K Project, a front company for Kodo-kai, the organization that governs Japan’s largest organized crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, moved out of its location in a luxury apartment in Tokyo’s Azabu Juban district three years after it moved in.

    The office is now registered as an occupant of a building in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, and the Metropolitan Police Department is keeping a close eye on the gang’s activities.

    It was in July 2007 that K Project — whose director is listed as the leader of the Komatsu-gumi under the Kodo-kai umbrella — bought a two-bedroom apartment in a residential area of Azabu Juban. Investigators believe that the Komatsu-gumi is an advance mission dispatched ahead of Nagoya-based Kodo-kai’s expansion into Tokyo, and recognizes K Project as a front company for the group.

    The Kodo-kai, the organization to which Kenichi Shinoda (also known as Shinobu Tsukasa) and Kiyoshi Takayama — the two top members of the Yamaguchi-gumi — originally belonged is currently comprised of 4,000 members. It is a staunch anti-police gang, and as it prohibits its members from coming into contact with investigators, police do not have much information on the group.

    There were no nameplates or signs on the room that K Project had bought. While the company’s official registration indicated that it engaged in management consulting and real estate management and brokering, many gang leaders were known to visit the room when they were in Tokyo, and flowers were seen delivered on the gang leader’s birthday from another gang. It was obvious that the place was being used as a gang office.

    Investigators were alarmed as reports emerged that the gang boss was approaching neighbors saying that he was interested in buying any rooms if they were to become available.

    It was at this critical point that lawyers who shared the investigators’ hope to eliminate crime syndicates jumped into action.

    Three months after K Project moved into the Azabu Juban building, the building’s management company reported the fact to a Tokyo residents’ anti-gang center, which then contacted the Dai-Ichi Tokyo Bar Association for assistance. A group in the association dealing with gang-related issues began preparations to file an injunction against the use of the apartment for gang-related purposes.

    Residents had hardly been inconvenienced by the gang’s presence in the building, however, except when the elevators were stopped when gang leaders visited. At a meeting the lawyers held with residents on the issue, only 20 percent of residents expressed their support for the pending lawsuit.

    “Some residents backed away from the case after seeing young gang members being beat up by gang leaders, and still others who said that we should leave the gang alone because they weren’t causing any trouble,” said a lawyer working on the case.

    To garner residents’ understanding and support, some 20 lawyers visited approximately 35 households, explaining the risk residents run of being embroiled in inter-gang conflicts, and the possibility that their property prices will plummet.

    The case gradually won residents over, and in December 2008, an extraordinary apartment owners’ meeting was held at the Tokyo Bar Association Building in Chiyoda Ward. The gang’s leader was invited to come so as to provide him the opportunity to defend himself, and various scenarios — including gang members’ disruption of the meeting — were taken into consideration, with police officers standing by in a separate room.

    The gang leader did not appear. Moreover, more than half the residents now sought an injunction against the gang’s use of the apartment, and lawyers immediately submitted a temporary injunction with the Tokyo District Court. The gang leader filed an objection, and a settlement was reached in April 2009.

    The settlement stipulated that the gang sell the apartment it owned in the building by the end of May 2010. It also stated that in the case that the apartment was not sold, residents had the right to buy it for 70 million yen. The settlement terms also required that security cameras be set up to monitor traffic going in and out of the building.

    The apartment has yet to be sold, but gang members are not longer seen in and around the area.

    “It’s hard for us, too,” the gang leader is said to have told the judge presiding over the case. “We get kicked out, and then we move to a new place, where we encounter resistance from residents there. We don’t have anywhere to go.”

    This February, K Project acquired a four-story building in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, and officially registered its move there in August.

    Metropolitan Police are keeping a close watch on the building, due to suspicions that it is now a center of activity for the Kodo-kai. “The success of stamping out gangs’ fundraising efforts through their violent involvement in civil matters depends on whether we can establish a clear ‘us’ (society) against ‘them’ (gangs) mentality,” said one police official.

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