Tag Archives: yakuza


Ex-Yamaguchi-gumi boss Watanabe dies

KOBE (Jiji Press)–Yoshinori Watanabe, former boss of the major yakuza crime syndicate Yamaguchi-gumi, has died on Saturday, according to the Hyogo prefectural police. He was 71.

Watanabe was confirmed dead about noon Saturday, after his family found him collapsed at his home in Kobe, and called for an ambulance, the police said.

The cause of his death has not been determined.

Watanabe became the fifth head of the Yamaguchi-gumi in 1989 after years of fighting between the Kobe-based group and the now-defunct Ichiwa-kai, another organized crime group based in the city.

In a civil lawsuit over a case in which a policeman was mistakenly shot dead in a conflict involving the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Supreme Court in 2004 upheld a lower court ruling ordering Watanabe to pay damages of about 80 million yen by recognizing “employer liability.”

In July 2005, Watanabe stepped down as leader and was succeeded by Kenichi Shinoda, commonly known as Shinobu Tsukasa.


New anti-yakuza legislation comes into effect to clamp down on gangs

FUKUOKA — A new law came into effect Tuesday aimed at further reducing the ability of organized crime gang members to target local businesses for extortion.

The revision to the 1991 Anti-Organized Crime Law was drawn up in response a series of attacks carried out on businesses by suspected gang members, particularly in the Kyushu region, say police.

The new laws will enable police to arrest on the spot anyone who is believed to be engaging in gang activities, such as extorting protection money from local business owners, Fuji TV reported.

Police say the new laws will be used to restrict the activities of the Kudokai, Dojinkai and Kyushu Seidokai crime gangs based in Fukuoka Prefecture. Kitakyushu has been a hotbed of criminal activity with several attacks on businesses in the last month.

NPA Commissioner General Yutaka Katagiri told a news conference that the success of the new law in Fukuoka will set an example for the rest of the country.

Japan Today


Japanese minister admits Yakuza ties

There is growing pressure on Japan’s justice minister to resign after just three weeks in the job over media reports that he had past ties to organised crime.

Keishu Tanaka does not deny he once had ties to one of Japan’s notorious Yakuza crime gangs, but he says it was 30 years ago and is an old story.

However several gang members have told a well-known American investigative reporter Mr Tanaka still had ties to the Yakuza gang until two years ago.

They allege he had once acted as matchmaker for a senior mobster.

Amid a chorus of calls for him to go, Mr Tanaka has checked into hospital complaining of feeling unwell.

The 74-year-old politician skipped a cabinet meeting in the morning and was later hospitalised for tests after feeling unwell, chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura told an evening press briefing.

“I have been informed that he is expected to be discharged from hospital sometime after the beginning of next week.”

Mr Tanaka, whose ministry oversees the work of the courts, apologised and has thus far insisted he would not be stepping down, including at a parliamentary session where he was grilled on the links.

However, Japan’s print and broadcast media, which are usually well-informed on political developments – sometimes more so than the characters involved – were united on his impending downfall.

Mr Tanaka’s expected resignation would deal a blow to prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is already faced with a shrinking majority and an opposition threatening to block a vital bond issuance bill.



U.S. imposes sanctions on Japan’s No. 2 yakuza syndicate

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Japan’s second largest yakuza crime syndicate and its leaders, freezing their U.S. assets and blocking their transactions with American entities.

The financial penalties against the Sumiyoshi-Kai clan and its two leaders are the second time the Obama administration has tried to disrupt the yakuza’s activities since it identified the Japanese group as a significant criminal organization.

Sumiyoshi-Kai’s leader, Shigeo Nishiguchi, and the clan’s deputy, Hareaki Fukuda, were added to the U.S. Treasury’s list of persons hit with asset freezes.

In February, the Obama administration imposed similar sanctions on the most prominent yakuza crime family, the Yamaguchi-gumi, as well as its godfather and deputy godfather.

The U.S. Treasury did not provide details on whether the yakuza has any assets under U.S. jurisdiction or how the sanctions have undermined the Japanese crime group.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012.


Photographer Anton Kusters Discusses Shooting The Yakuza

Talking to Steward Magazine, Kusters has discussed his recent photo book chronicling his interactions with the Japanese mafia

Photographer Anton Kusters spent two years working with a yakuza group in Japan, culminating in the publishing of his book Odo Yakuza Tokyo in 2011, which is currently in its second printing. Kussers has talked to Steward Magazine about the process, of how he made contact with the gang, and of photographing them. It seems as though being part of an art project played to the pride of his subjects, but the pressures on him were immense. As he tells it:

I was extremely nervous. Since they are gangsters, I thought I should be very careful, in case I shot something I wasn’t supposed to see. But this actually upset the gang. They saw my nervousness as disrespectful. I remember one time early on this guy pulled me aside and said, “You are here to take pictures. Act like a professional.” It turned out they respected me if I was really aggressive about getting a certain shot. To not take photos was a sign of weakness.

Kusters portrays the yakuza as a comparatively benign, white-collar organization, in contrast to some of the more brutal reporting that you’ll see elsewhere. This has caused some to accuse him of brushing over some of the more distasteful aspects of the organization.

Kusters has more images up on his website, and regardless of what you think about how he portrays the yakuza, the photography is incredible — and the stories of his time there equally so.

If you like Kusters’ work, in a similar vein is Jocelyn Bain Hogg’s work with British gangsters in The Firm and The Family.



Times getting tough for Japan’s Yakuza (Video)

Japan’s yakuza, whose members are known for cutting off their little fingers to atone for acts of disloyalty and mistakes, have long been active in gambling, loan sharking and money-laundering. In their golden age after World War II they even had significant influence within certain political spheres. But times are getting tougher for Japan’s estimated 80,000 yakuza members: for the past decade they’ve been increasingly feeling the strain of a weakened economy and increased repression.


Kenichi Shinoda

Kenichi Shinoda born January 25, 1942

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 Also known as Shinobu Tsukasa is the sixth and current kumicho (supreme Godfather) of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza organization. He is currently imprisoned for firearms possession.

After graduating high school and working part time for a local firm, he drifted to Osaka in 1962 where he met Kodo-kai, a Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate. Shinoda took control of the 40,000-strong gang on July 29, 2005 after the retirement of previous don Yoshinori Watanabe. Before assuming this role, Shinoda had headed a Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate based in Nagoya, the Kodo-kai. Under Shinoda, the Kodo-kai was a successful branch of the Yamaguchi-gumi, establishing branches in 18 prefectures — including expansion into the Kantō region, traditionally not Yamaguchi turf.

Under Shinoda, the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi is expected to continue that expansion into Tokyo and Eastern Japan. According to both yakuza and police, this movement will inevitably create conflict between the Yamaguchi-gumi and the Kantō-Hatsukakai, a federation of Tokyo-based yakuza groups including the Inagawa-kai and the Sumiyoshi-kai.

Shinoda is the first Yamaguchi-gumi kumicho not to hail from the Kansai region. He also eschews the “supreme Godfather” image, in public at least: after his appointment as kumicho, he insisted on taking the train to his induction ceremony instead of a chauffeured limousine. He also reportedly stopped in a street ramen noodle restaurant on the way to the lavish yakuza banquet arranged in his honor.

In the early 1970s, Shinoda was convicted of murdering a rival gang boss with a katana, and spent 13 years in prison. It was rumored that Kenichi Shinoda has a young granddaughter by the name of Morning Star Kenichi. Anything else about her is still unknown.

On December 4, 2005, only four months after being named kumicho, Shinoda began serving a six-year prison sentence for gun possession after the Japanese Supreme Court finally rejected his appeal of a 1997 conviction. In the 1997 case, one of his bodyguards was caught with an illegal pistol, and Shinoda was convicted of “conspiring” with the bodyguard.

He was released from prison on April 9, 2011, after serving a six-year sentence for firearms possession.