Big Boss Falls on Sword in Tokyo Yakuza Wars

Flowers at the scene of the Nishiazabu Yakuza Shooting 49 days agoThis is a follow up story to our earlier coverage of the Yakuza turf wars in Nishiazabu, Central Tokyo (we advise to read the first article for context before going on).

Next Wednesday will mark 49 days since Ryoichi Sugiura (杉浦良一), a director of the Sumiyoshi-kai (住吉会), a Tokyo Yakuza gang, was shot and killed around morning tea time on the sidewalk of the busy Roppongi Street in central Tokyo. In the Japanese Buddhist tradition, the soul of a dead man spends 49 days after the day of death uneasily straddling this life and the next, before a ceremony on the 49th day releases the soul. For the last couple of weeks, the streets of Roppongi have been eerily quiet, but the flowers at the scene of the crime are refreshed almost daily, with new messages from Sugihara’s Yakuza comrades added daily. (See pictures)

The shooting was carried out on 5 February, with a spate of threatened retaliations culminating in some random shots fired, and strategic bullet holes in doors. However it appears that commonsense has prevailed and that a truce was agreed between the warring Sumiyoshi-kai and Yamaguchi-gumi (山口組) gangs, although the details of this truce have not been made public.

The Yakuza have been known to rigidly follow a “blood balance sheet” system, similar to the “eye for an eye” teachings in the West. The most mysterious event since the shooting was the apparent suicide of the Kazuyoshi Kudo (工藤和義会長), the 70 year old Chairman of the Kokusai-kai (国粋会), who was also a Chief Advisor (山口組最高顧問) to the Yamaguchi-gumi.

The Kokusai-kai have historically controlled all of the Roppongi and Nishi-Azabu areas, and in past years forged a friendly relationship with the Sumiyoshi-kai, and had effectively lent this area to the Sumiyoshi-kai to control. Police sign encouraging anyone who knows anything about the Yakuza Shooting to come forward - Yeah right!However, in September 2005, in an unexpected development, the Kokusai-kai was absorbed by the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai’s biggest competition. No doubt a great success for the Yamaguchi-gumi, but it this strategic mistake effectively saw the 70 year old Kudo tieing the knot to his own noose.

This issue of ownership of the area between Yamaguchi-gumi and Sumiyoshi-kai, and the shifting alliance of the Kokusai-kai was the catalyst to the current tensions. Kudo not only betrayed the its old ally at the Sumiyoshi-kai, but then to prove its new allegiance ordered the hit one of its most crucial members, Sugiura, who was in charge of negotiations between the two gangs. Rumour has it that Sugiura was a talented emissary, who was seriously challenging the Yamaguchi control. The subset of the Sumiyoshi-kai which had controlled the region is known as the Kobayashi-kai (小林会), and it was as Sugiura was on route to meet the Chairman of this group, that he was gunned down.

Through these actions, Kudo not only showed a lack of honour to his old allegiances, but also created a major incident for both parties, leaving not only a mess on one of the busiest streets in Tokyo and a diplomatic stand-off, but also left the faces and locations of many members from both sides splattered across the TV and newspapers through Japan. This undoubtedly upset both sides over and above the Sumiyoshi-kai’s burning desire for retaliation to even up the score.

A number of intense days of negotiations followed, during which other Yakuza gangs nationwide were reported to have been having their own emergency meetings to discuss how to deal with the possible fallout. The result of negotiations was that Kudo ended up falling on his sword, To Our Brother - From all your young comradescommitting an honourable suicide, thus taking personal responsibility for the incident, as well as the Yamaguchi-gumi sacrificing him to show a gesture of apology to the Sumiyoshi-kai for the trouble Kudo caused. A truce was subsequently announced through the Tokyo police.

Although the police have been focusing their investigations on the Kokusai-kai’s offices, ranging from central Tokyo to Nagano prefecture, Sugiura’s killers have not been caught.

Note: Stippy has had an overwhelming response to our original article on the potential Yakuza Wars, thank you to everyone who has commented and emailed us. We are still gathering more information, so if you have any news which we don’t, let us know in a comment!

18 thoughts on “Big Boss Falls on Sword in Tokyo Yakuza Wars”

  1. The Yakuza are very boring. There are street corners in Phoenix with more action than this whole story.

    MS13 and the Bloods are hacking off people’s arms for maybe having talked to the cops, and the Russian mob can make high level politicians disappear with no investigation. Instead we’re reading about a crew whose edgiest racket might be busting in to shareholder meetings and yelling (see sokaiya). My friend worked at a business in Tokyo that had a little disagreement with the Yakuza, and you know what they did? They sent some young punk to go sit in the reception room and smoke all day and refuse to leave. Ooooh, scary!

  2. Yeah, Japan must be an awful place, having such shoddy gang life and all. Stupid, boring Yakuza.

  3. There is some hardcore gang life in Japan. The Triads are getting established, and the Yakuza can’t do too much about it because the Triads are genuine gangsters whereas the Yakuza are pussies. The Triads actually shoot people and don’t mind getting killed, that sort of thing.

  4. So a dirty criminal offs himself, and calls it an “honourable suicide”. Maybe the rest of these jokers should also start shaming themselves for their actions (you know, against non-yakuza) and draw their conclusions.

  5. It’s kind of refreshing to hear a story like this. Yakuza supposedly are remnants of the samurai class, but I hear that they have been losing their traditions and codes of honor, turning into punks that just want to make money and get girls.

    It’s not too often that people commit suicide (for honor) in Japan these days, so for some strange reason his act was a bit moving to me. I’m sure that he’s a dying breed among today’s yakuza though… no dajare intended

  6. While I think you’ve got a point kkrev, I think it’s actually that aspect of the Yakuza that earns them “respect” (unlike the rest of the world were gangsters earn little more than “fear”.) They are famous for leaving innocent bystanders alone and getting along with their stuff. I kinda like that.

  7. I think Kuri’s right about them being a dying breed…I’m sure this guy didn’t have much of a choice though. He probably had an ultimatum of “Kill yourself or get shot like a dog in the street.”

  8. Wow, so I guess Yakuza will have to put up with not being as “cool” as the triads, MS13, and the Bloods huh? I’m sure that how “cool” they are is of chief concern. By the way, when did a body count become a barometer of “coolness”? The Yakuza and all other gangs have one goal, to make money. If they could make more money by killing (even in the long run) I have no doubt the Yakuza would be killing.

    The world has changed, and you neglect to mention that the Yakuza’s choice to betray killing as a method of making money has resulted in them still being around without serious police problems. The less impact you have on the common man, and the less waves you make with your illegal actions, the better your chances of being around for a long time. The bloods and MS13 haven’t been around for as long as the Yakuza, but believe me, they’ll be shut down like Gotti if they make enough trouble. They will either figure this out, or they will be gone.

    The triads are common criminals. People idolize common criminals? If you ask me, all of these groups are filled with idiots, but at least the Yakuza’s guys are somewhat smart to adapt to civilized culture.

  9. TELL ME PLZZZ I NEED TO KNOW If there…still around how u people talk is like your watching a tv show and telling storys…But i really want to know is where they are at…Town, road to house, next mmmm yea are they still alive i mean the gang

  10. Putang ina.. gago ka talaga.. Ric is the only one who knows what hes talking about, Yakuza are a true mafia, they are not a pack of murderers, they are businessmen. You reckon MS 13 and the rest are ‘cooler’ huh? Well tell me, whos reigned the longest, whos the largest, whos the most powerful criminal organisation huh?

  11. Why the pissing contest criminals are criminals. They all profit off the misery and exploitation of the societies they infest! They are not worthy of any glorification or accolades from anyone, least of all a group of Japanophiles eager to learn more about the seedier aspects of their adopted country. All they have to lean on are the low margin businesses of sex, drugs, loan sharking, smuggling, extortion, etc… all the crappy trades that require a constant input of physical violence to maintain. No economies of scale in any of those businesses (except maybe drugs but the upstream is normally controlled by someone besides the Japanese). Where the yakuza truly shine is their hand in glove relationship to legit industries in Japan where the real money is made… they’re tools of the oligarchy and getting the dirty work done without the legit power center’s fingerprints is what they do. And their reward is the ability to run their crappy low margin businesses without the heavy hand of the cops to extort, exploit, and abuse to their heart’s content as society’s cancer.

  12. Former American lawmen that are currently working at US financial institutions located in Japan are concerned that the yakuza might cross over into the global arena with their dealings. Some say that even now, around US$50 billion may have been pushed into the financial markets of the United States alone.
    Over the past couple of years, over six hundred investigations have been performed by investigators for US investment banks in Japan that found the yakuza in nearly every sector of the country, including in the construction, entertainment, and trucking industries, even to operations involving anything from chemicals to hospitals. There have been indications that almost 50 percent of companies in Japan are somehow either correlated to, working with, or even fully controlled by the Japanese mafia. These corporations are believed to have possibly been borrowing from banks and then funneling the funds to the gangsters in amounts equivalent to an astounding $300 to $400 billion US dollars.

    There were previously held assumptions that the yakuza were the ones to approach the bankers, but it really turned out that events happened the other way around. After WWII, enormous amounts of borrowing occurred so that industries could become competitive with the West. However, by the 1980s, the financial banking rates were poor, so banks were beginning to look elsewhere, namely to international capital markets. There was such a significant loss in loans, that banks were pursuing new borrowers, and in particular, they went to the yakuza to increase their portfolios. The son of a gangster boss and author on various books on the subject, Manabu Miyazaki, said that as activity spread through the grapevine, many illegitimate organizations joined in so that they would be able to gain access to legal businesses. It became too late for the banks to reverse this problem by the time they realized what was actually happening.

    Often, the banks lent to front companies of the yakuza, which are also known as kigyo shatei. Sometimes, they even lent directly to crime bosses – for around 10 years, until his death in 1991, Susumu Ishii, head of Inagawa-kai, was able to borrow a lot of funding from financial institutions in Japan. The money was funneled into twelve different companies, making up a total of 38.4 billion yen, or US$300 million.[15] From there, it is possible that some of the funds went to crime-free sectors, such as health care and hospitals; however, the majority was likely invested in stocks and property. Miyazaki said that banks encouraged the buying of stocks and property by yakuza at inflated prices by paying out commissions and promising to find buyers who were willing to purchase some goods at an even higher rate. As he stated, “normal people wouldn’t get involved in such schemes, so the banks grew reliant on the yakuza.”[16] Overall, the lenders were happy, and the gangsters were increasing their profits as a result of the schemes.

    being associated to many politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate elite. As a result, they seem to be somewhat accepted as a part of everyday life there. Importantly, they are active on the international scene, and not just where Japanese people are present. They are beginning to infiltrate various other regions of the world, becoming more and more sophisticated in the process. As the world is undergoing the process of globalization, the yakuza have managed to adjust to the changes that are continually occurring and even overcome them to a certain degree. While many of their activities are known, there are certainly many more that have been kept below the surface under the eyes of law enforcement officials. Also, their deep connections with elite businesspeople and politicians throughout the world makes it even more difficult to reduce their presence and authority over daily life in various sectors. They must be dealt with sufficiently to help reduce their influence over aspects of everyday life in various regions of the world – specifically, where they have strong linkages with the rest of East Asia and in Latin America.

    There are rumours that a banking crisis is on its way in Japan, as discussed earlier, which may cause problems for the rest of the globe. In a recent US International Crime Threat Assessment, it was stated that the yakuza is one of “the world’s largest and most powerful criminal syndicates,” and it found that the Inagawa-kai was responsible for money laundering that was occurring in the United States.[30] There are worries that since there is so much yakuza investment in the US, if it is withdrawn, it will create much larger problems. The yakuza are always looking for other ways to gather funding, as they are also being hit by the Japanese recession. The financial global markets give them more and more options that could create greater global dilemmas in the future if something is not done as soon as possible.

    is this real?

  13. the reason why they dont tell you out rageous stories is because they have a code. Something what you may call “The Omerta”. In japan there are things such as honor and respect. We must not or never underestimated them coz these are the type of people who graduated at high grade schools. not all ofcourse but most family members.

    In other words what do we know we were never initiated or ever come across one.

  14. To kkrev anf kdraper, dont compare us with americans, there idiots who know nothing about whats its about, Dummies on street corners last a few years if there lucky, guys with big mouths who like to THINK there bad last even shorter. How many of the idiots on americas street corners are millionaires? HA HA HA. But us, its an art. One day you will learn. But I dont think so. Youre born with half a brain.

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