Yamaguchi Gumi, Japan’s Largest Crime Syndicate Splitting, Bloodshed Expected

After 100 years of successful cooperation, the Yamaguchi gumi, Japan’s largest organized crime syndicate, is poised to split, making local Japanese authorities nervous that bloodshed will ensue, according to The Tokyo Reporter. Mounting internal tension between two factions, dwindling income, and new laws have made membership in the Yamaguchi gumi increasingly unattractive, causing a divide in support for Yamaguchi gumi leader, Shinobu Tsukasa.


Approximately 20 affiliate gangs support the current top Yamaguchi gumi boss, but according to The Tokyo Reporter, factions of the Yamaguchi gumi, mostly based in western Japan, have become increasingly frustrated that Tsukasa has been more favorable to Nagoya-based gang Kodo-kai and has turned his focus to operating more in Tokyo, leaving the western gangs lacking.

The dissenting gangs include Yamaken-gumi, the Takumi-gumi, and Kyoyu-kai, mostly based in western Japan’s Kansai area. Even though Kodo-kai is an affiliate gang as well, it was founded by Tsukasa in 1984.

The Yamaguchi gumi, based in Kobe, has successfully operated for 100 years in 44 of Japan’s 47 districts and is comprised of smaller, affiliated gangs that have agreed to operate under one boss. Formed in 1915 by former fisherman Harukichi Yamaguchi, reports The Guardian, the Yamaguchi gumi has a national membership of 23,400, according to the National Police Agency.


To curb violence and illegal gang activity, Japanese authorities have been cracking down on the Yamaguchi gumi in recent years, and coupled with a sinking world economy, membership in the Yamaguchi gumi is less attractive than ever. In fact, it’s likely this latest split is more about economics than police scrutiny.

Brett Bull, a writer for the Tokyo Reporter claims “there is more money to be made in Tokyo,” and gang members in western Japan are increasingly frustrated that the Yamaguchi gumi has turned its focus to taking advantage of opportunities in the city, according to The Guardian.

The Yamaguchi gumi is expected to splinter into different factions after a meeting at the gang’s headquarters in Nada Ward last week was not attended by the upper management of the dissenting gangs, reports The Tokyo Reporter. A similar but smaller split occurred in the 1980s, resulting in months of blood shed as 29 gang members were killed. Five years of arrests and prosecutions followed.

Japanese authorities are concerned a similar situation will likely ensue if the Yamaguchi gumi does divide, which is expected to happen at a meeting of senior bosses next week. “The police are reportedly very concerned, and are taking measures to pre-empt any problems that might happen this time around,” Bull claims, reports The Guardian.

[Image credit: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images]