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Asia Minute: Yakuza Split Concerns Police in Japan

Ari Helminen / Flickr
Ari Helminen / Flickr

Police across Japan are warning that developments in the world of organized crime there may lead to violence. The last time there was a split involving the Yakuza, the impact stretched all the way to Hawai‘i. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Japanese police say the Yamaguchi gumi is the country’s largest Yakuza gang, with nearly 23-thousand members and associates as of about a month ago.  But in recent weeks, the gang has splintered—and more than a dozen of its approximately 70 senior leaders have been expelled.  The last split in the Yamaguchi gumi took place about thirty years ago.  Violence lingered, eventually killing two dozen gang members and a policeman while injuring 70 others.  Things got so bad at one point in the mid-1980’s that several gang members were arrested in Hawai‘I - trying to smuggle 100 pistols, five machine guns and three rocket launchers into Japan.

Japanese authorities have since cracked down on the Yakuza - although many gangs still operate in the open, complete with offices and the equivalent of corporate headquarters.  That includes the Yamaguchi gumi which started a hundred years ago - and gained power after the Second World War by supplying dock labor in its home base of Kobe.

Japan’s Asahi newspaper reports the National Police Agency held an emergency meeting last week - including organized crime specialists from around the country.  The Asahi quotes a journalist who has long covered the Yakuza as saying financial disputes are at the heart of the breakup of the Yamaguchi gumi - adding that it “symbolizes a transitional period of gangster organizations.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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