Yakuza tensions flare after assassination
A LARGE-SCALE war among yakuza gangs in Japan not seen in decades is brewing following the killing of a key member of a newly formed alliance that has been in revolt since August against Yamaguchi, the biggest syndicate in the country's underworld, the Japanese media warned.
"It looks like the bloodshed would spread throughout the whole country," the Nikkan Gendai magazine warned in its latest edition, following the killing of a 55-year-old executive of a group called Ikeda on May 31.
Tadashi Takagi, from the group affiliated to the breakaway alliance - which is called Kobe Yamaguchi so as to differentiate itself from the long-established Yamaguchi - was gunned down in a car park in Okayama city, some 700km south-west of Tokyo.
The killer, aged 32, has been confirmed to be linked to Kodakai, an openly violent and criminal arm of Yamaguchi, the original base of Yamaguchi's current top boss Shinobu Tsukasa, reported the Tokyo Reporter tabloid.
Yamaguchi held an urgent meeting last week in Kobe, where it is headquartered and located some 150km east of Okayama, to discuss the killing, said Nikkan Gendia.
Kobe Yamaguchi, also based in Kobe, is also in high tension, preparing for a possible showdown, according to reporter Kazuo Kashima.
"Both sides are reining in their younger members for fear they would behave rashly, which might cause them to be marked by police or to leak vital information," said Mr Kashima.
"They are even prohibited to use Line, Twitter and other social-networking sites," he added.
Mr Kashima cited the recent clash in Hokkaido between the Ikeda group and Yamaguchi - which has about 40,000 members across the country - as what could happen soon elsewhere.
"People on out-of-town assignments should reduce outings at night to avoid being caught in the line of fire," he warned.
In August last year, 13 gangs based in Kobe and other surrounding areas were ordered purged from Yamaguchi by Tsukasa - which means severing of ties or excommunication, reported the Japan Times.
That was apparently due to their revolt against over-domination by Yamaguchi, which had placed unprecedented pressure on them to contribute money and staff.
According to records, at least four bystanders were killed in past yakuza wars.
In the bloodiest yakuza clash to date, which took place in the 1980s, at least 29 members were killed.
Although yakuza are largely active in south-western Japan, there are now 73 groups operating in Tokyo, 50 of which are affiliates of Yamaguchi, said Mr Kashima.