Today April 9th, around 6am, the head of Japan’s largest organized crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi (山口組), Shinobu Tsukasa-kumicho (司忍組長), will leave Fuchu Prison after serving his time for violations of Japanese Firearms and Swords Laws. He is now 69 years old. He officially became the 6th generation leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi on August 27th, 2005 at a succession ceremony at the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe. He quickly engineered a merger with the Tokyo based crime group, the Kokusui-kai* (国粋会）on September 7th, the same year, expanding the Yamaguchi-gumi into Tokyo and expanding their power base considerably.
(*NOTE: The head of the Kokusui-kai at the time of the Yamaguchi-gumi merger would later commit suicide by putting a plastic bag over his head and shooting his brains out on in his own home on February 15th 2007. Investigators found the gun he used still in his hands. Some forensic pathologists say that would be unusual since the recoil usually makes a gun fly out of a person’s hand, especially when they shoot themselves in the head.)
On November 29th, 2005, Tsukasa-kumicho’s was sentenced to six years of hard labor went for violations of the swords and firearms laws, after a long legal battle. On December 5th, he turned himself into the Osaka Police Department and began serving his time. While he was gone, he trusted the organization to his number two (wakagashira), Kiyoshi Takayama. Takayama was arrested last year on charges of extortion and is expected to be found guilty and serve several years in prison. Tsukasa-kumicho is returning to an organization that has been decimated by a long running police crackdown. On September 30th of 2009, Takaharu Ando, the head of Japan’s National Police Agency, declared war on the Yamaguchi-gumi and more specifically on the faction that Tsukasa-kumicho came from, the Yamaguchi-gumi Kodokai (山口組弘道会). The National Police Agency asserted that the Kodo-kai was challenging police officers, threatening government officials, and was generally uncooperative and belligerent.
Tsukasa-kumicho has been housed at the Fuchu Prison since February 6th of 2006, after he was transferred from an Osaka prison where he began his sentence. His return to power marks a great period of transition for the Yamaguchi-gumi. If he picks another Kodo-kai member as his second-in-command, it is very likely to encourage even harsher police crackdowns on the group–and related groups as well. On the plus side, Tsukasa-kumicho is very much of a disciplinarian and is expected to harshly enforce internal regulations, especially the ban on trading in drugs or using them. The Japanese mainstream mass media is currently camped outside Fuchu Prison as well as the yakuza fanzines. In the tight knit yakuza world, the release of Tsukasa-kumicho is like the Return of The King in Middle-Earth. It will be interesting to see how he begins his new reign. He is expected to arrive at the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe before noon today.