Japanese Yakuza Boss Arrested, Power Struggle to Follow

  • Share
  • Read Later

A leader of Japan’s organized crime ring was brought in on extortion charges Thursday, say authorities. It’s kind of like when they nabbed Al Capone, only with more tattoos.

The 63-year-old Kiyoshi Takayama is second in command of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza organization. He didn’t protest when authorities raided his house in Kobe at dawn, but has denied all extortion involvement that’s charged against him. Still, prosecutors think they can mount a case against him for extorting 40 million yen ($480,000) from a construction company.

The arrest is a big deal for authorities in Japan, who declared war on organized crime last September in order to corral mob activity before the true Yakuza leader,¬†Kenichi Shinoda, is released from a six-year prison sentence next spring. Jail time and charges get tricky in Japan, since crime syndicates aren’t technically illegal.¬†Shockingly, until authorities started stepping up their game recently, mobsters flashed their cojones by being listed in the phone book and not making too much of an effort to hide any seedy dealings.

But Takayama’s arrest is a reminder of police presence. And if he’s charged, it could mean a power struggle for his leadership position within the organization. He wasn’t popular to begin with, because of his iron-fist ruling power and a vow to move agents outside Yamaguchi-gumi’s Kobe base. An expansion to Tokyo led to a shooting spree in 2007 that killed a senior gangster.

From what we know about internal quests for power, it’s not all kittens and sunshine. But our knowledge of such situations is based mostly on this scene from The Godfather.


If you want more Japanese-style scenes like this, keep your eye on Japan’s newspapers for awhile to see if No. 2 Takayama gets put behind bars and who will take his place. And if all this is turning you on, be sure to get your fill of these Yakuza-run online dating sites before the authorities scoops put the kibosh on love, too.

(Read TIME’s review of Tokyo Vice, the book that details Tokyo’s underworld activity.)