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Yakuza War at the Gates of Japan, Police Getting Prepared

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A schism in the most powerful yakuza syndicate, Yamaguchi-gumi, has Japanese police concerned about a possible clan war.

According to numerous Japanese media reports, a division within the largest yakuza group is broadening. While one faction remains loyal to Yamaguchi-gumi leader Shinobu Tsukasa, 73, an increasingly growing portion of the organization is disappointed with many of the mafia don’s controversial decisions.

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With roughly 23,000 members, Yamaguchi-gumi is an influential presence, active in most of Japan’s 47 administrative districts.

The current conflict centers around Tsukasa’s expansion of Yamaguchi-gumi. While the group has traditionally been based in the now less-developed west of the country, Tsukasa has been pushing eastward into rival territories.

According to local media, breakaway gangs also blame Tsukasa for prioritizing the Kodo-kai affiliate, which he personally founded in Nagoya nearly three decades ago.

“The latest split is more about Japan’s economy rather than the ongoing police crackdown,” Brett Bull, a yakuza expert, told the Guardian. “Simply put, there is more money to be made in Tokyo, and the Yamaguchi-gumi’s shift in emphasis towards the Kodo-kai and Tokyo has caused frustration among gang members in western Japan.”

Authorities believe Kodo-kai to be the most violent faction within Yamaguchi-gumi. While part of its income is earned through the stock market, the organization also relies on money laundering, prostitution, arms smuggling, and human trafficking.

With a large Yamaguchi-gumi meeting scheduled for September 1, police are preparing for the worst. Many yakuza bosses already failed to attend this week’s preliminary meetings, an early sign of the growing dissent within the organization.

“The police are reportedly very concerned, and are taking measures to pre-empt any problems that might happen this time around,” Bull noted.

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