By Hollander (pseudonym)
Posted in 2002
In 2001 there have been a series of incidents amongst Hatsuka-kai yakuza, most notably the shooting of two Sumiyoshi-kai executives by Inagawa-kai members at a funeral in Tokyo. The Hatsuka-kai is an association promoting good inter-group relations between the major Kanto-based crime syndicates. On Aug. 18, 2001, some 700 people were attending the wake of a Sumiyoshi-kai boss held at the Yotsugi crematory in Tokyo. Two hitmen Kazumi Yoshikawa (52) and Yoshio Murakami pretended to be mourners and they suddenly opened fire. The 52-year-old boss Ikuo Kumagawa and Takashi Endo (57) were showered with bullets, they died later at a hospital. A third yakuza was also shot, but escaped with only minor injuries. The bloody assault took place in front of policemen who surrounded the crematory in anticipation of trouble. The two gunmen, both members of the Omaeda Ikka which is one of the most militant gangs in the Inagawa-kai, were arrested and admitted that they targeted Kumagawa over a turf war. Yoshikawa must spend his life behind bars while Murakami, was handed a 20-year term for his part in the gangland killings. It's possible that the disputants rejected offers of mediation from fellow Hatsuka-kai members. According to some sources the funeral shooting was rather a feud in the Kokusui-kai (another Tokyo-based yakuza syndicate) than a feud between Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai. There have been a series incidents with different intentions of each yakuza group that had led to the shooting, which is much more complicated to explain. The Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai made peace with each other, but one group, the Yano Mutsumi-kai, persisted in their attempts to attack the Omaeda Ikka.
After a series of attacks on Omaeda Ikka-related targets, a senior member of the Yano Mutsumi-kai, was shot dead in a Tokyo hospital on Feb. 25, 2002. Takashi Ishizuka (54) was being treated for gunshot wounds he received earlier, Ishizuka was shot in the arm and stomach by a man in his 50s after the men quarreled on a street in the Kanamecho district of Tokyo. Investigators believe Masao Tatsuriki (54) and Kumio Arai (56) murdered Ishizuka on the orders of 54-year-old Osamu Yano, head of the Yano Mutsumi-kai. Police suspecting that they murdered Ishizuka in a bid to silence him over his failed attack on the rival organization. Police officers were guarding the entrance to the first-floor intensive care unit at the time but the hit men carried out the daring attack from outside. Arai smashed a window to let Tatsuriki, who was armed with a Makarov pistol, shower the gangster with bullets at close range. Osamu Yano, Tatsuriki and Arai were indicted in September 2003. Yano and Tatsuriki were earlier indicted for attacking the home of the leader of the Omaeda Ikka. A firebomb was hurled at the house in March 2002. Yano and Tatsuriki, who have been detained at a Gunma detention center, and Arai who had been jailed over a separate crime, were placed in the custody of the Metropolitan Police Department. Arai has reportedly admitted to the allegations but the other two are denying them. Confessions by Arai led investigators to find the gun used in the crime in a Saitama Prefecture river.
Moreover, police suspect that the Yano Mutsumi-kai may have been involved in the 'Maebashi bar massacre' in January 2003. Japan was shocked by the Jan. 25 shooting which resulted in three civilians and a yakuza dead in Maebashi, Gumma Prefecture, a city north of Tokyo. The two gunmen, wearing white, full-face helmets, fatally shot the 31-year-old gangster Ryoichi Seya as he was getting out of a car near the bar at about 11 30 p.m., before breaking into the establishment. They then indiscriminately fired a dozen bullets inside the Katsu bar, killing the three and seriously injuring two others, and fled the scene on foot. The gunmen fired their weapons without saying a word and officers found one pistol in front of the bar. One of the gunmen used a .38 caliber Makarov semiautomatic pistol, a type formerly used by the Soviet military. One of two people injured was Kunio Goto. It is believed the gunmen were targeting Goto, a 55 year-old high-ranking member of Omaeda Ikka. The bar is known as a gathering place for yakuza and Goto is a regular customer. It was not the first shooting involving Goto. Three gunmen launched a volley of shots, four months before the shooting. Kunio Goto was driving home with acquaintances after playing golf when he was attacked in the village Shirasawa, Gunma Prefecture. The men coming from the opposite lane crashed their vehicle into his friends' car. Goto, tried to escape, but was shot in the right shoulder before the three gangsters fled the scene with the help of a fourth gangster acting as the get away driver. Shortly after the daytime shooting, local residents in Showa, a village next to Shirasawa, saw several men burning the car before they left in another vehicle.
Goto was lying low on the floor to dodge bullets when the assasins stormed the Maebashi bar because he had heard the shots, fired in the parking lot outside, killing his bodyguard Seya. Goto must have been painfully aware of the fact that he had become a target. But the yakuza boss succeeded to survive for the second time, an unprecedented disgrace. From the assasins' point of view, they cannot afford missing the same target twice. This was probably why more than 20 shots were fired in the incident. The assassination of the two yakuza bosses at the Tokyo crematory may have been behind the massacre. The Omaeda Ikka had been expelled from Inagawa-kai to take the responsibility of the funeral shooting. However, the gangland war has resurfaced again recently after many former members of the Omaeda Ikka virtually resurrected the group by joining another Inagawa-kai affiliate. Goto's role in the 2001 hit is not clear but investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the Tokyo attack and the Maebashi incident are related. Four days after the massacre a gangster who turned himself in was arrested. The man was identified as Haruo Doi (43) a member of the Sumiyoshi-kai,. Doi turned himself in, saying he fired shots in the bar on the night of Jan. 25. Doi did not hand over a weapon to local police in Maebashi, but he directed them to a stretch of a river where they found two automatic weapons and a dark jumper. The arrest warrant on Doi was not for his suspected role in the killings, but for allegations that he possessed three guns and 26 bullets used in the crime. Police also searched several gangsters' offices the same day in connection with the case. The National Police Agency ordered police nationwide to crack down on crime groups affiliated with Sumiyoshi-kai, with a focus on seizing illegal handguns.
The bloodbath in Maebashi was followed in December 2003 by another one, when five gangsters were shot dead in a yakuza office in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture. The shooting took place in a quiet residential area at a private house surrounded by high walls. Kaiichi Yamamoto (56), boss of the Yamamoto-gumi in the Sumiyoshi-kai syndicate turned himself in and has been arrested. Yamamoto gunned down the five during talks over internal struggles. The gang boss said he took two handguns to a regular meeting of Sumiyoshi-kai leaders operating in Saitama Prefecture. Yamamoto, shot 69-year-old Genichi Hosoda, boss of the Hosoda-gumi, which is also under the umbrella of the Sumiyoshi-kai and four others. Police identified the four other slain men as Takahide Namba (64), Katsutomo Namba (61), Hideaki Suzuki (41), and Hiroshi Yamada (56). The five had sustained head and abdominal wounds, with the shots having apparently been fired at close range, investigators said. Police subsequently dispatched officers to guard the headquarters of Yamamoto's gang in Iruma against retaliatory attacks.
One of two gunmen in the shooting at the Katsu bar was finally arrested in February 2004. Masato Kohinata (34), a member of Yano Mutsumi-kai, was arrested. Also arrested was Osamu Yano, who allegedly ordered Kohinata and another gunman Kenichiro Yamada (38) to murder Kunio Goto. Kohinata, had already been arrested and indicted on separate charges. After the Maebashi shooting, Kohinata fled to the Philippines, but was arrested in December 2003 for allegedly preparing a car used in the first attempt to kill Goto. In light of new evidence, Kohinata confessed that he had fired the shots upon the orders of his boss. "I acted upon the boss's orders," officers quoted Kohinata as saying, referring to Yano.
The Maebashi District Court sentenced Masato Kohinata to death on March 29, 2005. Presiding Judge Yasuhiro Kuga said Kohinata had "firm intent to kill" the four people. "Capital punishment is the only choice," the judge said, dismissing a request for leniency the defense lawyer had sought due to Kohinata's confession. "Because this country has the death penalty, this choice is inevitable." the judge said, adding Kohinata should spend the rest of his life apologizing to the relatives of the victims. According to the court, Kohinata and his alleged accomplice, Kenichiro Yamada, also shot and seriously wounded Goto as well as one other person. Yamada is standing trial for murder. Yano, the boss of Yano Mutsumi-kai, is also on trial. Yamada and Yano, now 56, have denied any wrongdoing. The defense counsel for Masato Kohinata immediately filed an appeal against the ruling.
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