September 2nd, 2012 (Tokyo) (Updated September 10th, updates in bold)
According to the Japanese media and other sources, a group of ten men wearing ski-masks burst into the Roppongi Club Flower today at approximately 3:40 am and assaulted four men and women sitting together in the VIP room, clubbing one to death and injuring the others. The men used a backdoor entrance which led directly to the VIP room. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department released surveillance camera video of the men arriving at the crime scene, wearing black, putting on their masks and heading into the club.
The police cordoned off the crime scene, where the killing took place. (Photo courtesy of Jason Gatewood at http://www.jlgatewood.com)
The assailants appeared to be targeting Ryosuke Fujimoto, age 31, a customer of the dance club, the manager of a Korean barbecue restaurant （焼肉屋). The assault lasted less than two minutes and the men spoke not a word while beating Mr. Fujimoto to death with a metal pipes and aluminum baseballs bats. The cause of death is believed to be a severe cranial fracture.
There were 300 people in the club at the time. No one intervened and many customers didn’t realize what was happening until after the men had fled. The VIP room is unusually dark and slightly isolated from the main dance floor. The men are believed to have left the crime scene in a van parked nearby and also split up into several cars to flee the scene. While there has been speculation that the men involved were foreigners there has been no eyewitness testimony or evidence to substantiate those reports other than latent xenophobia. (Of course, they could be foreigners. Ski masks hide nationality pretty well as well as they do faces.)
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Investigation Division One 警視庁捜査一課 (Homicide and Violent Crimes) is investigating the case as a homicide. On December 14th, 2011, a group of twenty men burst into a Roppongi Cabaret club and assaulted four members affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi Kokusui-kai (山口組国粋会), with beer bottles and blunt weapons, injuring one of them severely. The police suspect there may be a possible link to the two cases. The assault in December was believed to have been carried out by members of the Kanto Rengo (関東連合) a loosely networked gang different from the traditional yakuza, and not a designated organized crime group. Kanto Rengo is known for extremely violent assaults and because they are not a designated organized crime group, they are subject to less restrictions than the Yamaguchi-gumi and other crime groups.
The 2nd possibility being considered is that the assault on Mr. Fujimoto was the result of a clash between the Kanto Rengo and another gang fighting for territory in the Roppongi area. Police are checking to see if Mr. Fujimoto had any gang affiliation. He was a regular at the club and had reportedly told is friends earlier in the week that he had gotten a VIP room reservation and was excited to go.
Sources close to the investigation said that Mr. Fujimoto was believed to have been a member of the Kanto Rengo in his youth, when Kanto Rengo was still primarily a motorcycle gang (暴走族). The police officially are not sure of his present or past ties to the gang.
Mr. Fujimoto opened his Korean Barbecue restaurant 雌牛 (Meushi/Male Cow)in Shibuya ward last February with capital of about 3,000,000 yen ($35,000).
Meushi (雌牛）is A "Girl's Yakiniku" restaurant. At 雌牛 (Meushi) attractive women cook the meat for the customers. *Photo from News Post Seven website article about the restaurant.
Mr. Fujimoto was reportedly asked to pay protection money by the Kokusuikai in the area but refused. Police are also interested in rumors that another gang tried to shake him down as well. However, if Mr. Fujimoto was indeed a former member of the Kanto Rengo and still had ties to them, the attack on him may be directly related to the assault on Kokusui-kai members last year. The Kokusui-kai is capable of well-orchestrated violence, including the very public assassination of a Sumiyoshi-kai executive several years ago.
In recent years, the established organized crime groups have ceded control of the Roppongi area to the gangs in exchange for a regular kickback. One mid-level boss of a Kanto based yakuza group explained it this way, “The class of clientele in the dead zone between Roppongi Hills and Midtown keeps going down and that means there’s more trouble and less money to be made. It’s not worth the trouble and just taking a cut makes better sense.”
A retired detective from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department says the crime is not typical of Kanto area yakuza. “The killing was meant to be a warning, not just a death sentence. The very public execution is more typical of Kansai and Kyushu yakuza or foreign gangs. It may seem like overkill to go in with a gang of ten people, but in the dark VIP room, it is probably impossible to determine who struck the fatal blow and this will tend to lighten the criminal responsibility across the board.”
In Kanto, the yakuza when making a hit, tend to kidnap their victims, kill them in the mountains and bury them there. A mid-level yakuza boss says, “Leaving a body behind is not a bright thing to do unless you have a reason for doing it.” The Kanto Yakuza also are less inclined to attack civilians because of the police crackdown the inevitably follows.
The retired detective also pointed out that the use of baseball bats and other blunt weapons by the group was also well-thought out. “Assuming that the assailants get caught, they will face much lighter penalties than if they had used a knife or a gun, which would would be a violation of the sword and firearms laws (銃刀法違反）and result in aggravated charges.”
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