The trial of a yakuza boss ends with a death sentence … and a threat

Japan Times -- Sep 26
“I thought I’d get a fair decision. This is completely unfair. The whole thing was based on presumption. You will regret this for the rest of your life.”

Satoru Nomura, 74, thusly harangued Fukuoka District Court presiding Judge Ben Adachi on Aug. 24, after receiving the death sentence for his involvement in the February 1998 murder by shooting of Kunihiro Kajiwara, a 70-year-old former fishermen’s union leader in the city of Kitakyushu.

Nomura, the fifth-generation head of the Kitakyushu-based Kudo-kai syndicate, had also been held charged on three other counts of attempted murder: the shooting of a retired policeman in 2012, the stabbing of a nurse in 2013 and the stabbing of a dentist, a relative of the late union leader Kajiwara, in 2014.

At the same trial, Nomura’s second in command, Fumio Tanoue, 65, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Despite the violent and occasionally homicidal history of Japan’s yakuza over the previous seven decades, the sentencing of a gang head to death was unprecedented. It was made possible through revisions in the anti-organized crime law that made the heads of gangs legally culpable for felonies committed by their underlings.

For its November issue, Jitsuwa Bunka Taboo magazine sent a reporter to the Kudo-kai’s home turf of Kitakyushu.

“What makes the Kudo-kai so frightening is its propensity toward violence against ordinary citizens,” relates the former operator of a snack business. “On the day we opened in 2002, two toughs pranced in and demanded I pay protection. I tried to reason with them, saying ‘But today’s only our first day.’ They smashed up some bottles of scotch and left, saying ‘We’ll be back.’

“The same night, someone fired a shot through a window. I reported it to the police, but no arrests were made. A neighbor told me it was probably the Kudo-kai and advised me to pay up.”

After a year of intimidation, the snack operator closed up shop and left the area.