The nation’s largest yakuza syndicate has canceled its annual Halloween trick-or-treat event with a grovelling apology to children hoping to score a fistful of candies.
A recent high-profile split of the powerful Yamaguchi-gumi is behind the cancellation, with mobsters fearing that a gang conflict could put their pint-size guests at risk, yakuza experts said on Thursday.
The Kobe-based gangsters traditionally hold a variety of community events, including a rice cake-making festival, and have previously invited neighborhood children to Halloween parties, where they hand out bags of sweets.
However, a notice posted on the gate of the yakuza group’s office explained that the heavily tattooed gangsters would pull the plug on this year’s trick-or-treating, the Sankei newspaper reported, without clarifying why.
“The Halloween event that has taken place annually on Oct. 31 will be canceled this year due to various reasons,” the notice read. “We regret disappointing parents and children looking forward to the event, but we promise to resume it next year.”
Like the Mafia and China’s triad gangs, the yakuza engage in everything from gambling, drugs and prostitution to loan-sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime.
Each of the designated yakuza groups has its own headquarters.
The Yamaguchi-gumi was rocked by internal strife last month following the defection of several top leaders who formed their own splinter group. The split prompted police warnings of a possible repeat of a 1980s gangland bloodbath, with a series of raids and arrests made since.
A photo apparently taken last year that was posted on Twitter shows yakuza setting tables in a garage, where they had colorfully decorated bags of sweets ready for children in fancy dress.
“The Yamaguchi-gumi has split and is in tense relations with the (splinter) group,” Atsushi Mizoguchi, a freelance writer and expert on underworld syndicates, said.
“If they gather the neighborhood children and an incident occurs, the boss would be pursued for responsibility.”
The yakuza used to host a variety of community events, such as summer festivals, but have been forced to scale down because of declining social tolerance for mobsters, Mizoguchi added.
Tomohiko Suzuki, another freelance writer who covers organized crime, said he was at last year’s trick-or-treat event organized by the Yamaguchi-gumi.
“There was almost no media attention last year,” he said. “But it would create havoc this year.”