Around the start of this year, the weekly magazines — Shukan Taishu, Asahi Geino and Shukan Jitsuwa in particular — were brimming with articles feting the centennial anniversary of the Yamaguchi-gumi, which had gone from being a small group of tough guys on the Kobe waterfront in 1915 to Japan's largest designated criminal syndicate, with an estimated 23,000 members.

Nine months later, the gang is back in the news, this time with stories about its big breakup.

On Aug. 27, a total of 13 gang affiliates, based in Kobe, Awaji Island and other cities in Hyogo Prefecture, as well as Fukui, Okayama, Kyoto and Kumamoto, were ordered purged from the main organization, either by zetsuen (severing of ties) or hamon (excommunication).