Photo/Illutration The headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate in Kobe (Ryo Ioka)

The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate, has apparently let bygones be bygones and allowed a rival gang that had splintered from it six years ago back into the fold.

According to investigative sources, the Yamaguchi-gumi on Sept. 16 allowed members of the Yamaken-gumi to return.

The invitation was even extended to Hiroji Nakata, the leader of Yamaken-gumi, who has been indicted on a charge of attempted murder for shooting a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi in August 2019.

Yamaken-gumi was one of the main gangs that had separated from it in August 2015 to form the splinter group Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

Police sources said this latest move could be the first step toward ending the turf war between the Yamaguchi-gumi and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

The Okayama prefectural police also announced on Sept. 16 that the Ikeda-gumi had left the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi to become an independent gang.

According to the National Police Agency, the Yamaguchi-gumi had about 3,800 members as of the end of 2020, while Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi had about 1,200 members. But the departures of Yamaken-gumi and Ikeda-gumi are expected to further weaken the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

According to sources, Yamaguchi-gumi executives notified members on Sept. 16 that they were welcoming back returning Yamaken-gumi members. The same day, executives of Yamaken-gumi met to confirm they were rejoining.

Yamaken-gumi and Ikeda-gumi were among the gangs that took about 3,000 members with them when they splintered from the Yamaguchi-gumi to form Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. Kunio Inoue, who headed Yamaken-gumi at the time, became the leader of Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

In January 2020, the public safety commissions of six prefectures in western Japan officially designated Yamaguchi-gumi and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi as being locked in a turf war. Four additional prefectural commissions soon followed step. The special designation gave police additional authority to arrest members of the two gangs.

According to investigative sources, trouble emerged within Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi between Inoue and Nakata, who took over as head of Yamaken-gumi, starting around the summer of 2020. Inoue banished Nakata from the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

While most members of the Yamaken-gumi are expected to follow Nakata in returning to the Yamaguchi-gumi, some will remain with the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi and continue to use the Yamaken-gumi name.

Yamaguchi-gumi is expected to bring Nakata back into the fold as an executive, even though he is accused of shooting a gang member.

The Asahi Shimbun