Kiyoshi Takayama

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Kiyoshi Takayama (髙山 清司 Takayama Kiyoshi?, born September 5, 1947[1] in Tsushima, Aichi[1]) is a yakuza best known as the second-in-command (wakagashira) of the 6th-generation Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest known yakuza syndicate in Japan, and the president of its ruling affiliate, Kodo-kai, based in Nagoya.[2]

Takayama in a police van, Nov 2010

Takayama is a prominent yakuza, who has even been dubbed the "nation's number-two gangster",[3] and is informally dubbed the "Katame of Nagoya" or simply the "Katame" meaning "one eye", after his closed right eye possibly as a result of a lethal fight in his early yakuza career — reportedly from a sword fighting injury.[4]

Takayama has been considered the key person in the entire history of the Kodo-kai and behind the sixth Yamaguchi-gumi, being kept under close surveillance by the National Police Agency. The National Police Agency once distributed a report on its operations against the Yamaguchi-gumi to every police department across the country, which had a special section devoted to him and even made reference to his personality.[5]

In 2012 the Obama administration of the United States imposed sanctions on him as the second-in-command of the Yamaguchi-gumi.[6] The sanctions also targeted Kenichi Shinoda as the leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi, along with several individuals linked to three other transnational organized crime groups, the Brothers' Circle of Russia, the Camorra of Italy, and the Los Zetas of Mexico.[7]


Takayama entered the underworld in his teenage years,[8] and his career as a yakuza officially began at the age of 20 when he joined the Sasaki-gumi, a Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate based in Nagoya. The Sasaki-gumi was a sub organization of the Nagoya-based Hirota-gumi (later known as the Kodo-kai), and in 1969, four members of a Hirota-affiliated organization were murdered by a Kobe-based yakuza syndicate. Along with two other Hirota members (one being Shinobu Tsukasa), he was convicted of murdering the boss of a clan of the syndicate. After spending 4 years in prison, he was released in 1973,[9] becoming the number-two boss (wakagashira) of the Sasaki-gumi in 1975.[8] In 1976 when he was promoted to the managing director (rijicho) of the Sasaki-gumi, he founded his own organization, the Takayama-gumi.[9]

Road to the Kobe[edit]

Shinobu Tsukasa formed the Kodo-kai as the successor to the Hirota-gumi in 1984 after the Hirota-gumi disbanded due to its boss' retirement. Following this, Takayama became the number-three (wakagashira-hosa) of the Kodo-kai, and after his achievements at the Yama-Ichi War, he became the number-two (wakagashira) in 1989, starting a radical reform of the Kodo-kai and forcing many "unwelcome" members including the senior managers into retirement.[9] He succeeded Tsukasa as president (kaicho) of the Kodo-kai in March 2005 when Tsukasa was promoted to the Yamaguchi-gumi's provisional number-two (wakagashira), entering the Kobe headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi, as a senior manager (jikisan).[10]

The sixth wakagashira[edit]

Takayama had rapidly been promoted in the headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi, and following Tsukasa's assumption of the leadership of the Yamaguchi-gumi, in 2005, he flew the number-two position (wakagashira) at the largest known yakuza syndicate only four months after his entrance into its headquarters.[10] The wakagashira post had been vacant since 1997 when the fifth wakagashira, Masaru Takumi, was assassinated.[11] In 2008, under his dominating influence, the headquarters purged a total of nine "big names" from the syndicate, including Tadamasa Goto as the head of the Goto-gumi, and forced two into temporary suspension, resulting in causing some serious controversies in the entire Yamaguchi-gumi community.[9]

Also in this year, 2008, it was noted that Takayama, as the Yamaguchi-gumi's wakagashira, attended the funeral of Hideo Mizoshita, the third president of the Kudo-kai. The Kudo-kai was a Kyushu-based independent syndicate known as the leading member of an anti-Yamaguchi federation, and he attended this historic funeral as the deputy leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi while the actual leader Tsukasa was in prison.[12]

Meanwhile in Nagoya, by late 2009, the Kodo-kai's membership had reached 4,000. Originally started with just 25 members, the clan grew to an exceedingly powerful, 4,000-member organization within only 26 years, as noted in the National Police Agency's anti-Yamaguchi strategy report distributed in 2009, and this rapid growth, as an "astounding success", was largely attributed to Takayama.[5]

2010 Arrest[edit]

In November 2010, Takayama, as the "de facto leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi",[13] was arrested on suspicion of extorting more than US$400,000 from a businessman in the construction industry.[14] "If Takayama is successfully prosecuted it will be devastating for the Yamaguchi-gumi, and could even spark a war for control of the organisation," said Jake Adelstein.[15] This arrest came shortly before the top, Shinobu Tsukasa, was due to be released from prison,[16] and soon after this, in December, the number-three boss of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Tadashi Irie, was also arrested.[17]


At the time of the arrest, the victim was reported to be just a 65-year-old man engaged in the construction business,[18] however several doubts had been cast about his true identity, as he did not seem to be a "decent civilian" (katagi); he was reported to be an influential figure in Kyoto's raw concrete industry, and a senior manager of a buraku organization based in Kyoto, who allegedly had a connection with the Yamaken-gumi or even been a member of this Yamaguchi-gumi clan. Yamaken-gumi had been a major internal rival of the Kodo-kai especially since Takayama and Tsukasa joined the headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi. Also, the person had allegedly worked as a corporate blackmailer, besides, he had at least one blatant criminal record; he had been convicted of murdering some Korean person in a conflict in his young years.[19] The person's name was later revealed to be Tohbeh Ueda by himself. He was the president of the Kyoto-based buraku organization "Liberal Dowa Association Kyoto", who had been considered a "tycoon" in Kyoto's buraku community.[20] One theory suggests that there was an internal conflict in the Yamaguchi-gumi over the "Kyoto concession(s)" behind the arrest.[21] Many believe that it was highly unlikely for Takayama to make such a "cheap blunder" like that, for a relatively small amount of money (for Takayama). Many believe the Yamaken conspiracy theory, but Takayama has kept silent about the situation.


Takayama was released on bail of 1.5 billion yen ($19 million) in June 2012.[22]

Preceded by
Shinobu Tsukasa
President of Kodo-kai
Succeeded by

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Pre-Notification For Upcoming Designation Of Transnational Organized Criminal Elements : IDENTIFYING INFORMATION : YAKUZA : Entity 1 : Yamaguchi-gumi : Person 2 : Kiyoshi Takayama" (p.2) Malta Financial Services Authority
  2. ^ "Yamaguchi-gumi's No. 2 to go free on ¥1.5 billion bail during extortion trial", 13 June 2012, The Japan Times
  3. ^ "Nation's No. 2 gangster arrested", November 19, 2010, Yomiuri Shimbun
  4. ^ "FEATURE: Japan gets tough on ‘yakuza’ gangs", January 23, 2011, Taipei Times
  5. ^ a b "The "Top Operations" for destroying the Yamaguchi-gumi Kodo-kai, arresting from the kumicho to the number 3", December 17, 2010, Weekly Friday (Japanese)
  6. ^ "US steps up offensive against Japan's yakuza gangs", 24 February 2012, The Guardian
  7. ^ "US moves to isolate Russian, Japanese crime groups", 23 February 2012, AFP
  8. ^ a b "Police's 'Yamaguchi-gumi Cleanup Operation' behind the O-zumo's 'Baseball Gambling'", July 1, 2010, Gendai Business (Japanese)
  9. ^ a b c d "Kiyoshi Takayama", Yakuza Wiki (Japanese)
  10. ^ a b The Outline of the Yamaguchi-gumi, p.230, Kenji Ino, December 2008, Chikumashobo Ltd., ISBN 978-4-480-06463-9 (Japanese)
  11. ^ "Into the Yamaguchi-gumi's 'total domination' of the underworld", September 10, 2008, Monthly Central Journal, Central News Bank (Japanese)
  12. ^ The Sixth Yamaguchi-gumi Complete Databook 2008 Edition : "The funeral of the Fourth Kudo-kai Honorary Adviser Hideo Mizoshita" (p.192–197), 1 February 2009, Mediax, ISBN 978-4-86201-358-3 (Japanese)
  13. ^ "Osaka Police Nab Another Yakuza Boss as Crackdown Continues", December 1, 2010, The Wall Street Journal
  14. ^ "'Top gangster' arrested in Japan", November 18, 2010, BBC
  15. ^ "Yakuza chief arrested in Japan", November 18, 2010, The Guardian
  16. ^ "Top Yakuza crime boss arrested in Japan", November 18, 2010, The Daily Telegraph
  17. ^ "Police anti-gang drive in trouble", December 11, 2010, Asahi Shimbun
  18. ^ "Japan arrests number two crime boss", November 18, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald
  19. ^ "Increasing dangerousness of the Yamaguchi-gumi's internal conflicts after the Elimination Strategy (The Commissioner General)" 2/2, Atsushi Mizoguchi, December 19, 2010, Gendai Business (Japanese)
  20. ^ "The reason why the buraku organization president Tohbeh Ueda accused the Yamaguchi-gumi wakagashira", Hirotoshi Ito, December 16, 2010, Gendai Business (Japanese)
  21. ^ "The background of the arrest of the wakagashira Kiyoshi Takayama, is a fierce conflict for the 'Kyoto concession'!", November 25, 2010, Gendai Business (Japanese)
  22. ^ "Yakuza leader offered $19m bail", 13 June 2012, Herald Sun