Take me out at the ballgame.

You might have noticed a fair bit of coverage recently regarding the ever-shrinking liberties of Japan’s yakuza. No phone, no supermarket loyalty points, no motor cars, not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s as primitive as can be.

But on 8 April, a pair of gangsters learned the hard way that they can’t even enjoy the great Japanese pastime of professional baseball at the stadium. Hyogo Prefectural Police arrested 78-year-old Fujio Sakai and 52-year-old Hideki Deguchi on suspicion of unlawful entry when they went into the famous Koshien Stadium to watch the home team Hanshin Tigers take on the Yakult Swallows.

Charges of this nature often stem back to the Organized Crime Exclusion Ordinances that were introduced nationwide around 2011. However, in this case Nippon Professional Baseball was way ahead of the curve and already blackballed yakuza members way back in 2003.

Moreover, the Hanshin Tigers were at the center of this move due to a series of incidents linked to their unofficial cheerleading corps known as Chutora Rengokai. This was a group of some 500 Tigers fans who occupied seats together and cheered extra loudly for the team.

▼ Footage of the Chutora Rengokai doing their thing way back when only Japanese mobile phones had cameras

As you can see in the above video, this was mainly just harmless high-spirited fun at a baseball game. However, behind the scenes, yakuza members were allegedly running various rackets to profit from it. One way was by scalping Chutora Rengokai seats by having homeless people line up for tickets and then selling them to diehard fans for about three times the price.

There was also an incident where connected members of Chutora Rengokai threatened to kill a manager at Koshien Staduim because after a game where Hanshin Tigers narrowly defeated the Yomiuri Giants they were going to throw the Tiger’s manager Tatsunori Hara into the air in celebration before Chutora Rengokai could sing the team song “Rokko Oroshi.”

Speaking of the team song, there was also an incident where Chutora Rengokai claimed ownership of “Rokko Oroshi” and even filed the copyright with JASRAC. It wasn’t until some 20 million yen (US$150,000) in CD and ringtone sales were made that it was realized Chutora Rengokai had no right to royalties because the original songwriter was unknown. Needless to say, at around this time, the Tigers and professional baseball as a whole felt it best to just put a blanket ban on all organized crime at their stadiums.

▼ You are currently free to use this song for your own weddings and dance parties.

That was all quite some time ago though, and many people have forgotten about all those troubles. Even when Sakai and Deguchi joined the audience earlier this month they didn’t notice the sign at the stadium entrance stating that members of organized crime were not permitted to enter. But even if they had, with the thousands of spectators at a single game, it’d be pretty easy for yakuza members to slip by unnoticed and many probably have in the past.

▼ There are several signs posted around the stadium mentioning the organized crime ban and this one even has it listed as the No. 1 prohibited act

Image: Wikipedia/Corpse Reviver

But on 8 April, it just so happened that the car that took the pair to the game was illegally parked outside the stadium. While police questioned the driver they grew suspicious that his passengers may have been connected. So, they staked out the car until the game was over and identified Sakai and Deguchi as they walked back to it. Arrests were made the following day.

Both men admitted to the charges and Deguchi even expressed his surprise, reportedly telling police: “I didn’t know yakuza can’t go to baseball games.” He certainly isn’t alone either, and it’s food for thought for any youngster looking to enter the life of organized crime. Sure, there’s all the glitz and glamor that comes along with stealing sea cucumbers in the middle of the night, but think of everything you’d have to give up.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun, Daily Shincho, Golden Times
Top image: ©SoraNews24
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