At around 5:45 on the morning of Dec 19. Takayuki Ohigashi, the charismatic, 72-year-old president of Osho Food Service, operator of the Gyoza no Osho restaurant chain, arrived at the usual time at his company headquarters in Kyoto's Yamashina Ward. He was met by an assailant who fired four small caliber bullets into his torso, killing him.
A newspaper reporter who covered the incident tells Shukan Asahi Geino (Jan 16) that the shooting had all the hallmarks of a professional hit.
Normally in a slaying involving guns, suspicion would automatically fall on the yakuza. But the gun used in the shooting was determined to be a .25 caliber automatic, not the likely choice of a weapon by a syndicate member.
"Colt of the U.S. and Beretta of Italy are best known for this type of handgun, and there are other models manufactured in Belgium," a gang cadre explains. "We obtain a lot of these via Russia -- they are brought in by fishermen on crab boats that visit ports in Hokkaido. But even if yakuza were involved in smuggling the guns, I think the possibility is low that they would use them themselves to kill anyone."
Another yakuza, a veteran gang head, tells Geino's reporter why he thinks there's little likelihood of direct gang involvement in the Ohigashi slaying.
"A .25 caliber bullet is about the size of a peanut -- good for intimidation since it can break a window or cause a wound," he says. "But it's not for serious jobs. When a yakuza wants to rub somebody out, he'll use a .38 caliber or something bigger and make sure. And these days they avoid using automatics, which have more problems with maintenance and storage."
So then, who's the likely perpetrator in the Ohigashi shooting?
"Back in the old days when the gangs were thriving, I heard stories about hit men who would go overseas to practice their marksmanship," says the aforementioned gang boss. "A shooter would be trained to avoid looking into the victim's eyes, which might rattle their nerves, so they always aimed for the body. From what I heard of the Kyoto shooting, that sounds to me like the work of a pro."
"I guess it was a Chinese hit man," he adds. "If you pay 1.5 million yen up front to gang "D," they'll send somebody to China. It's not hard to get somebody into the country, and while it's not that easy to equip him with a 'tool' (a gun), they can obtain one from a yakuza easily enough.
"Of course, the shooter would need the cooperation and guidance of some local Japanese. But once the job was done, he would leave the country. His payment for a successful job would come to 1.5 million yen, so the whole thing would run about 3 million."
Another point that suggests a Chinese perpetrator is that one would likely be adept at use of a small-caliber automatic, as locally made versions of the .30 caliber Tokarev are in widespread use in China.
China has also been linked to a possible motive for the killing.
"In 2005, Gyoza no Osho started doing business in Dalian, Liaoning Province," says a police source. "That was five years after Ohigashi had taken over as president, and the company was in the process of making a sharp recovery. It currently operates four restaurants there. When the first outlet opened, we heard something about a run-in with local gangsters, at which time Gyoza no Osho asked a Japanese gang to mediate. But Osho balked at paying them for services rendered."
Could it be, then, that use of a Chinese shooter was the Japanese gang's idea of revenge?
This scenario, however, was only one of several possibilities raised in the Geino article and in any case the aforementioned news reporter said the police have their work cut out for them.
"If they can't solve it within one or two months, it could easily turn into cold case, like the murder of that family of four in Setagaya, Tokyo, at the end of December 2000. When a hit man flees abroad, those are the sort of complications you can expect."© Japan Today