Japan boasts 33 billionaires – which isn’t surprising considering the number of technology companies which have been founded there. Despite that, most of the wealthiest people in Japan have little to do with manufacturing, creating, selling or distributing electronics. The top ten are a diverse group of men who’ve marketed food, clothing, and everyday products. They’ve earned their wealth through hard work and business acumen, and there are no second generation billionaires on this list. Also of note, there’s not one Japanese billionaire in the top ten under the age of fifty. Here are the ten wealthiest people from Japan.
10) Masatoshi Ito – Net Worth: $2.8 Billion
Masatoshi Ito is the founder and chairman of Ito-Yokado, the world’s second largest retailing organization in the world. His company controls over 10,000 7-Eleven stores in Japan, and 5,800 in America. In addition, his company controls restaurants, retail stores, and supermarkets. He owns the franchise rights to Oshman’s sporting goods, Denny’s restaurant, and Robinson’s department stores in Japan. Ito’s net worth is roughly $2.8 billion. He’s married and has three children.
9) Keiichiro Takahara – Net Worth: $3.3 Billion
Now 82, Takahara founded Unicharm, a company that makes diapers, sanitary napkins, and other personal goods. His son Takahisa took over as chief executive in 2001. Since the Chinese market has opened Takahara’s company has made inroads into Southeast Asia. They created a joint venture with a U.S. pet business called Hartz. The company itself has flat-lined in regard to profits in recent years – largely because of an increase in raw materials. Takahara is married and has three children.
8) Han Chang-U – Net Worth: $3.4 Billion
Han Chang-U is actually of Korean descent. He immigrated secretly to Japan in 1945 and managed to obtain special resident status and attend university – where he graduated with a degree in economics in 1952. Upon graduation he took over his brother-in-laws pachinko operation. Then in 1972 he founded the Maruhan Corporation – which also specializes in Pachinko machines. It wasn’t until 2002 that Han Chang-U officially became a Japanese national.
7) Takemitsu Takizaki – Net Worth: $4.7 Billion
Takemitsu Takizaki chairs a company called Keyence – a global supplier and direct sales company that manufactures sensors, electrical components for automation systems, vision sensors, barcode readers, measuring devices, digital microscopes, and laser markers. Even though the company is a distributor they do not fabricate their own products – their primary focus is in R&D. The company pays extremely well and is highly regarded as an employer for their generosity. Takemitsu has profited from his decisions and his net worth is $4.7 billion.
6) Akira Mori – Net Worth: $5 Billion
Akira Mori is the president and CEO of Mori Trust – a real estate developer. His company is an off-shoot of a company his father founded in 1959 called Mori Building. Akira attended and graduated from Keio University in 1960. Afterwards he went on to work at the Yasuda Trust and Banking before joining his father’s company as an employee in 1972. His took over his father’s company after his death in 1993 in conjunction with his brother – but eventually parted ways with his brother in 1999. Akira headed Mori Trust until his brother’s death when he took over Mori Building as well. Mori trust owns and operates over 100 buildings, including hotels, residential and office buildings.
5) Kunio Busujima – Net Worth: $5.2 Billion
Kunio Busujima is the founder and honorary chairman of Sankyo – one of three major companies in Japan that makes and sells pachinko machines. He’s currently believed to be the fifth wealthiest man in Japan. His son currently runs the company he started. In recent years his company’s stock has dipped, but sales of popular games remain relatively strong. Busujima is now 89 years old. He is married with four children.
4) Hiroshi Mikitani – Net Worth: $6.4 Billion
Hiroshi Mikitani is the co-founder and CEO of Rakuten – an E-commerce and internet company he founded in 1997. It is the largest E-commerce company in Japan. Mikitani graduated college in 1998 and began working for the Industrial Bank in Japan. He transferred to the United States and eventually attended Harvard University. He became chairman of Rakuten in 2001 and he holds the title of Director for the Kobo, Inc. company. More interestingly, Mikitani has made “Englishization” a high priority in his company – transforming the company into an English speaking corporation. This plan has been criticized by the some but Mikitani believes that this isn’t a luxury but more of a requirement.
3) Masayoshi Son – Net Worth: $9.1 Billion
Masayoshi Son is founder and chief executive of Softbank. He’s also the chief executive offer of SoftBank Mobile and the current chairman of the Sprint Corporation. In 2013 Forbes labeled him the 45th most powerful person in the world. Masayoshi is actually of Korean descent. He moved to California when he was 16 and attended the University of California, Berkley – where he began studying microchips and computer science. Since he patented a translation device and sold a PDA patent to Sharp. In 1990 Masayoshi adopted Japanese citizenship.
2) Nobutada Saji – Net Worth: $10.7 Billion
Nobutada Saji is the chief executive of Suntory Ltd., Japan’s fourth largest brewer and food manufacturer. He was Japan’s wealthiest person in 2004, but in 2012 he was moved down the list. Saji was an economics graduate of Keio University and later earned an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management. He became the president of his grandfather’s company Suntory brewing in 2001. His company has been a mainstay in the brewing industry in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. In January his company merged with Beam in a $16 billion deal.
1) Tadashi Yanai – Net Worth: $15.5 Billion
Tadashi Yanai is the founder and president of Fast Retailing – a retail holding company which also owns several popular clothing brands. The company was founded under another name in 1963 by Yanai – though the name was changed in 1991. Tanai is the 35th richest person in the world according to Bloomberg. He graduated college in 1971 with a degree in economics and politics. He began in the business world by selling kitchenware and men’s clothing before joining his father’s tailor shop and later opening his own company. Yanai is very influential and has won awards for his business practices in Japan.