When you think about Japan, you probably think of a bustling, eclectic city full of lights, people, entertainment, and sometimes unusual fashion and food choices (like one of the latest restaurant crazes: eating food out of bowls shaped like toilets…). Regardless of whether you’re intrigued by rural Japan’s unrivalled scenery or Tokyo’s wild night life, whether you’re looking for something modern and out of the ordinary or you want to immerse yourself in a rich, complex history, one thing’s for certain: In your research on the country, you’ll discover Japan is home to some of the wealthiest individuals in the world. In 2013, Japan welcomed the new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe into power, and it was a profitable year for this island nation. Although the Yen – the Japanese currency – has lost some of its value, Japanese stocks have never looked more attractive. Since Shinzo Abe has come into power, sales and stocks have increased, boosting the net worth of some of the lucky business people on Japan’s rich list. The Nikkei is up by 22.9% (in terms of the Yen), a rate that hasn’t been seen for almost 6 years. Many billionaires in Japan are thriving along with the economy, with the combined collective wealth of the fifty richest individuals in Japan topping a stunning $112 billion. We’re looking back at 2013 in Japan, through an investigation of the ten richest individuals in the country.
10. Masatoshi Ito – $2.8 billion net worth
Masatoshi Ito comes in at the bottom of our list, but given his net worth it’s clear he’s anything but a loser – especially given the fact that he is a self-made billionaire. No inheritance for this billionaire, Ito is the honorary chair of Japan’s largest retail company, Seven and I. Seven and I owns tens of thousands of department stores and convenience stores including a line of 7-Eleven shops. In 2013, Masatoshi Ito announced his plans to extend his stores’ reach to China and the U.S. too, so it’s likely he’ll be expanding on that cosy $2.8 billion.
9. Keiichiro Takahara- $3.3 billion net worth
82 year old Keiichiro Takahara, the chairman and founder of Unicharm, was the ninth richest man in Japan in 2013. Unicharm manufactures diapers, personal-care items and pet care items, and is currently the leading producer of feminine and baby care projects in Japan. Keiichiro Takahara has, in fact, benefited from the population crisis in Japan -an increasing elderly population – by selling adult diapers in addition to those made for infants. Incredibly, the number of adults who needed diapers exceeded that of children between 2012 and 2013. This caused a shock turnaround in the industry but was a bonus for Takahara’s company: Over the past year, Unicharm stocks have increased by 25%.
8. Han Chang-Woo- $3.4 billion net worth
Korean-born but with dual nationality, Han Chang-Woo is a self-made billionaire. He made his fortune in the recreation industry, as the CEO and chairman of Maruhan, which owns various popular recreational facilities throughout Japan including bowling alleys, movie theaters, and golf courses. Chang-Woo’s subsidiary company, Maruhan Japan Bank, also rakes in a pretty penny. With recent expansions abroad – in locations like Cambodia and Laos – Maruhan Japan Bank is expected to garner even more revenue.
7. Takemitsu Takizaki- $4.7 billion net worth
Takemitsu Takizaki, like many of his fellow enterprising Japanese billionaires, is an entrepreneur. He is the current chair of Keyence -an electronics company which supplies sensors and automated electronic components. Takizaki founded the company in 1974 and the direct sales company now takes in a reported $2 billion yearly. In fact, Keyence’s stock price jumped by 50% between 2012 and 2013, due in part to an increase in sales in the auto industry – resulting in a nice $1 billion boost in Takizaki’s personal net worth.
6. Akira Mori- $5 billion net worth
Tokyo-born Akira Mori inherited a substantial fortune, and the family business, along with his brother after their father passed away in 1993. In 1999 the brothers split the family business, and now at 77 years old Mori is the CEO of Mori Trust, a real estate company, that currently owns several corporate and residential buildings, including hotels, throughout Tokyo and a few other large Japanese cities. It is expected that Mori Trust will acquire even more property in 2014, potentially in New York and London if the Trust’s plans for expansion pan out.
5. Kunio Busujima- $5.2 billion net worth
Kunio Busujima is – perhaps surprisingly, given Japan’s international reputation – the first techie on our list. He founded Sankyo, a company which manufactures pachinko gaming-machines. Kunio Busujima recently stepped down, passing the managerial responsibilities to his son Hideyuki. Although 2013 was not a profitable year for the company, with sales declining, Kunio Busujima maintains his place in top 5 – due in part to his investments, and the staggering amount of money his company earned in its prime.
4. Hiroshi Mikitani- $6.4 billion net worth
Hiroshi Mikitani is a self-made billionaire and is currently the Chairman and CEO of Rakuten. Japan’s leading online retailer continues to profit despite competition from internet giants like Amazon and eBay due to wise – and expensive – investments from this entrepreneur. He’s extended his company’s reach internationally, acquiring sites like the American Buy.com, UK-based Play.com, and Kobo. He’s also got a neat $100 million stake in Pinterest. This global scope allows Rakuten to stand toe to toe with other online shopping giants and secures his place as one of Japan’s richest billionaires.
3. Masayoshi Son- $9.1 billion net worth
Masayoshi is one of Japan’s leading businessmen in the tech industry, as the CEO of Softbank – Asia’s top Internet venture. In 2013, he set his sights on Sprint (of which he acquired 72%), Brightstar (a $1.26 billion investment), and purchased a significant stake in Supercell (a $1.5 billion). In October, Masayoshi Son announced his plan to take 70% of Nextel for an estimated $20.1 billion. This would mean a huge amount of income for him once the deal is finalized and reviewed by U.S. regulators.
2. Nobutada Saji- $10.7 billion net worth
Nobutada Saji comes from family money, and currently runs his grandfather’s company Suntory Ltd. – a liquor business. The company has remained in the family for three generations, keeping the Saji bank accounts padded and plush. 2013 was a good year for Suntory and the company saw an increase in sales despite competition. Nobutada Saji now plans to start publicly trading the company’s non-alcoholic drink and food sectors to raise a potential $3 billion in investments – it looks like he’s after that number 1 spot.
1. Tadashi Yanai- $15.5 billion net worth
2013 was an incredibly profitable year for 64 year old Tadashi Yanai; his fortune rose by an estimated two thirds during the year and 2014 is expected to be another profitable year for him, with the expansion of his company in the works. Tadashi Yanai is the richest man in Japan and is among the hundred richest people in the world today. He currently owns the company Fast Retailing – Japan’s largest clothing company – and the business recently had a successful expansion abroad, which helped garner its owner even more wealth. With popular labels like Uniqlo, Theory and Helmur Lang brands are among Fast Retailing’s assets.
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