Japan's 50 Richest: The Action Is Online
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Tatiana Serafin Contributor

I cover billionaires, businesses and economies around the world. full bio →

I'm a writer based in New York, head Global Markets and Ideas (tatianaserafin.com) and cover billionaires and businesses in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Russia. I am a former Staff Writer at Forbes and have profiled billionaires in Kazakhstan, the UK and the US for the magazine. I am also a former Vice President at management consultancy, Kaiser Associates, where I worked with multinational corporations to expand business in Russia and Poland. I have an MA in Business and Economic Reporting from New York University, as well as an MA in Central European and Russian Studies and BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Forbes Asia 972 views

Japan's 50 Richest: The Action Is Online

This story appears in the April 14, 2014 issue of Forbes Asia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to jump-start Japan’s economy with monetary and fiscal stimuli did boost the Nikkei stock index by 15% in yen terms, and GDP grew for all four quarters last year. That much helped roughly half of Japan’s 50 wealthiest to show gains in our accounting, while the rest declined–hurt in part by an 8% drop in the yen’s value against the dollar and, in the case of some retailers, by prospects of an impending sales tax increase.

Masayoshi Son is the biggest gainer, up a whopping 116%, and returns to the top spot after a two-year hiatus (if we had run the Japan list in 2011). His $19.7 billion total reflects market favor for his Softbank Softbank, on top of its holdings in the likes of China’s Alibaba, due soon for a rich IPO. Son’s company is not standing pat. Last year it acquired 70% of Sprint Nextel S +0.37% for $20.1 billion, looking to bring Japan’s higher-speed data service to the U.S. The founder is moving further into the new-economy plays that fuel many of the Japan list’s rising names, including his youngest brother (and newcomer), Taizo Son (No. 30). His gaming company, GungHo Online Entertainment, makes him a billionaire.

Our second-biggest gainer is Yusaku Maezawa (No. 22), who is building his online fashion mall, Zozotown, with same-day delivery in Tokyo and English and Chinese websites to hawk products around the world. His fortune is up 97% over the past year. Online reach is also helping Yasuhiro Fukushima (No. 40) as his game firm, Square Enix, reboots its Tomb Raider franchise; his net worth is up by 47%. Traditional manufacturing, to be sure, showed a few significant gains, including an 81% leap for Nidec’s Shigenobu Nagamori (No. 13).

The Web wasn’t magic enough for all. This year’s drop-offs include Tomoko Namba, whose stake in social networker DeNA declined 28%, putting her below this year’s cutoff of $500 million. (Only two women remain on the list, and one of them is the widow of builder Minoru Mori) Others left behind: financier Nobuyoshi Fujisawa, steelmaker Hiroyuki Inoue and auto elder Soichiro Toyoda.

Last fall the storied leader of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, died at 85. He left his 10% stake to his four children, who then sold most of these shares back to Nintendo. None individually makes our list.


Unlike our billionaire rankings, Japan’s 50 Richest list includes fortunes that are shared among family members. For instance, we combined the wealth of the Kanazawa brothers, Kinoshita brothers and Tada brothers. We also consider family fortunes like that of Suntory’s Saji family, which owns 90% of the drinks company. Nobutada Saji is the third generation to run the firm and owns less than 10% himself. Though his personal stake was enough to allow him to join the billionaire ranks as an individual, for the Japan list we calculated the entire family’s stake, which is shared by 20 people. The Japan 50 list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts, Japan’s EDINET and other sources. Net worths are based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on Mar. 25. Private companies were valued based on financial ratios and comparisons with similar publicly traded companies.

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