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Ginza’s ‘property king’ disappears

Gensiro Kawamoto's Marugen No. 12 in Roppongi seen closed in 2008
Gensiro Kawamoto’s Marugen No. 12 in Roppongi seen closed in 2008

TOKYO (TR) – Whispers are floating through the bars and clubs of Tokyo’s Ginza entertainment district about what has become of property tycoon Genshiro Kawamoto.

Known as the “Ginza Property King,” Kawamoto was arrested last year by Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of tax evasion.

The 82-year-old, whose numerous Marugen properties are easily identifiable by their distinct red and green logo, is accused of hiding earnings and not paying 862 million yen in taxes over the three years before December of 2011.

At Kawamoto’s first hearing at the Tokyo District Court in June, he denied the charges against him, and, according to Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 10), he has basically disappeared.

Around the time of the trial, Kawamoto was staying at the Hotel New Otani Tokyo in central Tokyo.

“He’s not staying here,” a representative of the hotel tells the newspaper. “As to when he left, I cannot provide an answer.”

Born in Fukuoka Prefecture, Kawamoto started leasing space to bars and restaurants in Kyushu in the 1960s. He moved to Tokyo in 1972. Within two years, he had constructed his first multi-tenant building in Tokyo’s Ginza district, where he would eventually accumulate at least eight properties.

During the “bubble” period of the 1980s, the property tycoon expanded into Tokyo’s Akasaka and Roppongi districts and the Nakasu entertainment area of Fukuoka City.

Kawamoto focused on leasing space to hostess clubs and bars, the names for which are listed on signboards running down the side of each building beneath his red logo, which consists of the Chinese character for “circle” (maru) encircling that for “origin” (gen).

Marugen No. 12 in Roppongi seen closed in 2008
Marugen No. 12 in Roppongi seen closed in 2008 (The Tokyo Reporter)

Kawamoto also has properties in Hawaii and a home in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Nikkan Gendai’s reporter paid a visit to Marugen’s headquarters in Ginza only to find the building basically vacated: The elevator was out of order and the interior in the dark.

“I saw him on Wednesday walking in Ginza but that is unusual,” a Marugen tenant says of Kawamoto. “Since it is a property company I have a contact number but recently the phone hasn’t been answered. There are rumors circulating that he is living in his villa in Atami.”

At its peak, the Marugen group had its name on approximately 60 buildings and collected 10 billion yen annually in revenue. Kawamoto himself was said to be worth more than 100 billion yen.

According to prosecutors, Kawamoto is alleged to have hidden income by fabricating rental amounts paid by tenants, but this past summer the public prosecutor handling the case moved to the Osaka district office, and there have been no further developments.

Indeed, dethroning the king will be no easy task, says Gendai.

Source: “Ginza mama no ma de wadai kieta ‘fudosan-o’ Marugen biru shacho no shosoku,” Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 10, page 9)