Influential Yokohama Business Leader Threatens Suicide Over Potential Casino

Posted on: August 6, 2021, 12:02h. 

Last updated on: August 5, 2021, 04:01h.

A Yokohama businessman with great notoriety in the Japanese city is deeply opposed to efforts to bring the region an integrated resort (IR) casino.

Yokohama integrated resort casino Yukio Fujiki
Yukio Fujiki speaks before the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on August 3, 2021. A staple in Yokohama’s business and economic development, Fujiki is adamantly against a casino on the city’s main port. (Image: Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan)

Yukio Fujiki is known throughout Yokohama as the “Don of Hama” for his strong influence on political and commerce circles. The 90-year-old has held a variety of significant positions during his lengthy business career.

During a conference this week with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Fujiki didn’t mince words. He vented his hostility regarding casino gambling potentially coming to Yokohama’s Yamashita Pier. Melco Resorts and Genting Group have both proposed IRs there. 

“There are many people betting their lives away, but I will not allow a casino in Yokohama. I will never allow it,” Fujiki declared.

Should an IR somehow manage to receive approval and arrive on Yokohama’s premiere port, Fujiki says he will take his own life. 

If a casino happens, I will commit seppuku and die on its opening day,” Fujiki stated. 

Seppuku refers to a form of Japanese ritual suicide in which a person stabs themselves in the abdomen, then heart, and finally throat. In samurai practice, seppuku is a way of dying with honor rather than falling into the hands of one’s enemies.

Inside Asian Gaming, which first reported on Fujiki’s comments, said that it’s “hard to tell” Fujiki’s reasoning for threatening seppuku, and his actual intent in following through with the act.

Mayor Election

The odds of Yokohama obtaining one of the three commercial IR licenses from Japan’s central government will largely hinge on the outcome of the next city mayoral election. 

Incumbent Mayor Fumiko Hayashi is seeking a nearly unprecedented fourth four-year term. A member of Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Hayashi is a proponent of the country using casino resorts to generate new tourism. 

The LDP has majority control in the National Diet, which is Japan’s legislature. The LDP adhered to former PM Shinzo Abe’s calls to legalize gambling. Suga, Abe’s successor, is carrying on the mission to diversify Japan’s tourism industry. 

Not all LDP members agree that casinos are a sound way to bring in foreigners. Hayashi is being challenged by another LDP member — former Diet Rep. Hachiro Okonogi. The ex-National Public Safety Commission chair and head of the Diet’s Casino Regulatory Commission shocked the country when he resigned from the legislature in June to challenge Hayashi.

“I’m running … in order to stop the casino effort,” Okonogi affirmed in June. “Many people oppose the plan, and the environment in Yokohama is not right for it now.”

The mayoral election is crowded, Hayashi and Okonogi being two of nine aspirants who have officially declared their candidacy. The election is set for August 22. 

IR Has Fujiki’s Full Attention

Fujiki announced his retirement in June from serving as chairman and managing director of his family’s Fujiki Transportation and Stevedoring business organization. He remains, however, chairman of the Yokohama Port Harbor Resort Association.

Fujiki said his retirement decision was to concentrate more of his energy on opposing the casino effort in Yokohama. Fujiki is supporting Okonogi for the mayoral election.

“Hachiro will win the election. It must be Hachiro who wins,” he declared.