According to Forbes magazine's 2019 list of Japan's 50 Richest People, there were 45 Japanese-born billionaires in the world, not all of whom resided in Japan. The eight wealthiest Japanese residents had net worths ranging between $4.7 billion (Akira Mori) and $24.9 billion (Tadashi Yanai).
- Tadashi Yanai, owner of UNIQLO-parent Fast Retailing, is No. 1 with a fortune of $24.9 billion.
- Last year's No. 1, Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of Softbank, is No. 2 with a fortune of $24 billion.
- Takemitsu Takizaki, the founder of electronic sensors maker Keyence, is No. 3 with a fortune of $18.6 billion.
- Nobutada Saji (and family), who own a huge stake in family-run food and beverage company Suntory Holdings, comes in at No. 4 with $10.8 billion.
- Nos. 5–8: Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of online retailer Rakuten, $6 billion; Yasumitsu Shigeta (and family), CEO of mobile phone retailer Hikari Tsushin, $5.4 billion; Takahisa Takahara, CEO of personal care product maker Unicharm, $5.2 billion; and Akira Mori, chairman, co-CEO, and owner of real estate developer Mori Trust, $4.7 billion.
1. Tadashi Yanai: $24.9 Billion
One of the wealthiest self-made men in the world, Tadashi Yanai is a retail tycoon who founded Fast Retailing, owner of the Uniqlo brand of clothing stores. Yanai moved back into the top spot for the first time since 2016, thanks to Uniqlo's continued profitability internationally. The 70-year-old started out selling kitchenware in the 1970s, before opening his first standalone store in Hiroshima in 1984.
Yanai saw a near $5.6 billion bump in his year-over-year net worth from 2018, reclaiming the top spot from Masayoshi Son.
2. Masayoshi Son: $24 Billion
Masayoshi Son saw a $2.1 billion rise in his net worth from the 2018 Forbes rankings. Nonetheless, he still dropped one spot on the list from No. 1 last year. Son, 62, the chairman and CEO of SoftBank Corp., has much of his wealth tied up in shares of his company. The $100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund has been making big bets and many of them have paid off. The Vision Fund has raised $45 billion from Saudi Arabia‘s Public Investment Fund, plus smaller amounts from Apple and other corporations, reportedly.
The number of new billionaires who joined the 2019 Forbes list, led by Takahisa Takahara, 57, CEO of personal care product maker Unicharm.
3. Takemitsu Takizaki: $18.6 Billion
The founder of global electronic components company Keyence, Takemitsu Takizaki saw his net worth jump by $1 billion between 2018 and 2019, moving him up to No. 3 on the list from No. 4 last year. His company is best known for holding a small army of technological patents and pouring huge sums of money into research and development (R&D). Keyence has seen big growth in China, where its sensors are used to monitor how machines and robots are performing in factories.
4. Nobutada Saji (and family): $10.8 Billion
Nobutada Saji and family saw a drop of $7.2 billion from the previous year, the biggest drop of anyone on the list; the decline was mostly because new information showed the group's Suntory stake was smaller than previously thought, with some of it owned by charities, and therefore not included in their net worth. The Saji family's fortune was also hurt by weaker global beer sales.
Saji gave away the reigns of Suntory Holdings, the food and beverage conglomerate, in 2014. This was the first time a non-Torii family outsider headed the company since 1899. However, even after abdicating most of his business responsibilities, the 73-year-old Saji stayed on the company board of directors.
Forbes compiled the list using information from the people featured, as well as stock exchanges, analysts, company filings, and other sources. Net worth information was based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on March 22, 2019.
5. Hiroshi Mikitani: $6 Billion
At age 54, Hiroshi Mikitani is as active a billionaire as you can find. He is chairman and CEO of Japan's largest online retailer, Rakuten, and he also owns Ebates, a U.S.-based rebate website. He struck multi-year sponsorship deals with NBA's Golden State Warriors and soccer team FC Barcelona for $120 million in 2017. He bought OverDrive, an American e-book store, for $400 million in 2014, just before spending $300 million to buy a 12% ownership stake in car service Lyft. On the downside, weak sales in the U.K., Austria, and Spain caused Rakuten to shut down retail operations in those locations.
Mikitani is also highly involved in Japanese politics, even advising the prime minister on technological and economic matters. Mikitani is a Harvard-educated former exchange student with a second home in California, and he has plans to make Rakuten an English-speaking company despite being based in Japan.
6. Yasumitsu Shigeta (and family): $5.4 Billion
Yasumitsu Shigeta, 54, is CEO of Hikari Tsushin, which retails mobile phones at its HIT Shop chain of stores. The Tokyo-listed company also sells insurance and office equipment.
He founded the company in 1988 and in 1999 became Japan's youngest self-made billionaire, at the age of 34. But he lost most of his then $42 billion fortune in the dot com crash of 2001. Shigeta rejoined the Forbes billionaires list in 2005 when shares of his company rebounded.
7. Takahisa Takahara: $5.2 Billion
Takahisa Takahara, 57, is the CEO of Tokyo-listed Unicharm, which makes diapers, napkins, and other personal care items. More than half of the company's revenues come from other Asian countries outside Japan. Takahara is a newcomer to the list, after he and his two siblings inherited the family stake in Unicharm after his father Keiichiro died in October 2018. Keiichiro Takahara founded the company in 1961. It currently has $5.9 billion in revenues.
8. Akira Mori (and family): $4.7 Billion
Akira Mori, 82, is the chairman, co-CEO, and owner of real estate developer Mori Trust. The company owns more than 100 properties across Japan, including office building and hotels. Mori appointed his daughter, Miwako Date, as president and co-CEO of Mori Trust in 2016. That same year, the company bought two office buildings in Boston. The company said in 2016 that it will invest $7 billion in new projects over the next decade.