Ikebukuro’s two huge department stores, Tobu and Seibu, vie constantly to be the biggest and best; if one adds extra floor-space, then the other follows soon after and each spurns the rival’s credit card. Owned by two half-brothers, this is a sibling rivalry on a grand scale, but their simmering hatred for each other is not altogether surprising. Tsutsumi Yoshiaki, the younger brother, is the brusque, famously stingy son of a successful post-war property developer and politician. Despite being illegitimate, Yoshiaki was also the favourite and inherited most of the family business, building it into one of Japan’s biggest empires, with over sixty hotels, thirty ski resorts and thirty golf courses, let alone the Tobu department stores and railway companies. Though profits have dipped in recent years, Yosiaki still stands high among the world’s wealthiest business tycoons. The legitimate son, Tsutsumi Seiji, on the other hand, inherited the trading name, Seibu, and a few lacklustre department stores from his father, but little else. It’s not clear exactly why he was disinherited, but the end-result was a cold determination to give his brother some serious competition. A cultured man, who is a prize-winning poet and generous sponsor of the arts, Seji fought back with the upmarket Seibu stores and the Saison Group, a hotel, railway and finance empire which hasn’t quite managed to outshine Tobu-yet.
Lesley Downer (1995), The Brothers: the hidden world of Japan’s richest family. England, Random House
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