The Partial Retirement of the “Don of Yokohama”

The “Don of Yokohama” has made a big move, but it may take some weeks or months to determine exactly what it signifies.

Yukio Fujiki has stepped down from his main business position as chairman of the Yokohama Harbor Transport Association, a powerful office upon which he has held an iron grip for 23 years.

“I will be 90 years old in August. I would like to withdraw and make room for a new system,” he explained.

The reigns of power has not slipped too far from his hands, however, as his successor in the office will be his eldest son, Kota Fujiki, and the old man will remain attached to the organization as an official adviser.

Both the political and the media worlds have taken notice, since for several years this “Don of Yokohama” has been the most influential single voice struggling against the IR development project at Yamashita Pier.

Fujiki has repeatedly expressed his opposition in very emphatic terms. A sample of his past public comments would be:

—“Gambling becomes a habit. It is said that people even commit suicide around overseas casinos. I think the term ‘gambling addiction’ is itself too pretty a term. It truly should be called a tragedy.”

—“Our city will fall into decline if we allow the serious malady of addiction to flourish just for the sake of the money of foreign businesses… No matter how much money they dangle before our eyes, building a casino is unacceptable.”

—“Although our national government claims that MICE facilities are not profitable without a casino, even from the perspective of regional economic development, there is absolutely no need for a casino in Yokohama.”

—“Operating an IR casino over the objections of an unpersuaded public is totally unacceptable.”

—“This area is sacred land to the people of the harbor like us, so don’t turn it into a gambling den… What we must do is to protect Yamashita Pier. My wish is to leave behind a beautiful port for the children of the future.”

Fujiki has thus left no doubt that he is intensely opposed to IR development, so much so that in April 2019 he created a new organization whose primary purpose is to propose a development scheme for Yamashita Pier that resembles an IR, but would not include a casino.

This latter organization—Yokohama Harbor Resort Association—has notably been left off the list of offices that Fujiki is currently vacating. He intends to continue to guide this particular association past his 90th birthday.

The interpretation of the Kanagawa Shinbun, therefore, is that Fujiki’s retirement is in large part meant to clear the decks so that he can concentrate his efforts more fully upon killing the city’s IR development plan.

On the other hand, at his press conference announcing his retirement, he did make the following, somewhat cryptic comment: “I have finished transmitting all of my thoughts about the casino. With the data that is now available, it is up to each individual to decide whether or not there should be one.”

Despite his great influence in the local community, Fujiki was unable to head off Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi’s announcement last year on making an IR bid. She made the decision to try to override his opposition, as indeed she is trying to override the opposition of a large majority of the city’s residents.

And while the name appears in the local newspapers in this context much less frequently, some analysts believe that there is a silent, pro-IR guiding hand of another “don” of Yokohama who is far more powerful than even Yukio Fujiki—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. (AGB Nippon)