Japan is home to around 37,550 enterprises that have operated for over a century. The country’s largest stock exchange, the Tokyo Stock Exchange, featured 589 companies 100 years or older in its former First Section, used until 2022. This easily surpassed the number of businesses of that age found in any other exchange in the world. Family firms accounted for 51% of First Section’s listed businesses.
The country’s oldest listed firm is Tokyo’s family-owned construction company, Matsui Kensetsu, which was founded in 1586. Tokyo hosts the top 5 oldest listed companies on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, all of which have been active for at least 200 years longer than the exchange itself. In Japan, businesses at least 100 years old are known as ‘shinise’ meaning ‘old shop’, the vast majority of which are family firms.
Japanese entrepreneurship and the tradition of passing companies down to descendants rather than merely seeking profits have been partly credited for the country’s abundance of long-standing business entities. Cultural proclivities may also account for the considerable success that many of Japan’s largest family businesses have built.
Here are the 10 Largest Family Businesses in Tokyo by revenue:
10. Pasona Group
Owning/Controlling Family: Nambu
Annual Revenue: $2.6 Billion
After establishing the company’s first location, Yasuyuki Nambu franchised his staffing firm, known then as Temporary Center Inc., across parts of Japan. The company changed its name to Pasona Inc. in 1993 and grew its operations through acquisitions in the staffing services space. Pasona employs over 23,000 and maintains global offices in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the United States. Company founder Yasuyuki Nambu serves as Group CEO and Chairman.
Recruiting and Human Resources services firm, Pasona Group is one of Japan’s largest staffing companies. The firm operates internationally through its 66 subsidiaries and 9 affiliates.
9. Hikari Tsushin, Inc.
Owning/Controlling Family: Shigeta
Annual Revenue: $4.5 Billion
Founded by Yasumitsu Shigeta, Hikari Tsushin, Inc. initially generated its revenue from mobile phone and carrier subscription sales sold through the company’s chain of Hit Shop stores. Following the dot-com bubble in 2000, the firm pivoted to a holding company structure to operate its group of around 13 companies whose activities span Telecommunications, Office Automation Equipment, Corporate Insurance, Subscription Agency Communication Services, and Mobile Communication Services. Yasumitsu Shigeta Chairs the company he started in 1988.
8. Sundrug Co. Ltd.
Owning/Controlling Family: Tada
Annual Revenue: $5.2 Billion
Sundrug Co. Ltd. operates 783 drug stores and 560 subsidiary discount store locations across Japan. The company’s discount store segment primarily sells household goods and foods, while its drug store division’s focus is pharmaceutical products and cosmetics. Sundrug’s network of stores operates in locations that include Osaka, Nagano, Tokyo, Hyogo, Kyoto, Ishikawa, and Aomori. Sundrug funder Yukimasa Tada died in 2001 leaving the business to his sons Naoki and Takashi Tada who sit on the company’s board. The brothers also operate a shopping mall firm near Tokyo called Forest.
7. Bic Camera Inc.
Owning/Controlling Family: Arai
Annual Revenue: $5.6 Billion
One of Japan’s largest electronics and appliances retailers, Bic Camera Inc. originally specialised in discount camera sales when company founder, Ryuji Arai, opened its first location. The name “Bic” was selected for its meaning of “big” in Balinese slang.
Bic Camera expanded its product offerings to include an array of home furnishings and appliances, such as personal computers, sporting equipment, bedding, bicycles, and toys. The company operates 60 locations across Japan, including the group’s Bic Style Apple premium reseller stores. Bic also owns the independent satellite broadcasting station, Nippon BS Broadcasting Corporation.
6. Otsuka Corporation
Owning/Controlling Family: Otsuka
Annual Revenue: $6.6 Billion
Japan’s largest-scale information technologies management company, Otsuka Corp. provides system integration products and services, including the sale of computers, copiers, communication equipment, and software. Otsuka Corp also offers supplies, maintenance, and educational support through its group of subsidiaries. The company serves a diverse corporate customer base in a variety of business areas from its operation hubs in Tokyo, Sendai, Sapporo, Kanagawa and Utsunomiya. Yuji Otsuka is President and chief executive officer of the company his father, Minoru Otsuka, founded.
5. Open House Group
Owning/Controlling Family: Arai
Annual Revenue: $6.9 Billion
Founded in 1997 by Masaaki Arai, the Open House Group began as a real estate agency specialising in locating homes for clients in desirable areas of Tokyo. The group transitioned into a fully integrated property developer in 2001, with in-house construction and sales systems. Open House opened its first US location in 2010, and the company went public in 2013.
The group helps around 7,000 customers purchase homes annually and has sold over 60,000 homes in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone. In the US, the company primarily focuses on real estate markets in Texas, Georgia, and Los Angeles. Masaaki Arai remains the company’s president and CEO.
4. Yamazaki Baking Co. Ltd
Owning/Controlling Family: Iijima
Annual Revenue: $7.6 Billion
The world’s leading bread-baking corporation, and Japan’s largest baker, Yamazaki Baking Co. Ltd. was founded by Tojuro Iijima and is led today by third-generation family member, Nobuhiro Iijima.
Yamazaki develops over 1,000 new bread products annually in addition to producing its extensive list of food items sold domestically and internationally. The company’s overseas expansion began in 1981 with its Hong Kong fresh bakery. In 1984, Yamazaki established its Thailand location, followed by Taiwan Yamazaki in 1987. In 2016, Yamazaki acquired US bagel maker and distributor Bakewise Brands, adding to the company’s line-up of bread, sweet buns, Japanese-style confectionery, and Western-style confectionery products.
Yamazaki operates over 109,000 locations globally. Family members, Sachihiko Iijima and Mikio Iijima serve on the Board as vice presidents along with Nobuhiro Iijima as the company’s president.
3. Yazaki Corporation
Owning/Controlling Family: Yazaki
Annual Revenue: $12.5 Billion
Originally a wire harness manufacturer for automobiles, today, Yazaki Corporation is a leading supplier of vehicle power and data solutions to the automotive industry. The company produces gas equipment, air conditioning & solar-heat equipment, agriculture equipment, automotive parts, and electric wiring for instrumentation equipment. Yazaki’s group of 141 companies operate in a global network of 45 countries and regions with a workforce of more than 235,000. Riku Yazaki leads the company his grandfather, Sadami Yazaki, founded as president and representative director of Yazaki Corporation.
2. Suntory Holdings Ltd.
Owning/Controlling Family: Saji
Annual Revenue: $20.2 Billion
Suntory Holdings Ltd. is a global leader in consumer-packaged goods, producing and distributing around 55 brands in its diverse portfolio of premium spirits, beer, wine, and wellness products. Founder Shinjiro Torii, began his business as a wine producer and dealer. He eventually introduced many Western-style liquors to the Japanese marketplace, including the company’s signature product, Suntory Whisky Kakubin — created by Shinjiro Torii in 1937.
Shinjiro Torii’s grandson, Nobutada Saji, chairs Suntory, while his other grandson, Shingo Torii, represents the family’s third generation of master blenders. Shingo Torii is largely credited for elevating Suntory’s homegrown whisky products to the global stage. The group is the world’s third-largest distiller, with 270 companies across Europe, Japan, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
1. Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd
Owning/Controlling Family: Idemitsu
Annual Revenue: $66 Billion
Visionary founder, Sazo Idemitsu, chose oil as his firm’s main trading commodity, despite the dominance of coal as an energy source in Japan at the time. Following the Second World War, Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd would be named 1 of the 10 primary oil distributors permitted to operate through Pacific coast oil refineries in 1949. In the decades that followed, Idemitsu Kosan would grow its oil, petroleum, and petrochemicals business internationally, eventually establishing a US office in 1955 and its first Middle East location in 1974.
Today, Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd engages through its five business units: petroleum, basic chemicals, functional materials, power, and renewable energy. The company maintains a crude oil processing capacity of 945,000 barrels a day and operates 6,100 automotive service centres across Japan. Idemitsu Kosan’s lubrication segment sells 1.2 million kilolitres of lubricant annually.
The grandson of Idemitsu founder, Masakazu Idemitsu, is a major stakeholder in the company and serves as one of its directors.