The palatial Marugen Mansion is sited on a beautiful mountainside with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, less than two hours from Tokyo. One of many Marugen buildings, it’s owned by industrialist Genjiro Kawamoto. He used the mansion to store works of art.
Unscrupulous real-estate magnate
Kawamoto is a billionaire who made his fortune renting out buildings, making vast profits as property prices soared at a time of economic boom.
At the height of his career, Kawamoto owned up to 60 buildings in Ginza, Atami and Kokura (his hometown). He was nicknamed “the construction king of Ginza”. Although a billionaire, he was also known for his stinginess and extreme reluctance to spend anything on the maintenance and management of his properties.
Most of the Marugen properties were built between the 1960s and 1980s, when seismic standards were not yet in effect. The buildings have aged without being upgraded, tenants have left, some have been sold or demolished.
Kuwamoto also seemed unusually keen on saving money, especially on his taxes. His greed finally got the better of him.
Fall of the miserly billionaire
In 2013, he was arrested by the Tokyo prosecutor’s office for concealing 2.8 billion yen from the authorities, evading more than 800 million yen in taxes. During the trial he denied all the charges, claiming: “It’s just bullshit.”
In 2016, he was convicted, along with the Marugen company as a legal entity, for violating the Fire Services Act by failing to comply with the order to upgrade fire protection systems in two buildings in Kitakyushu city.
In 2018, Kuwamoto was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 240 million yen. He appealed, the trial was prolonged, but finally in January 2021 the Supreme Court rejected his appeal. Now 88, he will have to serve his prison sentence.
There are still four Marugen buildings in Atami, numbered 58 to 61. The latter is the billionaire’s “art warehouse”. As in a museum, you’ll find many collectables: statues, paintings, high-end furniture.
The buildings have been securely locked to deter thieves as well as … curious kids. ????
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