Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s Richest Billionaire

As long as humans don’t decide to go back to their roots and start living naked, there will always be a demand for clothes. So fashionable or not, this market cannot be taken lightly. If you move in the right direction there’s a name to be made in the market and a profit margin to be earned. There are tons of billionaires out there involved in fashion world. Giorgio Armani, Bernard Arnault and similarly, Tadashi Yanai.


Tadashi Yanai is the man to thank if you’ve ever gone on a shopping binge in one of Uniqlo’s 2100 stores around the globe. He is the richest individual in Japan with a net worth of $28.1 billion thanks to his lengthy career as president of the chain’s parent company, Fast Selling.

Tadashi Yanai Beginning:

Tadashi Yanai

On February 7, 1949, Yanai was born in a mining community inside Ube City. His dad owned Men’s Shop Ogoroi Shoji, a clothing store, thus success didn’t come far away from the tree for him. Yanai’s family resided on the top floor of the building that his father built a month after Yanai was born. As the only son, he was supposed to one day assume Yanai’s place. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in Waseda University in Tokyo, where he studied in the Faculty of Political Science and Economics.


Although he is now recognized for his efforts as a leading businessman in Japan, he acknowledges that he lacked motivation when he was younger. Yanai was considerably more engaged in games like Mahjong and slingshot while other students participated in campus protests.

Yanai reluctantly agreed to start working for a company called Jusco at his father’s advice. Although he wasn’t open to using his time hawking clothing and housewares. Consequently, he left his position after less than a year of employment. The future billionaire, who was then 23 years old, went back to his Ube home and began working in his father’s store. This encounter rekindled his enthusiasm for the business.

Tadashi Yanai

When Yanai’s father left his company 2 years later, Yanai took over as president of Men’s Shop Ogoroi Shoji. By delivering products that were both attractive and approachable, he aimed to reinvent the business and appeal to a younger market. Giordano’s polo shirts, which were very popular in Hong Kong at the time, were a significant source of inspiration for him. To learn more about business, he scheduled a meeting with Jimmy Lai, the founder of Giordano International.

The Rise of Uniqlo:


By the 1980s, Yanai was more interested in casual clothing than the ties and suits that Ogoroi Shoji offered. He took the enormous risk of starting his second business endeavor, Unique Clothing Warehouse, after getting inspiration from large retail chains like Benetton and Gap. In 1984, the first shop in Hiroshima opened. Although it took some time for the shop to become well-known, Yanai employed his astute business strategy to draw crowds of people.

From Yanai’s book, the business’s spokesperson Beryl Pei-Chi Tung quotes: “The aim was to establish a store where consumers can browse conveniently and get high-quality apparel at fair pricing, exactly like buying a magazine in a bookshop”.


The subsequent four years saw the opening of hundreds more outlets, proving that the risk was well worth taking. Yanai undoubtedly had a hit on his hands. The thriving company‘s name was altered to Uniqlo in 1988. Approximately three years later, Fast Retailing Co reportedly replaced Ogoroi Shoji as the company’s name.

The launch of Uniqlo’s Harajuku location in 1998 changed the course of the retailer for the better.

The billionaire claims, “We concentrated on ecological upgrades and unified into a brand under the Uniqlo name, keeping all our items low-priced and high-quality. It was when we launched the Harajuku shop that we took a great jump.”


The fleece jackets from Uniqlo were their signature item. According to Business Insider, jackets were a big craze in Japan in 1998, with an estimated 1 in 4 individuals owning one. Fast Selling is now the most financially valued clothes retailer in the world, Quartz reports, having outperformed Zara’s parent company Inditex by $105.6 billion.



Also read about: 10 Etiquette Tips You Need To Know Before Visiting Japan

Write a comment