Only two speak at ‘open’ Takashimaya meeting

OSAKA — Takashimaya Co., tainted by a scandal involving alleged payoffs to a gangster, said May 22 at its annual shareholders’ meeting that it would be more open and transparent.

How much so remained to be seen, however, as the only two shareholders who managed to query management of the major department store chain were a “sokaiya” exortionist and a lawyer who has sued Takashimaya executives over the firm’s payoffs to racketeers. Takashimaya President Tatsuro Tanaka apologized before 454 shareholders over the alleged payoffs by executives to the gangster — who provided “insurance” that shareholders’ meetings would go off without incident — in violation of the commercial law.

Tanaka admitted that former President Hiroshi Hidaka, who stepped down last year after the payoffs came to light, was acquainted with gang boss Isao Nishiura. But he continued to deny that Hidaka was directly involved in giving the cash. Answering a question from a shareholder, Tanaka also said the firm still plans to offer Hidaka a “retirement reward,” although it will be less than the normal rate.