It was six minutes after the opening bell on Feb. 4, and dozens of big-name stocks were still untraded in Tokyo. Telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp. was among those that hadn't budged. The offer price fell 5 percent, then more, and still there were no takers.

Then an order was filled: 300,000 shares at ¥6,714 — worth just over ¥2 billion, or almost $20 million. Other buyers followed, momentum built, and the stock ended the day as one of only two gainers in the Nikkei 225 stock average.

The man who made the market for SoftBank that winter morning was sitting in pajamas in a bedroom cluttered with manga. He was leaning into the glare of four computer screens and munching a carrot — something to calm his stomach.