National / Crime & Legal

Chief of bankrupt kimono rental firm Harenohi apologizes to customers

Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

The Yokohama District Court started bankruptcy procedures Friday for a rental kimono firm that left many young women unprepared to attend their coming-of-age ceremonies earlier this month.

Yoichiro Shinozaki, president of Yokohama-based Harenohi, and his lawyer disclosed at a news conference that it had around ¥635 million in liabilities that were eventually expected to top ¥1 billion.

Of the company’s 1,600 creditors, 1,300 are clients whose estimated losses of over ¥300 million are not included in the current tally for liabilities, the lawyer said.

Shinozaki said that Harenohi’s average sales per customer of furisode (long sleeve) kimono, including both purchases and rental fees, was ¥300,000. Furisode kimono are for unmarried women. At Harenohi, buying a furisode kimono typically cost around ¥450,000.

“I’m very sorry to those who were unable to wear kimono at the Coming-of-Age ceremonies,” Shinozaki said in his first public appearance since details of the chain’s closure emerged earlier this month.

Shinozaki, 55, denied he was trying to hide, saying he repeatedly met with his lawyer to discuss the situation and had been staying at the home of an acquaintance in Kanagawa. He insisted that the company intended to offer kimono-dressing services for Coming-of-Age ceremonies until the day before it folded.

Harenohi continued to accept orders until mid-December, but Shinozaki denied that it was trying to cheat customers out of their money.

While Harenohi overstated its capital and sales for the year to September 2016 on its website, Shinozaki denied window-dressing and said it was caused by an error checking the figures.

In addition, Shinozaki categorically denied allegations that customers’ kimono stored at the company were being resold, saying he has confirmed that 1,163 kimono and accessories are at its outlets. He suggested the company would return the kimono in stages.

Harenohi saw a sharp rise in costs due to an aggressive push to open shops while sales were decreasing, according to Shinozaki.

Around April last year, Harenohi started to encounter difficulty paying its suppliers, which led to a halt in supplies, sending the company into a tailspin, he said.

Shinozaki said he is ready to cooperate with any investigation into the problem.

While the company still has unsold kimono and related accessories in stock, Shinozaki’s only personal assets are hundreds of thousands of yen in cash.

Coming-of-Age Day celebrates the attaining of adulthood and traces its roots back to rituals in ancient Japan. The tradition became a public holiday in 1948.

In recent years, the ceremonies, which usually involve speeches at municipal halls, have become an chance for young adults to return to their hometowns and villages and meet childhood friends.

Many women wear beautiful and often expensive kimono to the ceremonies, considering them a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.Harenohi’s failure to deliver kimono thus left customers deeply disappointed and stirred public anger.

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