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Minority Shareholders, Chapter 34: Shino's Secret Room

Chatting in her secret room, Shino learns whether a family business can be just for pleasure in Chapter 34 of Shin Ushijima's novel, Minority Shareholders.



In this chapter of Minority Shareholders, I continue the story of Norio Takano. He is not a specific person; he is a character created for my book out of some high rollers who had existed during the bubble period.

As a young lawyer, I witnessed the generation of enormous wealth from scratch. A minority shareholder of a family company brought an action to the court and succeeded in taking hundreds and thousands of yen. I saw it firsthand. Ten years after the bubble popped, I started work related to corporate governance. In this book, my fictional characters tell the story of problems that persist in joint-stock corporations. What is an organization called a company? What if Norio Takano were reborn in this era?

This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual characters or organizations is entirely coincidental and unintentional. ー Shin Ushijima

Read earlier chapters of the series.

Minority Shareholders
Book cover, "Minority Shareholders" by Shin Ushijima.

CHAPTER 34: Shino's Secret Room

Continuing from Chapter 33: Norio Takano and Shino Otsu were in Akasaka enjoying tea in Shino's secret room when she made an intimate gesture. Thinking that he was safe because of age and intoxication, Takano reached out to Shino and held her tight in his arms. He pulled back a little from the hug and tried kissing her on the lips. Shino kept her eyes closed.

{Ah, here is a girl of fifteen…a girl who welcomes a man for the first time.}

They walked hand in hand with each other to the adjoining room and fell onto the bed. Takano was under Shino, finding the ceiling light dazzling. 

"Dim the light, please." Shino said to Takano.

"Where is the switch?" asked Takano, thinking the situation quite funny.

"Sorry, of course, you don't know where it is." Shino sat up and instantly twisted the switch on the bedside. "I'm sorry," she said.


Her words turned on Takano. {How attentive and thoughtful she is!} A woman's body including her hidden parts was no longer intriguing to Takano. But he believed that what made a woman's body special was the mind concealed within. 

{It doesn't matter whether the breasts are big or small. A woman special to me has a pair of breasts. I cannot help clinging to that point, but regardless of the size, they are fine as they are. They belong to a woman with an irreplaceable mind, so they become irreplaceable breasts for the man. The mind is the most attractive part of a person and it is that mind that binds a man and a woman.} It was Takano's belief.

Takano failed to achieve an erection. He rose up, wearing a poker face.

When Nature Needs Help

"Is anything the matter?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, but I have to answer the call of nature."

"Huh, it's on your left side by the front door. Take your time."

When he entered the living room, he took a pill case out of the left pocket of his jacket. Although he had got the tablet from a friend, he had not used it yet.

He did not know where he could get water. But he had no choice but to cup water in his hands from the tap attached to the basin of the toilet's water tank and drink it. He had not taken in water other than mineral water for a long time, let alone the water used for washing hands above the toilet. Only once had he drunk it back in the day when he had suffered a hangover in his youth.

When he returned to the bed, he thought he had to buy time because he had been told that it would take the pill a while to take effect. Perhaps, it would take thirty minutes or one hour…it seemed long…too long.

"Does this apartment belong to your company, too?"


"Yes, but why?"

"The outside director should work 24/7."

"Really. Then, Mr Outside Director, what do you think of the owner chairperson who spends a night with a man in an apartment in the name of the company and covers the service charge, cleaning expenses, furniture, and everything but the kitchen sink under a company expense?" Shino said with an impish smile on her face.

"Yes, the mix of private and public is too much to tolerate. So I, the outside director, pleading guilty to the scandal as an accomplice, will immediately resign," Takano said in a joking manner.

Narcissism In a Kiss 

"No! Please rest assured. I will buy this room from the company on my own tomorrow, of course, at the market price. I will not allow you to resign because I have a lot to talk to you about the minority shareholders," said Shino, followed by a lip-to-lip kiss to Takano lying supine.

"So soft," she uttered in a satisfied voice and laid herself next to Takano.

Takano thought: {I wonder from how many experiences this woman has deduced the statistical conclusion that my lips are soft. Anyway, women are all similar, yet what endears her to me is something that is subtly different and special that I can see in her. After all, it may boil down to my narcissism. Man and woman…no matter how much they love each other, are destined to leave this world without being able to understand each other.}

On that day, as it turned out, Takano could not make love to Shino.

Takano thought: {I expected to feel oneness with her like the sun sinking into the sea. In my youth, it had happened to me a good many times. I had never doubted that the sun is to rise infinitely, even after it sets on the sea. Even in one day, it used to rise a number of times. I wonder how many times it has risen since then. But today it didn't.} 

Takano slipped into the backseat of the car, in which his chauffeur had been waiting for his return, and settled back. He recalled the time that he had spent with Shino a little while earlier. 


The Ghost of Sakujiro Mitsuda

{Nothing has happened between us, so I can come home without worrying about anything. If I see Eiko, I could hug her. It's a relief. What I don't understand is why it is that she displays such a positive attitude towards me. A kind of Stockholm syndrome? It could be. 

{It could be said that my incorporated association is responsible for making her husbandless. What is worse, she was forced to face the fact that her husband had been a totally different person from the one she thought he was. It was me who pulled the trigger. 

{No, I guess it was Sakujiro Mitsuda who caused all these problems. The man of forty-eight had made a girl of twenty a woman; the man who had generously given the company to her, though she had run off with another man and had the chutzpah to return to him. 

{Do I resemble Sakujiro? It makes no sense. People, however, tend to create an illusion of some kind when they meet a person who looks and sounds like someone they know. A replica, am I?}

Shino and Takano made it a rule to have dinner together once a week. Takano would sometimes name a restaurant, and Shino would sometimes find a good restaurant. Takano always footed the bill. After the meal, they would routinely make their way to the condominium in Akasaka Shinzaka. 

Escaping the Lion's Den

When Takano happened to have a prior appointment for dinner, Shino would often wait for him at the condominium. Sometimes Shino would make a light meal for him. Anyway, when they met, Takano would not use any virility drug. They would kiss on the lips, embrace one another, and touch each other's hands, but their relationship never developed further. When Takano resolved not to make a move on her, Shino took the hint and never made the first move.

Takano could not forget the sense of liberation he had felt in the car on his way back that night. The excitation of escaping from the lion's den and coming home without committing any sins[…] He had felt it well up in him more and more as his car was nearing home. 

{Whoof, I almost fell into the trap. If I had started a sexual relationship with Shino, I would be obligated to meet her again. If that were the case, in the end, I would develop unwarranted resentment against her, thinking that she is the one to disturb the calmness of my life. How self-centered a man I am! 

{Well, I have been that kind of guy since God knows when. It's a matter of what I make a priority in my life. Now I can sort out all my feelings that way. That means my youthfulness has completely disappeared. When I was young, I could hardly contain myself.}

Takano could not fathom his own feelings. {Have I finally tamed the strong lust of the flesh inside myself? No, it has probably just withered away with age. I remember Mr Taichi Yamada (a screenwriter) saying, "At age seventy, I feel so liberated, having broken free from the world where a besetting sex drive always occupied my mind."


Friends Chatting Over Tea

Whatever, it doesn't hurt to have a friend with whom I only enjoy chatting over tea. It is a role suitable for a man who is an outside director. In time, our relationship may change. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. 

Maybe, she doesn't have that strong a desire to have a sexual relationship with me.

What is important for her is to make sure that I am the type of man she can lean on.

I guess that is the last resort for the owner president who had regarded her husband as nothing but a servant. The woman believed that she could keep the man attracted to her by catering to his demands. She gave in to his every demand. But it may have occurred to her that if a man is no longer capable of copulating it would be so much the better.}

While Takano was indulging himself in vagrant thoughts, Shino appeared, wearing a cotton dress printed all over with small flowers, holding a Negoro-lacquered tray with both hands.

"Wow, beautiful flower dances. The floral pattern is in fashion lately, isn't it?"

"Thank you. I'm really delighted by your words. Today, I bought tea called '秋津島' (Akitsushima) from 'Chachanoma.'"

On the table sat a Watada-style green Tokoname kyusu teapot and two teacups with a pressed floral design as though cuddling up to each other. Shino, sitting in a chair, tilted the tea pot with both hands.

Seeing Chocolate Traps

"Do you know the most delicious chocolate in Tokyo?" Shino asked with a smile.

"Umm…'La Maison du Chocolat,' no?"


"It's good to hear that there's something I know that you don't. It's a pâtisserie called 'La Vie Douce.' It's located in an area named Aizumicho."

Takano knew the pâtisserie. His wife, Eiko, was well-acquainted with Mr Shin Horie, the owner-chef, and she would often choose chocolate for gifts from the shop. But Takano did not mention it.

Shino seemed to be very pleased praising the pâtisserie that Takano did not know and was being very talkative. "The owner-chef is called Mr Horie. He is very good-looking and cool. I love the Earl Grey and Grand Cacao they sell there."

"La vie douce means 'a sweet life,' right? Isn't that an Italian movie directed by Fellini?"

"No, it's different. The movie is called 'La Dolce Vita.'"

"Ah, it's Italian, not French."

"In that pâtisserie, there's a nice counter at the back of the shop, and when you are seated, you can see people walking along the street through the window right under your nose."


"I want to go there with you. We can sit down side by side, watch, and be watched by the people walking outside."

Takano felt a pang in his heart. He had sat at that counter with Eiko before. On that occasion, they had talked about a condominium with an interesting design standing just across from the pâtisserie.


"Yes, someday," Takano gave a dusty answer. 

"I know you're busy. But if we happen to have a chance, please," Shino said and changed topics.

What to Do for Minority Shareholders

"Since I met you before, I've been thinking about what I can do for the minority shareholders. My stake is 51%, and the minority shareholders own a 49% stake altogether. Our assets are worth ¥10 billion ($67.65 million USD) at present value, and the annual net income amounts to ¥200 million ($1.35 million USD). The dividends to be paid have been set at ¥10 million a year for a long time. What do you suggest I do?"

"Given the discounted cash flow, the total value of Mukoujima Corporation is about ¥5 billion. Since it's a real estate leasing company, it is quite natural that the profitability doesn't match the value of the assets. You can either distribute more dividends or buy back their shares."

"To be honest, I don't want to buy back their shares. I don't have that much cash. Then I will have to sell some of my buildings, but I'm disinclined to pay corporate income tax."

"Have I told you about a shop selling dango (rice dumplings)?"

"Eh, 'Mame'?"

"No, no, not Mame. It's a shop that has been selling dango for generations. It's loved by people in the neighborhood, but there are also many people who come by train all the way to the shop to buy dango. The taste is good. The red bean paste is irresistible. 

"In spring, the flavor of mugwort is delightful. It's a small shop, but it does a good turn to society. The owner says that he's not working for money and feels more than happy when praised by his customers. He says, 'No other dango can compare to this dango. Eating this will make us live longer.'"

"Oh…where is it? Please tell me. I want to eat that dango."


"So do I. It's in Ginza."

Small House in the Middle of Ginza

"Ok, let's go down to the shop right now."

"We can't. It's only in Ginza in my head."

"What do you mean?"

"It's a fictitious example of an unlisted company or a family company I created. It's located along Hanatsubaki Street in Ginza on a small plot of leased land of fifteen tsubo (49.5㎡). On that plot stands a two-story house with a shop. 

"It's a shop made of wood and plaster, which was a popular style of building in the past. It faces a canyon of buildings and looks like a comb with one tooth missing. The price of the land is close to ¥1.5 billion."

"Yes, it seems like shops like that are still found in Ginza." 

"In Ginza, nowadays, the rent of the shops on the street level, I mean, on the first floor, is outrageously high. Some shops are charged ¥400,000 per tsubo per month."

"So, that dango shop makes dango on land worth ¥1.5 billion. The dango must be expensive, isn't it?"

"No, the dango from the shop is not expensive, only ¥100 a stick."


"Really, that cheap?"

"You have that notion because you are desensitized to the price of land in the city center."

Lessons of a Dango Shop

"The owner says, 'There were lots of similar shops in my neighborhood when my grandfather started the shop. There were shops selling clogs and electric appliances. All the houses doubled as a store, and we had very good relationships. 

'But after the war ended, things gradually changed along with the so-called economic growth. And then the bubble hit Japan, and all the other shops around mine looked as though they had been destroyed by carpet bombing. Nobody had done anything wrong. 

'As for me, I am such a pighead, and fortunately, my son says he is going to take over the business of the shop. Me? I don't need much money to live alone with my old lady. So, I'm going to leave almost everything to the company. In recent years, the corporate income tax has decreased, and I really appreciate it.'"

"Hmm…so heartwarming, isn't it?" said Shino.

Continues in: Minority Shareholders, Chapter 35: Tale of the Dango Shop Family


Minority Shareholders
Shin Ushijima, Esquire

Minority Shareholders is a work of fiction and any similarity to real characters, companies and cases is purely coincidental and unintentional. Sign up to join our mailing list and look for the next chapter every Saturday on JAPAN Forward.

Author: Shin Ushijima

The founding partner of Ushijima & Partners, lawyer Shin Ushijima has an enormous wealth of experience in international transactions, mergers, and acquisitions, dispute resolution, system development, anti-monopoly law, labor, and tax law. Concurrently, he heads an NPO called the "Japan Corporate Governance Network." And in his leisure moments, he writes fiction. Additional details on Shin Ushijima's career, awards, publications, and more are available at his website: Ushijima & Partners, Attorneys-at-Law.



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