Controversy over whether an integrated resort (IR) in Yokohama should be allowed is increasing and one man thinks preventing the project is worth dying over. The fact that he holds substantial influence over the local political scene means that his words carry more weight. However, threatening to commit seppuku if the IR comes to life is probably a little over the top.
No Love for IRs in Yokohama
When Yokohama’s name first came up as a possible host for an IR, there wasn’t much in the way of public dissent. However, over the past year, opposition to the project has steadily climbed and is now at a deafening roar. According to Inside Asian Gaming, the head of the Yokohama Port Harbor Resort Association (PHRA) is adamant that there is no way in hell an IR is going to be built while he’s around, and he’s willing to stake his life on it.
90-year-old Yukio Fujiki is the chairman of the PHRA, as well as the chairman and managing director of two important companies, Fujiki Transportation & Stevedoring and Yokohama FM Broadcasting. With the port area being selected as the potential site for an IR, Fujiki is front and center of the project’s opposition and his stature causes many to sit up and take notice.
The outspoken nonagenarian said at a press conference a couple of days ago, “The point is that no matter who becomes mayor, I will not let them build an IR in the port. However, if you want to build a tiny [casino] in a far, far off corner on the very edge of Yokohama, then fine. There are many people [who support casinos], betting their lives, but I will not allow a casino in Yokohama. I will never allow it. If a casino happens, I will commit seppuku and die on its opening day.”
Yokohama Struggles to Find Support for IR
Yokohama is on the verge of selecting a new mayor, with the elections coming August 22, and there have been several candidates to throw their names in the hat, most of which side with Fujiki. The incumbent mayor, Fumiko Hayashi, supports the project and recently announced that she will fight for another term. However, Fujiki is going to do whatever he can to prevent her from serving another term, referring to her as a “robot” and a “marionette” of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
In local circles, Fujiki is considered the “Don of Yokohama,” and some even refer to him as the Don, although not completely in the same sense as Don Corleone from The Godfather. However, the moniker is a strong reflection of the pull he has in the local community and the impact his words have on political decisions. Thrusting oneself on a sword might be an exaggerated way to prove a point, but Fujiki is determined to get his way. As far as who will win the mayoral election, the Don of Yokohama already knows. He said during the press conference, “Hachiro (Okonogi) will win the election. It must be Hachiro who wins.” Okonogi is the former Chairman of the National Safety Commission and, although he’s a member of the LDP, he has already vowed to stop any talk about an IR in Yokohama due to the overwhelming opposition.