Legacy Content

Land of the Rising Mickey
Page 1 of 2

by Marc Borrelli (archives)
June 11, 2001
In this latest installment of Land of the Rising Mickey, Marc Borrelli continues his series on the earliest days of Tokyo Disneyland history with the story of Fujio - a man who's underhanded dealings nearly prevented the park's creation.

Before I embark on the sordid tale of Fujio, I'd like to mention something about Japanese names.

Japanese names are written using Kanji script. Of the four Japanese scripts, Kanji is the one most directly based on Chinese characters. In fact, many Kanji are taken unchanged from the original Chinese script. There are at least 50,000 kanji characters. Most have at least two pronunciations.

About 3000 of them are in common use in Japan, but that doesn't mean the average Japanese person knows all of them. In writings, kanji characters are sometimes accompanied by small hiragana characters which indicate their phonetic pronunciation... again, sometimes.

As it relates to names, approximately half of the above mentioned 50,000 kanji are used for personal and place names. Family names are usually common enough to not be a problem, but given names are another story. They're far more unique and their pronunciations are really anyone's guess. (Japanese readers will often just make something up when reading them.)

Consequently, in cases where I can not be absolutely sure of the pronunciation of an individuals given name I will use only his or her family name.

The multiple pronunciations of Kanji are also a problem, one that showed itself at the end of my previous column. I referred to the sand bank at Urayasu as Dai-sankaku. The first kanji in the name can be pronounced "dai" or "o". I've since learned that, in this case, it's "o".

In conclusion, I would like to say - Kanji is not my friend.

The Fishermen
Part 2 - The Crazy Uncle of Tokyo Disneyland
Click here if you missed Part One

The fisherman at Urayasu held all the cards. They could stop the land reclamation, and Kawasaki Chiharo's dream of a Tokyo Disneyland, dead in its tracks. They held political power with their potential ability to turn public opinion against the land reclamation, but, even more importantly, they owned the fishing rights to O-sankaku, the area of sea which OLC intended to turn into land. OLC couldn't proceed without those rights in their possession.

But first there was another obstacle to overcome - Fugio.

Takahashi Masatomo is mentioned time after time as the man who's job it was to negotiate with the Urayasu fishermen, but it's not as commonly reported that he wasn't the first. Fujio was.

He was a real estate broker, the president of Japan Plastic, the manager of a small hotel, and a lot of other things, or so he said. One thing that is known without a doubt is that he and a Keisei Railway executive were OLC's first two executive directors, ranking directly under its first president, Kawasaki Chiharo.

Fugio and Kawasaki had something very important in common. They both wanted to build a park on the yet to be created land at Urayasu... or so it seemed.

When Fujio first saw the shallow sand bank at O-sankaku he saw opportunity. It was 1957 and the process of land reclamation was continuing at a steady pace along the shore of Tokyo Bay. The nearby city of Funabashi had recently undergone a significant expansion.

Fugio set his sights on getting ahold of O-sankaku.  He began talking to Chiba's politicians, telling them he wanted to build the largest amusement park in Japan there... but Fujio said a lot of things.

After the events of 1958, he had his chance. Fujio wasn't a rich man, he just acted like one. The process of purchasing O-sankaku and reclaiming Tokyo Bay would require real money, to say the least. But he knew someone with real money... and more.

His name was Tanzawa. He was a prominent financier and the president of Asahi Tochi-kogyo (a major real estate development company). He had extensive experience in land reclamation and was heavily involved the reclamations at Funabashi. There he also established a large scale recreation facility, Funabashi Health Center, on a portion of the new land. Consequently, he was also well aquatinted with Chiba's politicians.

Tanzawa's work at Funabashi had made him a lot of money and he had visions of repeating that success. When Fujio told him about his desire to purchase and reclaim O-sankaku, he joined him in the effort.

Tanzawa then approached an old friend about the prospective project... the president of Keisei Railway - Kawasaki Chiharo.

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