Chapter Eleven — The Entrepreneur, Oshiro Gakuto

A quarter of a century ago, in the year 2000, I was thinking that CDs would eventually no longer sell. MP3s had begun to emerge, and I thought, “We’ll soon be in an era when you can’t sell CDs.” I thought that if we didn’t create a business foundation, then in the near future an era would surely come when musicians couldn’t earn a living, and began doing lots of things.

Karaoke Boxes, Bars, Ramen Shops and Other Dining Establishments

Out of the things I started doing, real estate had the highest profit rate. It’s easy to make a big profit in real estate. I was most suited to that. Most of my big profits came from real estate investments.

Just trying to create niche jobs and places my friends could work, I opened karaoke boxes, bars, and dining establishments. I found this out when I tried it, but restaurants are hard. When you increase your profits, there’s a limit to how much you can do it with one restaurant. There are surprisingly few ways to increase profit without opening more restaurants. That’s okay if you’re able to seriously think about franchising or being listed on the stock market, but you’ve really got to devote yourself to it. I felt that when I was personally involved in the restaurant business, I wasn’t able to balance it with my main work. I put effort into several restaurant businesses, including ramen shops and yakiniku restaurants, but they just took too much work. There weren’t enough hands on deck, and if you hired more people, the profit rate would rapidly drop. Dealing in fresh food was also risky. 

After a while I changed direction and decided to leave everything to a subsidiary. I didn’t do things directly, just made suggestions like, “How about doing something like this?” and the younger guys would implement it. I changed to an investment base, and while I do conduct in-person checks of the business, I pulled back completely from the day-to-day operations.

Celebrities’ Restaurants Vanish Within Two Years

I decided not to put the name GACKT on my restaurants. I felt that celebrities’ restaurants all disappear within two years. I always advised them, “If you don’t base it on the fundamental principles of the restaurant business, then you won’t make a living.” I made them run it as their own business, not mine. The ramen shops spread beyond Shinjuku. It was the Shinjuku location that was once the subject of a weekly magazine article. Gossip spread. After that, I decided that I would never put my name out there or show my face in the shop. I thought it would get easier the more I did it, but the restaurant business is really hard. I truly respect those who are succeeding in the restaurant business. I have friends and mentors who have opened more locations and been listed on the stock market, but that’s a really impressive feat. I feel their pain just watching. Most people who are doing well in the restaurant business have built their business while shouldering indefinite risk. I can describe it in no other word but “amazing”.

When operating restaurants, I had to focus on profit rate more than personal sentiment, but I created one place, a bar called “Tamaly Bar”¹ where I didn’t think about profit rate at all. That was a hobby restaurant I made for those I considered family. It was a place that only my family could get together and use. The concept was disregarding profit and only aiming for people to enjoy it. I operated it for three years, and ended up closing it after that, but the younger people talked to me about opening it up to the fans, and so for two years only it was open for my fans. I felt some reluctance to put my name on it, but in the end I caved to their strong desire.

From My 40s I Moved From Business To Investing

I still have investments in restaurants. Not company investments, but personal investments. Not just in Japan. So now I can say that my work is only things that don’t involve operating businesses, what you’d call funding and investing. I get my profits from that. When I reached my 40s, I started decreasing my involvement in business operations. I don’t help at all. I stopped my involvement in the operations, even if I did provide ideas.

Investment decisions are all my own responsibility, even if they’re wrong or they fail. If I’m involved in the business, I end up working hard on it and it consumes more of my time than necessary. Investing is more efficient for me now. 

Parents should educate their children about having a sense for money and a consciousness of work starting when they’re young. There are too few places in Japan where children can learn lessons about earning money and growing it while they’re young.

I think that housewives who cook every day are wonderful, but there are many households where the children and even the husband aren’t conscious of and don’t appreciate that their mother/wife is engaged in that as a job.

If the meaning of work and the importance of handling money are taught at home, when parents give children their allowances, it will be clearly communicated to them that they receive their allowances because studying is a child’s job.

If you want to teach them about using money, then you should begin with the fact that it always takes money to eat. Within the limits of what they can afford with their allowance, write a menu and tell them, “Today’s course costs this much.” When they finish eating they pay their mother. It’s to make the children realize that their mother is working. More than anything else, it will make them grateful. It’s because they take it for granted that they stop feeling thankful. If Mom doesn’t want to cook, she can say, “We’re closed today.” Sometimes they’ll complain about the food. Tell them, “If you don’t want to eat it, then go somewhere else.”

Several Hundred Million Yen In Debt

Many businesses of mine have failed. For example, a resort hotel. When I first laid eyes on the operations, I learned from them how difficult the resort business is. Customers only come during one season. Japan has four distinct seasons, and a business model that only produces profit in one of them is rough. I went around lots of resorts to study them, and was often impressed by how they were investing. But if you want to create a foundation that’s certain to make a profit, then you’ve got to spend even more on large scale facility investments. That’s when I really ran out of funds. I wasn’t able to quit the other things I was invested in and so it ballooned to several hundred million yen in debt.2

In the end, it was a hundred million yen loss, but I was lucky that it wasn’t even worse. It was a sphere in which it was impossible to turn things positive no matter how much you thought about it. It got to the point where we couldn’t operate any more without a big investor. “The lift stopped working.” “Why?” “One of the control panels burned out. We have to fix it. It will cost 50 million yen.” “Are you fucking kidding me, why is an elevator control panel so expensive!?” Problems like this occurred frequently.

The electricity bills were also extraordinarily high. The population was also decreasing. The number of people actually visiting ski resorts was also decreasing, relatively speaking. The electricity bill for one season was tens of millions of yen. It was clearly a business that was going to keep bleeding. If the business didn’t develop a major advantage such as providing exclusives and services specialized for the rich, or focusing on inbound tourists, then it would certainly go bankrupt operating the way that it had in the past. The end result is that most ski resorts these days are run on Chinese capital. If it’s not Chinese capital, which disregards losses and only wants Japanese land, Japanese companies and even Japanese water, then there’s little chance of a Japanese corporation getting involved. No one wants to get involved with something that’s clearly in the red. They have their own main business, and if they do have energy to spare, they won’t get involved as long as they see no merit in a business that can’t be turned around. In other words, it’s a risky business model unless you’re just in it for status.


In 2017 I participated in the cryptocurrency SPINDLE. Actually, when the project started my role was to be a bridge connecting it with associates overseas and influential people. I participated from a place of connecting influential figures in different countries and famous people in foreign cryptocurrency markets with the members involved in the project, and giving advice. Before I knew it, I began walking alone as if I were the poster boy, and before I knew it, people started calling it GACKTcoin. While I was thinking, “I guess this is happening,” cracks began to appear within the project. The infighting grew out of control. And what was even worse timing was the crash in the cryptocurrency market. It fell all at once. Even Bitcoin fell to 2.2 million yen per coin, that was a 90% drop. There was no sign of a recovery in the market.

A year after the project began, when my contract renewal came up, I received notification that they were not renewing it, saying, “We can’t cause you trouble any longer.” After that, it seems that it took some time for things to calm down internally, but the main operators of the business left and others came to fill their roles, with only a few remaining.

They’re still trying to rebuild it as a new project, but my role is simply supporting it as an investor. The losses due to the market crash were something that nobody anticipated, and there was nothing that could be done about it.

At the time I was subject to terrible bashing regarding this matter, and I spoke nothing of it. As a project, including the timing, it produced great losses. Even if it hasn’t come to a halt, it was hit hard by the market and the project itself was more heavily damaged than they anticipated. I don’t think it’s right to call it an investment scam, but I can understand why people feel like saying it. I personally believed it was a business with great potential and invested several hundred million yen. But when the unexpected movement of the market caused coins across the world to fall to a tenth of their previous value at best, and 1/10,000 of their previous value at worst, there were many coins that also fell along with it. The market plunged into a frozen era in which it didn’t move at all for more than two years. It of course must have been tough for those involved in cryptocurrency. The reason why I didn’t comment was that I didn’t want it to seem like an argument or an excuse.

From the perspective of the investors, I can understand the feelings of, “What the hell happened?” and searching for a target for their anger. My current position is also one of watching the project as an individual investor. I also invested and participated believing it was a great opportunity. Of course, my current losses are great and I’ve made no profit at all. People have said I ran off with hundreds of millions of yen, but you can find out just by looking. It’s a fact that I also lost several hundred million yen. It was a big loss. It would be fine if it was just a question of money, but the greatest damage of all was to my name and credibility.

What vexes me most is that we weren’t able to produce good results when I was involved. It’s still said that the cryptocurrency world is in a fall or winter, and it’s frustrating that I can’t do anything but watch the state of the market hoping that the project will take a turn for the better. Even if I say the project is moving now, I also bear responsibility for not producing results at that point in time. I’m painfully aware of my own lack of power.

  1. “Tamaly Bar” is a pun on tamariba, a place to gather and hang out. []
  2. At the time of writing this, the yen is extremely low against the US dollar, but to get a general idea of the sums of money involved at the time when this was happening, you can simply divide by 100. Therefore “several hundred million yen” is several million dollars, and 50 million yen is, roughly speaking, half a million dollars. []