Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Continued examination of Starbucks Japan and Starbucks Kyoto

Since this blog may serve as documentary proof, if I am able to figure out how to present this as a "small claims" issue, I'm going to make period entries relating to things I find out.

I'll start by pointing out that until 4-5 ears ago, Starbucks used the Freemason all-seeing eye symbol on many of the mugs marketed at the different shops I visited. The Freemason connection is not a trivial matter, and I will describe observations I've made on that connection at some point. The connection between the Freemasons and the yakuza is another problem, some aspects of which are fairly easy to trace.

As for the relationship between Starbucks and the yakuza, I don't think that Starbucks is paying the yakuza protection money, at any rate. And they would be pretty stupid to have a direct connection, but maybe there are large shares of Starbucks Japan held by people affiliated with yakuza groups. On the flip side, considering that they don't pay protection money, what type of view would the yakuza take on their invading what they have tried to commandeer through violence and intimidation as their territory? What strategies might they adopt to coopt or undermine Starbucks? What might Starbucks find to be in their interest as far as accommodating the local criminal element in districts that are trying to promote nightlife entertainment.

Starbucks could try to keep the students away, which they certainly are doing, and the yakuza have enough people of all age groups on the ground to keep the Starbucks looking like a thriving enterprise almost all of the time, which bolsters the image of the business environment, maybe feeding back into other businesses in the vicinity.

At any rate, yesterday, February the 7, I spoke with a woman at Starbucks Customer Service who identified herself as Ms. Abe, and she confirmed for me that the Starbucks stores in question are in fact directly operated by Starbucks Japan, and that all Starbucks has adopted the same policy regarding reading, studying and using a notebook computer or the like at your table policy for application at all Starbucks stores across Kyoto Prefecture.

Kyoto is the only prefecture in Japan against which Starbucks has implemented such a policy.

Considering that I first called the HQ Customer Service to complain about 5-6 years ago, specifically mentioning Freemasons and yakuza, I wouldn't be surprised if they've adopted that policy as a tactic aimed at masking the situation in Kyoto city, and in particular at the two stores I frequent. Ms. Abe could only say that the policy was implemented in the name of business interests.

For those of you not familiar with Kyoto, the business strategy of Starbucks here is somewhat different from what I recall it being in the USA. Starbucks tries to target more of an entertainment experience market than a normal cafe experience. For example, though it seemed to me that there were generally Starbucks located in the vicinity near large colleges in the USA, despite the fact that Kyoto probably has the highest concentration of institutes of higher education in Japan than any other city, the Starbucks seems to avoid the areas in which the larger colleges are located. All of the Starbucks here are in downtown areas or shopping malls. There is no Starbucks near Kyoto University, Ritsumeikan University, Doshisha University, etc.

According to this page:
http://www.starbucks.co.jp/en/company.html
This company is a major shareholder:
http://www.sazaby-league.co.jp/english/brand/index.html

Since the stores in Kyoto are directly owned and operated by Starbucks, the idea of yakuza being directly involved in the upper echelon of management is not viable. However, in light of the recently enacted laws making it illegal to do business with the yakuza, the stock market becomes an interesting topic.

The yakuza have a large network here in Kyoto. I seem to recall reading that just one group had 9,500 members and affiliates as of 1995. They can easily account for

How does law enforcement monitor investment in the stock market by organized crime or member and affiliates thereof? In light of disclosures pointing to yakuza connections to the investments in front companies owned by yakuza and affiliates thereof and other connections to financiers helping Olympus hide losses, this would seem to be a ripe area for the new law to be applied with vigor. Several years back Citibank Japan took just such a hit in their so-called private banking, catering to wealthy individuals with funds of dubious--if not outright criminal--origins.  

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