clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

3 deaths stun Japanese, drive home impact of weak economy

The three businessmen checked in together at the Le Piano hotel in a Tokyo suburb.

They took separate rooms, meeting later in one of them to share some whiskey and cheap Chinese liquor.Then they said goodbye. Each went to his own room. Each hanged himself.

Even in a country with a long tradition of suicide as an answer to failure, the three deaths managed to shock the Japanese and drove home the crippling impact that the country's prolonged economic slump has had on small- to medium-size companies.

Shattered finances have forced Japan's banking sector to abruptly halt lending to medium-size companies, starving them of cash. More and more of them are becoming desperate.

The three businessmen checked into the hotel on Wednesday. The empty liquor bottles in one of their rooms indicate they shared a few last drinks before saying farewell, and hanged themselves from ventilator grates with identical white ropes.

Masaaki Kobayashi's company, Spot, began to decline with the Japanese economy eight years ago and was saddled with $30 million in debts.

Kobayashi failed to honor an $800,000 debt on Wednesday, the deadline for payment, and the company was going to declare bankruptcy Friday, Kyodo News reported.

His friends - Masaru Sudo, 49, and Yoshimi Shoji, 49 - were also presidents of troubled auto parts companies, but neither enterprise was on the brink of collapse, according to Japanese media and company employees.

In fact, the two had been pouring money into Spot to keep it afloat.

"They were bound by an extremely deep friendship," said Nakazawa.