On December 3, Osaka Police arrested Takuji Maeda, the founder of the Tamade supermarket chain, on charges of receiving prostitution revenue from a store rented to yakuza members. Tamade is famous in the Osaka area for having ridiculously low prices as well as unique and colorful storefronts.
According to investigators, Maeda knowingly rented a store in Osaka’s Tobita Shinchi area (Osaka’s largest red light district) to members of the yakuza that wanted to use it for a prostitution business. The Tobita Shinchi business came into the spotlight in May when its manager and his wife was arrested for violating anti-prostitution laws following an investigation with a female employee.
Further investigation led to Maeda’s arrest this month. Apparently, he had been receiving tens of thousands of yen (equivalent to thousands of US dollars) on a monthly basis for rent from its former managers. The total profit he made off of this little side-business adds up to hundreds of thousands of yen..
In the past, Maeda has also been exposed for labor violations regarding non-Japanese employees, including making foreigners on student visas work beyond their legally allowed allotment of working hours, so he doesn’t have the best reputation.
Netizens have expressed mixed feelings about the arrest. While many don’t exactly condone his actions, they also love the insanely cheap prices at Tamade. Here’s what Twitter user @pagpagpag2001 had to say:
“All of the employees are old men. The stores smell like butts. The prepared food is abundant and under 200 yen ($US 1.77). Onigiri are two for 45 yen. They sometimes forget to remove the poison from fugu. [Some items] are one for 1 yen and normal price from the second item. There are lots of non-Japanese. If you try to rob the store, you’re made to strip and they won’t give your clothes back – whether you’re male or female. There’s a wide selection of alcohol. They go as far as telling you the purchase dates of products. It’s a well-known fact that [Tamade] is managed by the yakuza, but I still shop there because it’s so cheap.”
There have also been comments like these:
“I’m from the Kanto area of Japan and I thought Tamade was a pachinko chain.”
“So the profits from prostitution supplemented the profits from the supermarkets?”
“I’ve heard the rumors about Tamade for a while, so I’m not surprised.”
“I raised my children on bento boxed lunches from Tamade.”
“This sounds like typical Osaka to me.”
The investigation is still ongoing, and it’s not yet known what will happen to Maeda or Tamade stores. Given the seriousness of the allegations, though, things don’t look good for the discount supermarket mogul or his chain.