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The Celebrated Ceramic Toad of Osaka
From the Financial Times, the search for the celebrated ceramic toad of Japan:
Few stories encapsulate the madness that was Japan's economic bubble as neatly as the tale of the most powerful ceramic toad in stock market history. At one point in the late 1980s, this toad controlled a Dollars 20bn portfolio, having received trading tips via messages from the gods. This amphibian George Soros has since disappeared, and its owner, a former bar hostess-turned-restaurant owner, is in jail. But on the basis that the gods might still be sending it messages, the Financial Times travelled to Osaka, Japan's most entrepreneurial city, to try to track down this slippery metaphor for all that went wrong with Japan. The toad was owned by Nui Onoue, herself an extraordinary product of the 1980s. Having started out as a hostess, she invested funds derived from her relations with a powerful construction magnate in a restaurant in Osaka's entertainment area of Sennichimae. It was on the fourth floor of this restaurant, called Egawa, that the toad held court. Mrs Onoue had developed a reputation around the tables of her restaurant for astute stock market purchases and her customers demanded to know her secret. She led them upstairs and showed them the one metre high ceramic toad. She asked them to lay their hands on its head, chanted some mantras, and dispelled the toad's wisdom in the form of stock market tips. If the toad's influence had ended there it would have been little more than a story of unusual reptilian resource. But as word spread she was visited by senior executives from the Industrial Bank of Japan, Nomura Securities, Yamaichi Securities and others. According to Alex Kerr, an author, by 1991, IBJ had lent her Y240bn and 29 other banks and financial institutions had advanced her more than Y2,800bn. Lines of limousines were parked every night outside her restaurant awaiting the toad's pronouncements. Her portfolio collapsed alongside the Nikkei 225 in 1989 and Mrs Onoue was eventually sentenced to 12 years in jail for using fake certificates of deposit as collateral for loans. The chairman of IBJ, one of Japan's most powerful men, was forced to resign as a result of his trust in Mrs Onoue's web-footed friend. But the whereabouts of the toad remain unknown.
Categories: AnimalsBusiness/Finance
Posted by The Curator on Mon Sep 30, 2002
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