Famous Japanese & Foreigners In Japan: Minoru Mori
Minoru Mori 森稔
Minoru Mori is Tokyo's most dynamic and well-known property developer. A self-proclaimed urban development visionary, his aim is to transform Tokyo from a sprawling collection of small buildings on tiny plots into a globalized city with grandeur and style, with an accent on culture rather than just business. Simultaneously, he aspires to transform this spread-out connurbation, characterized by long commutes, into a more compact high-rise city where people can work, live and play in the same vicinity.
Mori's family was from Minato ward, Tokyo, where for generations they had dealt in tobacco and rice. His father, Taikichiro Mori (1904-1993), was professor of business studies at what is now Yokohama City University who began buying up land in Minato ward in the depressed real estate market following the Second World War. This formed the beginnings of the Mori Building Co., Ltd. which made Taikichiro, a devout Christian, Forbes's richest man in 1991-2.
The second of four children, Minoru originally aspired to be a novelist and graduated with a degree in education from the University of Tokyo in 1959. That same year his father quit academia and entered the real estate business full time, founding the Mori Building Co., Ltd. Minoru became a director, inheriting the position of president and CEO upon Taikichiro's death in January 1993.
In 1999, differences in temperament and philosophy saw the company split (basically amicably, they say) between the more high-flying Minoru and his next younger brother, the more conservative Akira, who took half of the company in a different direction under the name of Mori Trust. While Mori Trust has become the more profitable venture, Mori Building is the one that basks in the public eye.
The other two Mori siblings, eldest brother Kei and sister Aiko, followed academic careers.
Mori Building's most famous development, and Mori's own brainchild, is Roppongi Hills (2003), a project occupying 27 acres that involved buying out over 400 lots over 14 years. Other's include la for Harajuku (1983), Ark Hills (1986) (although more Taikichiro's intiative than Minoru's), Venus Fort (1999 - a collaboration in kitsch in Odaiba with Square Enix Co., Ltd.), Atago Green Hills (2001), Moto-Azabu Hills (2002), and Omotesando Hills (2006).
One of Mori's last big projects was the 101-story Shanghai World Financial Center, completed in 2008 in the Pudong financial district of Shanghai.
Mori was a keen collector of art, especially of paintings by the architect who has most influenced his own vision, Le Corbusier.
His art-related activities earned him the award of Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002 for the promotion of cultural exchanges between Japan and the UK. Mori was also awarded the Swedish Royal Order of the North Star in 1994.
Minoru Mori was a visiting professor at Tokyo Shuto University, and was active in a number of professional and public bodies related to business, development, and social issues in Tokyo.
Minoru Mori died in March 2012.
Shanghai World Financial Center
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