THE ASIANS The Japanese are getting richer and spending their money in a big way. The Chinese are tighter-lipped and more secretive than ever.
By - Alan Farnham

(FORTUNE Magazine) – AH, TO BE Japanese and own stock. Ah, to be Japanese and own land. Ah, simply to be Japanese, and sit on one's tatami watching the yen roll in. ''There is one difference this year about Japan's rich,'' says Sally Solo, FORTUNE's reporter in Tokyo, ''They all are richer.'' More is rising in that overcrowded nation than just the sun. Though its standard of living still lags behind America's (see The World), the country's GNP of $2.4 trillion is more than double that of the rest of Asia. The seemingly inexorable appreciation of Japanese shares and land values has helped produce 12 billionaires, or one for every ten million people, vs. one for every five million in the U.S. (For an explanation of how those stock and land values are calculated, see box.) Real estate has produced $1 billion for Genshiro Kawamoto, 56, whose idea of starting a luxury summer camp for Japanese children propelled him to Honolulu last August in search of suitable campsites. While there, he decided to Buy American in a big way, eventually picking up some 177 properties, many of them middle-class homes. The shopping spree did not endear him to the city's mayor, Frank Fasi, who complained that Japanese land speculators had ''moved their floating crap game to Hawaii.'' Kawamoto, meanwhile, had settled on the campsite of his dreams: a 7.5-acre estate that once belonged to industrialist Henry Kaiser. Considered the finest residential property in the islands and commanding a sensational view of Diamond Head, the house cost Kawamoto more than $40 million -- a bargain in yen perhaps, but among the highest prices ever paid for any U.S. home anytime. The purchase had its ironic side: For all his interest in young campers, Kawamoto, who is unmarried and childless, regards family life as antithetical to career success. (California advisory: Kawamoto visited Lake Tahoe in July. He likes it.) Rinji Shino, 79, the owner of bus and shipping lines (net worth: $2.2 billion), has gone Kawamoto one better by suggesting -- informally, of course -- that the Japanese government buy a helping of Brazil, on which to settle 20 million Japanese and ease the country's overpopulation problems. Brazil is not Shino's first love, however. He is a francophile who owns a forest outside Paris, a winery in Medoc, and a golf course whose theme is insistently French. Located near Osaka, the course has holes with names like Comme ci comme cca and A la papa. Asked if matelots on his 300-ton yacht, largest in Japan, wear French uniforms, he answers: ''Yes; hats, too.'' HE HAS $1.5 billion to spend, but Tamesaburo Furukawa's favorite country, mercifully, is Japan. Next year the world's oldest billionaire will celebrate what, by Japanese reckoning, will be his 100th birthday (to Westerners, his 99th). He plans to mark his centenary with a new art museum housing his 2,000- piece collection of Japanese watercolors, samurai swords, and armor. From the outside it will be an exact replica of an architectural treasure, Kinkaku- ji (the Golden Pavilion), a three-story structure built in Kyoto in 1397. Why the replica? ''There are just two things that represent Japan,'' Furukawa explains. ''Mount Fuji and Kinkaku-ji. I cannot build another Fuji.'' This is a surprising admission coming from a man who made his fortune indulging the fantasies of others. His company, Nippon Herald Films, imports foreign movies and owns the theaters they play in. Furukawa entered the motion picture business about the time that D. W. Griffith was holding a wrap party for Intolerance. So far back do his roots stretch that he could have exhibited the 1938 film that got young Isao Nakauchi started on his first billion: Angels With Dirty Faces. What impressed Nakauchi, now 65, was not Jimmy Cagney's tough-guy performance but something in the background that he had never seen before -- drugstores that sold toiletries and candies as well as medicine. There was nothing like them in Japan, so his family started one. Last year the diversified retail chain, called The Daiei, had sales of $13.4 billion. WHILE JAPAN'S billionaires are slowly becoming more familiar to Westerners, those of Taiwan and Hong Kong remain tight-lipped and inscrutable. Their reticence sometimes works against them. For many years Taiwan's Y. F. Chang, 61, owner of one of the world's biggest container shipping lines, was rumored to be part of an immoral religious sect that worshiped at night in the nude. He refused to discuss the rumor, but the government finally inquired into it last year and revealed the truth: Chang did belong, but the sect was secretive, not sexual. Called Yikuantao, it is part Buddhism, part Taoism, and part beneficiary of Chang's $1.5 billion fortune. Chang's management style is enlightened. He is said to care deeply for his employees' welfare, handing out free lunches and stowing even lowly deckhands in private cabins on board ship. While such touches may stem from his religious beliefs, they more likely spring from experience: Son of a ship's carpenter, Chang himself went to sea as a deckhand at 18. In Hong Kong few men flaunt their wealth, and only a court can force them to say how much they own, even of a public company. Like most overseas Chinese, Li Ka-shing makes a virtue of the simple life. Though worth $2.5 billion, he routinely flags his own taxis to appointments. The first Chinese to take over a British trading hong, Hutchison Whampoa, Li has been spreading his wings to other Commonwealth countries, notably Canada, where he owns 43% of Husky Oil and real estate in Vancouver. Michael Kadoorie, 47, is an exception to the island's code of silence, partly because his family shares a different outlook, being Iraqi-Jewish, not Chinese. Son of Lord Lawrence Kadoorie, 89, doyen of Hong Kong's old-money community, Michael works hard and plays harder. Though Lawrence still makes policy decisions where the family's China Light & Power is concerned, Michael oversees its Hong Kong and Shanghai hotels. He is being groomed by his father to inherit $1.5 billion, but he doesn't need any lessons in spending it. The heir schusses in Switzerland and speeds in boats and fast cars all over Europe. At home he hovers over the Hong Kong skyline in a Hughes 500D helicopter because piloting the craft relaxes him. ''Demands, schedules -- these become less significant,'' he says. ''In the air one finds oneself in a world with only beauty, serenity, and the job at hand.'' - A. F.

BOX: PARCELING OUT WHO OWNS WHAT

Proving someone is worth a billion dollars isn't easy anywhere in the world, but in Japan it can be tougher than other places. FORTUNE certifies as billionaires only those individuals (or nuclear families) with that much net worth -- in their own names. Assets someone may ''control'' but does not own outright are not included in the calculations (see box on page 104 for how the calculations are made). It is easy enough to determine wealth that rests on stock ownership in a public company. In Japan the headaches begin with land, which is recorded under the parcel's name, not the owner's. So to find all the properties a landlord owns, one must check the records of every single parcel. To do that, FORTUNE sought the help of experts. For the past four years Nikkei Venture, one of Japan's most respected business monthlies, has combed the records in every prefecture to discover who owns what. Then local real estate agents were consulted, as well as Japan's National Land Agency, to determine the property's value. Regarding disclosure as inevitable, some Japanese billionaires are willing now to talk about their assets.