Victims of “Otakara-ya” tell their stories of how they were cheated.
Otakaraya” is a store specializing in the purchase of goods with more than 1,200 stores nationwide. With the TV personality “Croquette” as its image character, the company has been growing rapidly in the past few years through franchise management.
The sloppy management practices of the largest company in the industry have been voiced across the country. In July, seven franchise owners filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court against the company’s parent company, I-Furan (headquartered in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture). At a press conference held the same month, it was revealed that the owners had filed the suit seeking 39.8 million yen in compensation for the lack of proper guidance and assistance from the head office in closing the business. Attorney Shijito Kawakami, the attorney in charge of the case, stated, “It may have been for the purpose of increasing the number of franchisees and collecting royalties and sponsorship money,” and he is also seeking action from the Fair Trade Commission for violating the Antimonopoly Law by claiming that the company improperly recruited franchisees.
I am entitled to become an owner in 2020. I had to pay 550,000 yen a month to the head office as royalties, but I wasn’t that worried because I had been told that I would still make more than enough profit. This is because I had been told that Otakara-ya had a ‘system that would definitely make profits,'” he said.
Mr. A, a man in his 40s who was running a restaurant near a large private railway station in Osaka, said as much. The “system” was that the head office would purchase the items purchased by the franchisees from customers at five to six times the purchase price.
When we first opened, I was optimistic because the head office would buy back the items we purchased at a higher price,” Mr. A said. However, the attitude of the person in charge at the head office changed drastically once we started sales. We bought used cameras and other items and sent the data of the items with photos to the head office, but we repeatedly received a reply that the appraisal result was zero yen. This is no way to do business. We had zero customers in the first week after we put up the sign. The head office told us that we were not making enough effort and that we should advertise more, but I felt that we were doing a bad business because the system required an additional fee if we used a picture of our image character, Mr. Croquette, in newspaper inserts, for example.
Even so, Mr. A made his rounds of residential areas advertising the products he was buying, and his store began to attract several customers a day. However, even these steady efforts were betrayed by a situation that occurred.
A few months after opening the store, another Otakara-ya franchise store opened within walking distance. The head office insisted that we were free to open a new store, even though we had not been told of such a situation. I decided that it was impossible to continue doing business, including the sloppy handling of matters up to that point, so I consulted a lawyer and filed a request to terminate the contract, claiming that I was in breach of the contract.
However, the head office still insisted that the contract was still in force and continued to demand monthly payments of 550,000 yen, including royalties. Even now, I am receiving emails demanding payment of a total of 8.8 million yen. It seems that the meaning of “I-Fran” in the head office stands for “good franchise,” but it is not good at all. I just hope there won’t be any more victims.”
Participation fee of 1,000,000 yen for the training session alone
Mr. B, a Kansai resident in his 50s, was one of the victims of Otakara-ya. He was thinking of becoming an owner at the end of 2019 and had been in contact with “I-Furan” several times. He was told that in order to become a franchisee, he would have to attend and take a training session, so Mr. B went to a training venue near the company’s headquarters.
There were about 40 students at the venue. All of them were full of enthusiasm to become the master of their own country and make more and more money. Many of them were in their 50s or older and seemed to be hoping to use their retirement savings to pursue a second career as a businessman. The participation fee for the two-week training session on how to appraise gems and jewelry and how to serve customers varied depending on the course, but in my case it was 1,000,000 yen per person. During the training, you are prohibited from recording or recording your phone by putting it in a cabinet behind the hall. I thought it was meant to keep my know-how out, but later I think it was intended to prevent me from recording any hype sales during the training.”
Then, he began attending training sessions while staying at a business hotel near Yokohama Station.
The instructors were Otakara employees, some in their fifties and some in their thirties, but I remember being surprised to see the missing tip of the little finger on the left hand of Mr. I, who introduced himself as an executive officer. But I felt a silent pressure.”
At a training session, Mr. B voiced his doubts about the lack of a clearly stated system whereby the head office buys back the goods purchased by the stores at a higher price. He was then called to a separate room. The room was separated by partitions, and several people seemed to be discussing the issue.
When I went to the other room, Mr. I came out. He was kind at first, but after a while his attitude changed and he said, ‘If you complain so much, I won’t let you be the owner. He began daring me, saying, ‘If you complain so much, I won’t let you be the owner. I could hear arguments from the other booths, and the atmosphere was very bleak. I couldn’t trust him, so I decided to quit the workshop.
In late July, when this magazine requested an interview with E-Furan to confirm the facts, Mr. I responded directly to the interview, stating that he had not yet received the complaint from the victims’ group.
Is it true that the head office solicits owners by explaining that it will basically buy back the purchased products from the franchisees at five to six times the price?
I will refrain from answering that question.
There is also testimony that Mr. I used intimidating behavior during training sessions. Is this a fact?
I have no recollection of that.
After that, Mr. I continued to answer in a halting manner. This magazine confirmed the submission of the complaint to the lawyer Kawakami of the victim’s group, and again confirmed the facts to “I-Furan” in the end of August. However, the woman who answered the phone said
“We can’t give you an answer because we don’t have a person in charge of this matter.
The woman on the phone, however, insisted, “I can’t give you an answer because there is no one in charge. Although we asked for a return call from the person in charge, we never heard from her again at
The actual solicitation of “Otakaraya” will be revealed in court in the near future, but it is a fact that the victims’ dreams were stolen from them.
Photo： Takero Yui (1st and 4th photos)