Japanese workers brace for corporate party invitations under the cherry blossoms

Planet Business: FTSE 100 crosses 8,000 again, Alex Kroes is suspended at Ajax and Taylor Swift becomes a billionaire

Image of the week: Sakura season

Cherry blossom or “sakura” season has finally arrived in Japan, with a visitor seen here capturing the beauty of the blossoms on Chidorigafuchi Moat in Tokyo on April 2nd. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), this year’s blooming was five days later than the average year and 15 days later than in 2023.

But although the flower is a symbol of the arrival of spring in Japan, it also heralds something much less universally loved: the advent of corporate parties. Companies in Japan have traditionally used annual cherry blossom-viewing parties known as hanami as staff get-togethers, asking/telling employees to picnic in parks – often on days off – while the trees are in full bloom.

There’s just one problem with this. According to a survey by career consultancy Laibo reported in Japanese newspaper Mainichi, 60 per cent of employees would prefer to skip the parties, with most considering their interactions with co-workers a form of, well, work.

They may get their wish as the popularity of hanami parties has collapsed since the pandemic gave everybody, including human resources managers, an insight into a world without forced gatherings.


In numbers: FTSE manoeuvres


Level crossed by the FTSE 100, London’s blue-chip index, earlier this week in a post-Easter boost that soon dissipated.


Months since the FTSE 100 passed the 8,000 threshold for the first time. It ended 2023 at 7,733, up 3.8 per cent for the year, but this performance was subdued compared with the tech-driven surges seen on Wall Street.


Record FTSE 100 level reached on Tuesday thanks to gains for mining and commodity stocks. The index first began in 1984 at a level of 1,000. It slid below 4,000 as recently as 2009.

Getting to know: Alex Kroes

Running a football club is hard. The fans complain all the time. You keep having to find new managers. Alex Kroes won’t have to worry about all this, however, as he has been suspended as chief executive of Ajax just weeks after taking up the role.

The Dutch club said it intended to dismiss Kroes after uncovering “strong indications” of insider trading, alleging that he purchased more than 17,000 shares of the club a week before his appointment was first announced on August 2nd.

The former Ajax youth player turned entrepreneur has not accepted the decision and plans to seek an independent opinion from the Dutch financial regulator, saying he believes that when you buy shares “you radiate confidence to your fellow shareholders and stakeholders”.

But his post-match analysis wasn’t entirely bullish. He also said: “As much as I am convinced of my good intentions, I now understand, after consulting with my lawyer, that I did not make the most sensible decision.”

The list: New billionaires

Congratulations to the 189 people who have ceased to be billionaires, according to the latest annual round-up by Forbes magazine. May your diminished wealth bring enhanced happiness, if not to you, then to everybody else. Here, however, are five newly minted members of the “three-comma club”.

1. Christian Louboutin: The soles of his most famous shoes may be red, but Louboutin is firmly in the green, worth an estimated $1.2 billion, according to Forbes.

2. Magic Johnson: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, once comfortably the most famous basketball player in the world, also has an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion thanks to his investments in sport, cinemas, property, healthcare and Starbucks franchises.

3. Maggie Gu, Molly Miao and Ren Xiaoqing: The trio are the founders of Shein, the Chinese fast-fashion app so popular with Gen Z they’re now worth an estimated $4.2 billion each.

4. Andrea Pignataro: The Italian founder of London software company ION Group in 1999 is the richest of all the billionaire newbies, having amassed a $27.5 billion fortune – enough to own a 1,280-acre estate in the Caribbean, which he does.

5. Taylor Swift: The singer, worth an estimated $1.1 billion, is the first musician to accrue billionaire status purely from her recordings and performances. “I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money,” she sings on Anti-Hero.