Japan store chain sees $7.9m damage in China riots

Yohei Kono (C), head of the Japanese Association for the Promotion of International Trade, walks into the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for a meeting with Chinese officials on September 27, 2012.

 TOKYO - A Japanese department store chain said Thursday it suffered US$6.4 million (S$7.9m) worth of damage at three shops in China when violent protests erupted this month over a disputed island chain.

Heiwado president Hirakazu Natsuhara told reporters that mobs had wrecked the buildings in southwest Hunan province and stolen stock, putting the total cost of the losses at 500 million yen, according to broadcaster NHK.

The estimate could more than double to 1.3 billion yen, if the three stores were to remain closed until December 1, he added, according to NHK.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied across China this month to vent their anger over Japan's nationalisation of islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Some protests turned violent, with Japanese shops and factories often the target, forcing firms to shut or scale back production.

Heiwado was aiming to reopen one of the damaged stores in around a month, with the other two possibly resuming operations by the end of the year, NHK said.

"I was at the site until yesterday. I received assurances from senior officials in Hunan Province that they will protect our lives and property," Natsuhara said.

"We would like to resume our operations without having to worry," he said, adding that the company is sticking to plans to build a new store in the area next year.

The Japanese government said last week it will ask Beijing to pay for damage caused to Japanese diplomatic missions, adding that private businesses should decide how they would seek redress.

Two way trade between Japan and China was worth more than $340 billion last year, according to the government in Beijing, and the anti-Japanese flare-up has already claimed economic casualties.

Toyota and Nissan said Wednesday they would cut production in China because demand for Japanese cars has been hit.

And the airline ANA announced it had received 40,000 seat cancellations for the three months to November, as tourists from both countries get cold feet.

Become a fan on Facebook