Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

5 Interesting Things About Japan's First Self-Made Female Billionaire

Yoshiko Shinohara joins the list of only 26 other self-made female Asian billionaires.


Four decades after launching her business, 82-year-old Yoshiko Shinohara has been deemed Japan’s first self-made female billionaire.

Temp Group
Yoshiko Shinohara

Shinohara initially launched staffing agency Temp Holdings in 1973 out of her one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo. From risking everything to start her company to putting her happiness first, there’s a lot to be learned from this self-made billionaire who has been on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Global Business.

Related: 10 Inspirational Quotes From Women Business Leaders

1. She was willing to risk everything.

Uninspired by the jobs available to her in Japan, Shinohara moved to Europe where she was introduced to the idea of temporary jobs. Upon her return to Japan in the 1970s, Shinohana launched her own temp agency, but at the time, temping was illegal in the Asian country. Instead of changing her business idea, she chose to risk it all.

“I used to ask myself: I wonder what it’s like in jail. How big are the rooms? Is there a toilet or a window?’” she told Harvard Business Review in 2009.

2. She never intended to become a billionaire.

Unlike many self-made millionaires and billionaires, Shinohara never intended to become a member of the 1 percent. Rather, she "want[ed] to contribute to society through business,” she said. Simply put, Shinohara just wanted to make her mark on the world.

3. She put her happiness before her marriage.

Quickly after Shinohana got married, she got divorced. “I realized that I would rather not be married, that this was not the right person for me," she told HBR. Angering her brother and mother with the divorce, Shinohana decided she needed to do more with her life than become a housewife like most other women at that time.

Related: 4 Inspiring Stories of Women Entrepreneurs From Around the World

“After the divorce, I said, 'I have to do something with myself.'”

4. She provided opportunity for Japanese women.

"The importance of women being able to work as well as raise children left an indelible impression,” she told Forbes Asia. After marrying and having kids, it was the norm for Japanese women to just be housewives and it was difficult or uncomfortable for them to jump back in the workforce. On top of that, there was also few opportunities for them.

Shinohara’s company addressed this issue. “Our company was able to grow by matching Japanese women’s underlying motive,” a spokesperson for the company said.

5. Hiring men saved her business.

In the beginning, the company was proud to employ only women -- it seemed like an action that aligned with the core values of the company. But when she noticed a sales slump, Shinohara decided to explore the idea of hiring men.

Related: 6 Unlikely Characteristics Common Among Billionaires

In 1988, she asked her managers, “‘How about if we put some men in here?’ The managers said, ‘No, thank you, we don’t need any of those creatures.’” But Shinohara listened to her instincts, brought in men and immediately saw an increase in sales. She found that a balance between men and women was the backbone to her company’s success.

Rose Leadem

Written By

Rose Leadem is a freelance writer for