Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ancient samurai clan embroiled in bitter legal spat over sale of feudal castle

Nakatsu Castle (Mainichi file)
Nakatsu Castle (Mainichi file)

The ancient Okudaira samurai clan is embroiled in a bitter court battle centering on the sale of a feudal castle in Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture, with one family member opposed to the plan suing another supporting it for what she claims was an illegal adoption.

Takako Okudaira, 83, of Tokyo's Nakano-ku and a cousin of the late Masanobu Okudaira who was the 17th head of the Okudaira clan, has sued the 19th and current head of the family, 51-year-old Masayuki Okudaira, demanding he give up his legal status as her adopted son, saying she knew nothing about it.

Masayuki Okudaira is also the president of Nakatsu Kangyo, the company that operates the feudal Nakatsu Castle, located in Nakatsu and officially up for sale since last month, a sale that the old woman in Tokyo bitterly opposes.

"None of the writing on the adoption papers is mine and the seal used is wrong, too," she said. "We got Nakatsu Castle built through the help of citizens, so I will never allow the sale of the castle. I sued because I want to know what really happened with this adoption."

Masayuki Okudaira, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing.

"My adopted father told me that he had carried out the adoption with Takako's consent," he said. "I'm still consulting with my lawyers."

Takako Okudaira said that on April 14, 1995, Masayuki Okudaira filed an application with the Nakatsu Municipal Government to be adopted as her son. When the old woman obtained a copy of her family register in 2001, she noticed that Masayuki was officially noted as her adopted son. The statute of limitations on pursing criminal charges in connection with the change to her family register had already passed and it was too difficult for the old woman to travel from Tokyo to Nakatsu, so she decided not to pursue the issue, she said. However, Takako Okudaira decided to take legal action after hearing the city of Nakatsu was shocked by news that the castle's owners planned to sell it.

In 1988, Masayuki Okudaira was adopted by a relative, Kazuo Sakamoto, who then headed Nakatsu Kangyo. Okudaira succeeded Sakamoto as president of the company the following year. He took on the Okudaira name in 1995. On Oct. 20, a Nakatsu Kangyo shareholders' meeting approved the sale of Nakatsu Castle.

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