Episode 316 – The Entrepreneur

This week, it’s time to talk backroom deals and business trickery, because we’re chronicling the rise of Mitsubishi and the rags to riches story of its founder Iwasaki Yataro.


Yamamura, Kozo. “The Founding of Mitsubishi: A Case Study in Japanese Business History”  The Business History Review, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Summer, 1967), pp. 141-160

Wray, Willard. Mitsubishi and the N.Y.K, 1870-1914: Business Strategy in the Japanese Shipping Industry.

Shimizu, Hiroshi, and Seiichiro Yonekura, “Entrepreneurship in Pre-World War II Japan: The Role and Logic of the Zaibatsu.” in The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times.


Iwasaki Yataro in his prime. He was, by all accounts, built like a judo champion — solid and thick.
The Mitsubishi Logo, derived from a combination of Iwasaki’s family crest with the old Tosa Domain crest.
The Iwasaki family mansions; you can go visit them now. Iwasaki built this mansion in the 1870s; his successors would run Mitsubishi out of it until 1945.
Kiyosumi Gardens in Tokyo are well worth going to; they were also built by Iwasaki for his personal use, and for public access as a PR move.
An advertisement from the Cooperative Shipping Company (Kyodo Unyu Kaisha), the last competitor Iwasaki vanished during his time at Mitsubishi.
“Destroying the Big Bears and Sea Monsters”, a political cartoon from the 1870s (which actually comes from Mitsubishi’s own website). The sea monster is in the upper left corner. Note the branding on it!

2 thoughts on “Episode 316 – The Entrepreneur”

  1. Why did Iwasaki start only taking Mexican silver dollars? Were pesos a universal hard currency in the 19th century? Why not dollars or pounds?

    1. I’m not sure. I know the silver content in the Mexican pesos was extremely high which did make them a popular currency for the time — and that in the 1870s American money would still have been considered a bit suspect because America was still considered a mid rank power. Not sure why he wouldn’t take pounds, though.

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