Our History

Mitsubishi History



The Early

Mitsubishi founder Yataro Iwasaki was born in 1834 in the village of Inokuchi on the island of Shikoku. That village, in what is now Kochi Prefecture, was part of a region that belonged to the powerful Tosa clan.

Yataro started a shipping company in October 1870 under the name Tsukumo Shokai, and that was the beginning of Mitsubishi. The company grew rapidly while undergoing a number of name changes: to Mitsukawa, Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Steamship, Yubin Kisen (Postal Ship) Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi founder
and first president,
Yataro Iwasaki (1834-1885)


Origin of Mitsubishi (three-diamond) Mark

The Mitsubishi three-diamond mark originated with the emblem that Yataro Iwasaki chose for the shipping company he started in 1870.  That emblem was a combination of the Iwasaki family crest and the oak-leaf crest of the Yamanouchi family, leaders of the Tosa clan, which controlled the part of Shikoku where Yataro was born.

In 1885, Yataro lost control of his shipping company in the wake of a political struggle that had buffeted Japan’s marine transport industry. The company merged with a rival and became Nippon Yusen (NYK Line), which would return to the ranks of the Mitsubishi companies in later years.

Though Yataro lost his shipping company, he had established other businesses that formed the foundation for the Mitsubishi organization. One, Mitsubishi Kawase-ten, was a financial exchange house that also engaged in warehousing business. It was the forerunner of today’s Mitsubishi Bank and Mitsubishi Warehouse & Transportation. Yataro also had purchased a coal mine and a copper mine and had leased a Nagasaki shipyard from the government. He had participated in establishing the insurance company that now is Tokio Marine and Fire. He even headed up the school that became the Tokyo University of Mercantile Marine.

Yataro, however, was not destined to lead the Mitsubishi organization in its new phase of growth. He died at the age of 50 in February 1885.
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Renewed Growth
Yanosuke Iwasaki succeeded his older brother, Yataro, as the head of the Mitsubishi organization in 1885. The following year, he incorporated the Mitsubishi operations as a modern corporation. Yanosuke set about rebuilding the organization around its mining and shipbuilding businesses. He also expanded the organization’s positions in banking, insurance, and warehousing and thus laid the foundation for future growth and development.

In 1890, Yanosuke agreed to buy about 30 hectares (80 acres) of Tokyo swampland that the government was trying to sell near the Imperial Palace. He planned the commercial development on that real estate that became Tokyo’s central business district, Marunouchi.

Mitsubishi’s second president,
Yanosuke Iwasaki (1851-1908)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Nagasaki Shipyard and Machinery Works (around 1885 – then known as the Akunoura Machine Shop)

Yanosuke ceded the Mitsubishi presidency to Yataro’s son, Hisaya, on the occasion of a reorganization of the company in 1893. He remained active, however, and became the president of the Bank of Japan in 1896.
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Diversification and Decentralization
Hisaya Iwasaki was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, in the United States. He possessed a modern, international perspective on business management.

On becoming president in 1893, Hisaya divided the Mitsubishi organization into semiautonomous divisions. Those divisions were banking, marketing, coal mining, metals mining, real estate, shipbuilding, and administration. Among the Mitsubishi companies established while Hisaya was president were businesses that now are Mitsubishi Paper Mills, Asahi Glass, and Mitsubishi Cable Industries.

Mitsubishi’s third president, Hisaya Iwasaki (1865-1955)

The Mitsubishi No.2 BuildingHead office for Meji Mutual Life Insurance and Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance

Glass manufacturing at Asahi Glass’s Amagaski Factory around 1909

The Mitsubishi No. 1 Building (1894) —
Headquarters of the old Mitsubishi organization

Hisaya insisted on the observance of firm ethical principles in business dealings. When the outbreak of World War I jolted the old international order in 1914, he called on all Mitsubishi employees to redouble their commitment to integrity and fairness.

Philanthropy was a lasting emphasis for Hisaya. He donated to the city of Tokyo two expansive Japanese gardens—Rikugien, in Komagome, and Kiyosumi, in Fukagawa—that are among the finest in the city. And he established Toyo Bunko, a library for housing oriental works. Hisaya loved the simpler things in life. He personally managed two big farms owned by the Mitsubishi organization.
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Modernization and the Dissolution of the Mitsubishi Organization
Koyata Iwasaki, the son of Yanosuke, took over the presidency from Hisaya in 1916 at the age of 38. Like Hasaya, he had studied abroad and was a graduate of Cambridge University, in the United Kingdom. Koyata led the Mitsubishi organization for nearly three decades and played a pivotal role in shaping the development of Japanese industry.

Under Koyata’s stewardship, important Mitsubishi divisions became separately incorporated companies: Mitsubishi Shipbuilding (now part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), Mitsubishi Corporation (trading), Mitsubishi Bank, Mitsubishi Mining (now part of Mitsubishi Materials), Mitsubishi Electric, and Mitsubishi Estate. Koyata also oversaw the creation of the companies that now are Nikon, Mitsubishi Trust and Banking, Mitsubishi Oil, Mitsubishi Steel, Mitsubishi Kakoki, Mitsubishi Rayon, and Mitsubishi Chemical.

Mitsubishi’s fourth and last president, Koyata Iwaski

Mitsubishi is not a single, integrated company so no single Mitsubishi management philosophy exists.  But all the Mitsubishi companies are true in their own ways to the principles enunciated in 1920 by Koyata Iwasaki.  Those principles are:
• Corporate responsibility to society
• Integrity and fairness
• International understanding through business

The administrative division of the original organization became a holding company for the diverse Mitsubishi operations. It became a joint-stock corporation in 1937 and shares of the company—formerly owned completely by the Iwasaki family—later became available to the public.

After World War II, the Allied occupation forces were in favor of voluntary dissolution by Japan’s zaibatsu industrial groups, including Mitsubishi. That sentiment became formal in October 1945. Koyata himself succumbed to illness in December 1945.
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Japan’s first series – production passenger car, the Mitsubishi Model A (1917)
A New Beginning:
The dissolution of the Mitsubishi holding company took place formally in October 1946, and the Mitsubishi companies fragmented into hundreds of independent enterprises. Those enterprises would have to find their own ways to survive and grow amid postwar turmoil and privation.

Prewar presidents and other top executives of the Mitsubishi companies lost their jobs under the Allied occupation. Most Mitsubishi companies abandoned the Mitsubishi name and emblem.

Quality photography with the Nikon-I (1947)
The first television set marketed by Mitsubishi Electric (1953)

In the early 1950s, the occupation policy changed profoundly in response to evolving geopolitics. In the interests of promoting industrial development, the occupation forces allowed renewed cooperation among the members of the prewar industrial groups. Reconciliation was in the air after the San Francisco Peace Conference as Japan regained a welcome place in the international community. Mitsubishi companies that had abandoned that name after the war began using it and the three-diamond mark again.

In 1954, several enterprises that had been part of the trading house, Mitsubishi Corporation, merged to reestablish that company. Similarly, the principal components of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries reunited in 1964. Mergers like those resulted in independent companies that were large enough to survive and grow in Japan’s fast-growing economy.
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Mitsubishi Cement (now part of Mitsubishi Materials) plant in Kyushu (1956)
In Step with the Times
Japan was the scene of unprecedented economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s. Mitsubishi companies were very much a part of that growth—in their established industries and in new ones.
A revolution was under way, for example, in Japan’s energy and materials industries. The Mitsubishi companies participated actively in that revolution, setting up Mitsubishi Petrochemical (now part of Mitsubishi Chemical), Mitsubishi Atomic Power Industries, Mitsubishi Liquefied Petroleum Gas, and Mitsubishi Petroleum Development, among other new enterprises.

Mitsubishi Chemical petrochemical complex in Ibaraki Prefecture

Stylish sweater of Mitsubishi Rayon’s Vonnel acrylic

The traditional Mitsubishi emphasis on technological development was evident in new ventures in such fields as space development, aviation, ocean development, data communications, computers, and semiconductors. Mitsubishi companies also were active in consumer goods and services.
On the road, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries incorporated its automotive division in 1970 as Mitsubishi Motors. Also in that year, several Mitsubishi companies funded the creation of Mitsubishi Research Institute.
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World-leading recreational vehicle for four-wheeled fun-Mitsubishi Motors’ Pajero
Part of the Community Mitsubishi companies set up the Mitsubishi Public Affairs Committee in 1964 to promote understanding of their activities and to sponsor coordinate cultural and public-interest endeavors. International exchange is a chief emphasis in those endeavors, as in the Mitsubishi Impression Gallery—Festival of Asian Children’s Art. That is an annual exhibition of illustrated diaries by children in Asian nations.

Mitsubishi Impression Gallery: Festival of Asian Children’s Art—sponsored by the Mitsubishi Public Affairs Committee

In 1970, Mitsubishi companies established the Mitsubishi Foundation to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the first Mitsubishi company. That foundation donates large sums of money annually to support scientific research and public-interest activities. The Mitsubishi companies also are active individually in supporting worthy causes through their own charitable foundations and in other ways.

Ski camps for children — one of numerous public-interest activities sponsored by Mitsubishi Bank

Friendship camp sponsored by Mitsubishi Corporation for single-parent families

Mitsubishi pavilions have been highlights of expositions in Japan since the historic EXPO’70 in Osaka in 1970. In every way, the companies take part actively in the life of the community they serve.
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Mitsubishi Pavilion at
EXPO’70 in Osaka

Into the Future
The overriding priority for the Mitsubishi companies is to enhance the quality of life for people everywhere by generating diverse kinds of value. Each of the companies is committed to serving society through quality products and conscientious service. They are equally committed to using their different strengths and capabilities to preserve the earth for future generations.

On behalf of the community…On behalf of the earth…The Mitsubishi companies are committed to ensuring a bright and fulfilling future.

Future underwater marine resource farm, using sun light collection and transmission system made by Asahi Glass

System engineering and technologies by Mitsubishi Electric at work in space development

Yokohama Landmark Tower—Japan’s tallest building; built and operated by Mitsubishi Estate

NYK Line’s Crystal Harmony—one of the world’s
most luxurious cruise ships

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