Shibusawa Eichi (渋沢栄一)

Eichi SHIBUSAWA (March 16, 1840-November 11, 1931) was a Shogun's retainer near the end of the Edo period, a bureaucrat of the Ministry of Finance and an entrepreneur from Meiji to the early Taisho period. He was involved in the establishment and management of a variety of companies including the First National Bank, Oji Paper, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) and the Tokyo Stock Exchange and was called the father of capitalism in Japan.

He was conferred the Shonii-Kun Itto (Senior Second Rank), the First Order of Merit and Viscount. His Gago (pseudonym) was Seien. His Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) was Taitokuinden Jinchigijyouseien Daikoji.

Personal Profile

On March 16, 1840, he was born as the first son of Ichiroemon and Ei in Chiaraijima Villiage, Musashi Province (present day Fukaya City, Saitama Prefecture). His childhood name was Ichisaburo. Later, he was called Eitaro, Atsutayu and Atsutaro. Seiichiro SHIBUSAWA was his cousin.

Shibusawa was a big farm family who manufactured and sold indigo balls (dye), worked also as silkworm breeders and grew rice, barley and vegetables. Unlike ordinary farmers, a talent of business to keep the beads moving on the abacus was required to purchase materials and to sell them. Ichisaburo also went to Shinsyu or Joshu to sell indigo balls with his father and purchased indigo plants as well. When he was fourteen, he started to go to purchase indigo plants by himself, which created the foundation on which he could easily absorb economic systems in the Europe era and later brought about his thoughts of realistic rationalism.

As Retainer of Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA
On the other hand, when he was five years old, his father gave him books and when he was seven years old, he visited his cousin Atsutada ODAKA (businessman) to learn Shishogokyo (the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism, the Nine Chinese Classics) and "Nihon Gaishi (historical book on Japan)." As for swordplay, he learned the Shindo-Munen school of swordsmanship from his cousin Shinzaburo. When he was eighteen years old (1858), he got married Chiyo, the younger sister of Atsutada, changed his name to Eiichiro and moved to Edo to become a disciple of Gyodon KAIHO in 1861. And he entered Eijiro CHIBA's dojo (Chiba Dojo in Otamagaike) of Hokushin-Itto school and made friends with loyal supporters of the Emperor while practicing swordsmanship. From this, he became aware of the concept of Sonno Joi (slogan advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners) and formed a plan to take over Takasaki-jo Castle and fire Yokohama to topple the Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). However, the plan was thwarted by the conviction of Choshichiro, the younger brother of Atsutada.

He moved to Kyoto and started to work for Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA due to the recommendation of Enshiro HIRAOKA, a vassal of the Hitotsubashi family. When he was an officer, he went rounds in the territory of the Hitotsubashi family and was involved in recruiting farmer-soldiers.

When Eichi's lord Yoshinobu became Shogun, Eichi became Shogun's retainer and visited France as an attendant of Akitake TOKUGAWA, who was the younger brother of Yoshinobu and attended the World Exposition held in Paris as the representative of the Shogun. In addition to visiting the World Exposition in Paris, he accompanied Akitake visiting European countries.

After the visit to the World Exposition in Paris and European countries, Akitake studied in Paris, but he was ordered to return home by the new government because of Taisei Hokan (transfer of power back to the Emperor) in 1867 and came back in December.

The period from serving in the Okura-sho (Ministry of Finance) to catering to businessman
After returning home, Eichi met Yoshinobu in Shizuoka and was ordered to serve the Shizuoka clan.
However, he declined to serve as an officer and established Shohokaijo in Shizuoka in January 1868 to realize joint-stock corporation systems he studied in France, but persuaded by Shigenobu OKUMA he entered the Okura-sho in November
As a bureaucrat of the Okura-sho, he led staff members responsible for revisions of the Ministry of Popular Affairs (at that time Ministry of Popular Affairs and Ministry of Finance were actually integrated) and planed reform proposals and was involved in establishment of the metrological standard and National Bank regulations. However, he was in conflict with Toshimichi OKUBO and Shigenobu OKUMA about budget compilation and retired together with Kaoru INOUE in 1873.

Soon after his retirement, he became the head of the First National Bank (current Mizuho Bank) for which he led the establishment when he was a bureaucrat and then he placed himself in the business world. In addition to First National Bank, he led the establishment of many local banks such as Shichijushichi Bank.

In addition to First National Bank, he was involved in the establishment of a variety of companies such as Tokyo Gas, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, Oji Paper, Chichibu Cement (current Taiheiyo Cement), Imperial Hotel, Chichibu-Railway, Keihan Electric Railway, Tokyo Stock Exchange, Kirin Brewery Company and Sapporo Breweries and the number of such companies amounted to more than 500.

When he was young, he was a stubborn nationalist, but when the relationship between Japan and US deteriorated due to anti-immigrant movement seen in 'California Alien Land Law' (in 1912), he formed a plan of news service agencies to send Japanese news to the mass media in US, which was not successful, but this became the source of the current Jiji Press and Kyodo News.

SHIBUSAWA did not form 'Shibusawa Zaibatsu' which was largely different from other zaibatsu (company syndicate) founders in the Meiji period such as eighth Hachiroemon MITSUI, Takayoshi, Yataro IWASAKI, Zenjiro YASUDA, Tomoito SUMITOMO, Ichibe KOGA and Kihachiro OKURA. He stuck to his belief that 'Do not pursue one's own interest but serve for the public interest' during his whole life and he strictly warned his successor Keizo SHIBUSAWA about it. While other heads of the Zaibatsu ended up as baron, only SHIBUSAWA was conferred viscount because these services to the public were valued early on.

SHIBUSAWA founded 'Shibuawa Dozoku Company' after he retired from the business world and companies centered around it were called 'Shibusawa syndicate,' and there are opinions that he was no different from other business man. However, he founded these holding companies conveniently to prevent fighting over his property after his death and the stock held by Shibusawa Dozoku Company was less than twenty percent of the company stock, just a small percent in most cases.

Social activities

Eichi was most enthusiastic about social activities in the business world and served as the president of nursing house at the request of Tokyo City and was involved in the establishment of Tokyo Jikei Kai, Japanese Red Cross Society and Rai Yobo Kyokai (Japan preventive association for leprosy) and served as the first presidents of St.Lukes International Hospital and Takinogawa-Gakuen and the Japanese chairman of the YMCA pacific rim liaison conference.

For revival after the Great Kanto Earthquake, he became the vice president of Great Earthquake Zengokai (goodwill association) and made a great effort to gather contribution.

Although there were ruling thoughts that higher education was not required for merchants at that time, he emphasized commercial education and cooperated for the establishment of Shoho Koushujo (current Hitotsubashi University) and Okura shogyo school (current Tokyo Keizai University) due to the relationship with Kihachiro OKURA, Waseda University due to the relationship with Shigenobu OKUMA and Nishogakusha (current Nishogakusha University) due to close relationship with the founder Nakasu MISHIMA, and Kokushikan (founder: Tokujiro SHIBATA) due to the relationship with Utaro NODA (Taikai) and was involved in coordination of donation for Doshisha University (founder: Joe NIJIMA) at the request of Kaoru INOUE. Considering the necessity of education for females, which was thought to be unnecessary like for merchants, he established Joshi Kyoiku Shorei Kai (association to promote female education) with Hirobumi ITO and Kaishu KATSU and was involved in the establishment of Japan Women's University due to the relationship with Jinzo NARUSE and Tokyo Jogakkan College with Hirobumi ITO.

He also established Nihon Kokusai Jido Shinzenkai (Japan international goodwill association for children) and exchanged Japanese dolls and American dolls (doll with blue eyes) to promote exchanges. For the flood disaster that occurred in China in 1931, he served as Chairman of the compassion association for flood disaster in China and raised money for victims, and therefore, he also had an aspect as a pioneer who promoted popular diplomacy.

He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926 and 1927.

Theory of union of moral and economy
He wrote "Rongo (Analects of Confucius) and Soroban (abacus)" and developed 'a philosophy of the union of morality and economy.'
Based on "Rongo" (Analects of Confucius) he learned in his childhood, he preached and commited himself to share and give back wealth to society aiming at good balance between logic and profit, to enrich the whole country and develop the economy without creating a monopoly. When he became acquainted with Nakasu MISHIMA, who's dissertated theory of the union of morality and economy and was a disciple of Hokoku YAMADA, who was a scholar of Yomeigaku neo-Confucianism and reformed domain duties in Bicchu-matsuyama Domain in the same visions as Eichi at the end of the Edo period, they identified each other and Eichi started to be closely related with MISHIMA. Eichi became deeply involved in the management of Nishogakusha founded by Mishima after his death.

Family tree

At the end of the Edo period, there were seventeen houses that used the name of Shibusawa in Chiaraijima village. Therefore, they were distinguished by being called differently according to location such as 'Higashinoke' (the east house), 'Nishinoke'(the west house), 'Nakanoke' (the middle house), 'Maenoke' (the front house) and 'Shinyashiki' (the new house).
Ichiemon, Eichi's father was born as the third son of the second-generation family head of 'Higashinoke,' Sosuke, but he was adopted by 'Nakanoke.'
During the Meireki era, 'Nakanoke' was just a peasant, but by the time Eichi was born, they were the second wealthy family in the village. After Eichi moved out of his country, his younger sister, Sadako, supported 'Nakanoke' and adopted Ichiro from the Sunaga family to make him the fourth-generation family head. Motoharu SHIBUSAWA, the first son of Ichiro and his wife Sadako became the first president of Nagoya University.

While Eichi was from 'Nakanoke,' a branch family of the Shibusawa family, Tatsuhiko SHIBUSAWA, a scholar of French literature was from the head family, 'Higashinoke.'


Although he was floated as the candidate of the portrait for Bank of Japan notes several times in the past as a financial expert representing Japanese history and first head of bill bureau, (later printing bureau), this was not realized. He was shortlisted for C thousand yen Bank of Japan note (started to publish in November 1, 1963) but Hirobumi ITO was adopted in the end. At that time, persons with beards were used for the portrait to prevent counterfeiting.

Although the bills on which the portrait of Shibusawa printed were not issued in Japan, the one-yen, five-yen and ten-yen bills of early days of First Bank issued in Greater Korean Empire had the portraits of Shibusawa, who at that time was the manager.

SHIBUSAWA spent his later years in Kawagoe City. November, the aniversary of Eichi's death, was specified as Eichi SHIBUSAWA memorial month in Fukaya City and some events are held every year. The Ni item of "Saitama Local Caruta Card" published by the liaison council for rearing children in Saitama Prefecture is "Mr. SHIBUSAWA who raised Japanese industry" and was selected as one of the three cards (role card: 10 points when the three cards are gathered) of great men representing Saitama as well as Shigetada HATAKEYAMA and Hokinoichi HANAWA. The E item of "Sainokuni twenty-first century local Karuta Card is "Eichi also had boiled noodle with welsh onion." This was named after the fact that Fukaya green onion is a special product of Fukaya and Boiled Hoto (noodle) is local dishes of the northern part of Saitama.

Due to the achievements of SHIBUSAWA, the Saitama Prefecture awards the 'Eichi SHIBUSAWA Award' to business owners who perform sound company activities and contribute to society.

Master of iai (instantaneous drawing of the sword)

Literary works of Eichi SHIBUSAWA

"Complete works of Eichi SHIBUSAWA" (six-volume) Heibonsha, 1930

"Seien Hyakuwa" Dobunkan, 1931

"Rongo (Analects of Confucius) and Soroban (abacus)" Kokushokankokai, 1985

"Lecture of Rongo (Analects of Confucius)" (seven-volume) Kodansha, 1977

"Amayo Gatari" (revised and annotated by Yukio CHO), , Iwanami Shoten, 1984


On August 24, 1911: conferred Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
On November 10, 1928: conferred, Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flower

[Original Japanese]