Hirose Saihei (広瀬宰平)

Saihei HIROSE (June 16, 1828-January 31, 1914) was the first administrative director of Sumitomo family. He was the key player of the financial world in Osaka in the Meiji period.

Saihei HIROSE was born as the second son of the old Kitawaki family in Yabu Village, Yasu County, Omi Province (now, Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture). His childhood name was Komanosuke and was changed to Saihei after Meiji Restoration. He moved to Besshi with his uncle, Jiemon KITAWAKI who served as the manager of Besshidozan Copper mine when he was nine years old, and went into service in Besshidozan Copper mine when he was eleven years old. He became the adopted child of Hirose family which was the ex-manager of Edo branch of Sumitomo by the recommendation of Kichizaemon SUMITOMO, the head of the family in 1855. Saihei promoted to the general manager of Besshidozan Copper mine in 1865. It was unconventional selection in Sumitomo.
In the Meiji restoration, he persuaded Koichiro KAWADA, the representative of new government trying to take over Besshidozan Copper mine to continuously entrust its business operation to Sumitomo and let them admit it, saying that 'entrusting the operation of copper mine to an inexperienced person would cause big loss of the nation without profit.'
Besides, he succeeded in modernization such as following the instructions by inviting French engineers. He maintained the basis of Sumitomo and developed it.

A part of HIROSE's contribution to Sumitomo was to push the reform of domestic economy. In February 1877, Tomochika who was the twelfth head of Sumitomo family and the twelfth Kichizaemon SUMITOMO designated Saihei HIROSE to the administrative director due to Tomochika's disease. The administrative director had the authority 'to control all affairs on commercial law and rule over many employees,' which meant that HIROSE was delegated the managing authority of the Sumitomo family. At the same time, this implied that the dictatorship of Saihei HIROSE was strengthened. However, criticisms from the inside of Sumitomo were raised to Saihei who gained the dictatorial authority. Aside from the modernization of Besshi, there were the criticisms on the business strategy such as unfavorable performance of the business developed under the leadership of HIROSE and firmly refusing the strong request from the inside to establish the bank. In addition, the dissatisfaction was raised to bold implementation of the reform of family code to water down the council system in the executive suite and to confirm HIROSE's dictatorship. Facing such severe environment, HIROSE determined to resign, turned in resignation and finally resigned the administrative director in November 1894.

[Original Japanese]