Kimura Shohei (木村荘平)
Shohei KIMURA (July, 1841 - April 27, 1906) was a businessman and a statesman from the Province of Yamashiro (current Kyoto Prefecture). He held the following positions: president of Iroha Gomei Kaisha, Director of Tokyo Cattle Market Company (butcher house); Chief of Tokyo meat sellers association (whole sale meat sellers); president of Tokyo Hakuzen Company Ltd., (crematory); president of Tokyo Shibaura Kosen Company Ltd. (Japanese - style hotel with restaurant, equipped with in-house hot springs); president of Japan Beer Company Ltd. (Ebisu Beer); councilor of Tokyo Chamber of Commerce; advisor to Japan Businessman's Association; elected representative to Shiba Ward; city council member of Tokyo City Assembly; council member to Tokyo Prefectural Assembly. He operated the biggest gyunabe (beef pot) chain restaurants in Japan of the days called the restaurants "Iroha," thus he was called "the King Iroha."
Around the time of the Meiji Restoration
In July 1841, he was born in Fushimi of Yamashiro Province (current Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City). His childhood name was Rokuzo. His family had been in chashi (tea producer) business for generations, and served as purveyors of tea to Kubo-house (shogun family) and the Imperial household since the days of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA in Edo Period. While his father was once adopted by Kimura family in Ujitawara (present Ujitawara-cho, Tsuzuki County, Kyoto Prefecture) along with his wife, later both returned to the original Uebayashi family for some reason; on this occasion, only Rokuzo was left under the custody of the Kimura family.
Throughout his childhood, he liked mischief and fight over study; although he was sent to terakoya school at age seven, it is said that he could barely write his own name after three years of study. In 1855, he left home intended to become a sumo wrestler, and became a disciple of Shugoro ONOKAWA in Osaka. He was soon brought back home but he was disowned in 1868 as a result of his debauchery.
After he was disowned, he opened a vegetable store, which became successful. In 1861, he organized an association formed by 23 vegetable warehouse merchants and became its director. During the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, he served as purveyors to the Satsuma Domain, but he went bankrupt because the Satsuma Domain bilked Shohei for his accounts receivable. In 1870, he opened a tea manufacturing and trading store in Sakaecho-dori in Kobe City with a capital of 300,000 yen, but he went bankrupt because of slump in business. He went through multiple failures in business even after those bankruptcies in his earlier career.
His career in post-Meiji Restoration era Tokyo
In 1878, he went to Tokyo at the invitation of a former retainer of the Satsuma Domain, and Daikeishi (top of the police department) of Keishi-cho (Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, domestic affairs division) in Meiji government Toshiyoshi KAWAJI, who was a right-hand man to the Secretary of Interior, Toshimitsu OKUBO (also a former retainer of the Satsuma Domain), through the relationship between Shohei and the Satsuma Domain during the Battle of Toba-Fushimi; Shohei received a disposed government-managed butcher house from Meiji Government, which brought him a success. In the same year, he opened gyunabe (beef pot) chain restaurants "Iroha" and managed himself. He opened the first restaurant (Daiichi Iroha) in Mitashikoku-cho, Shiba Ward (current Shiba 3 chome, Minato Ward, Tokyo) and 20 branch restaurants throughout Tokyo area, while he had each of the branch restaurants managed by one of his mistresses. At the same time, he organized the Tokyo Meat Sellers Association by calling together those wholesale meat sellers in Tokyo Prefecture from 15 wards and 6 districts, while he also became a member of the board of directors for the Tokyo Cattle Market Company.
In the same year, he established the Tokyo Hakuzen Company that undertook the management of a crematory service in Nippori village. He first became the member of the board of directors, and later he became the president of the company. Furthermore, he established Japan Beer Company Ltd. (Ebisu Beer) and became the president. Along with those businesses, he also managed the Tokyo Shibaura Kosen Company Ltd.; this company's "Shibahama-kan Hotel" attached with its own hot spring, and "Shibaura-kan," a first-class Japanese restaurant, became successful as resort facilities in Shibaura, before Shibaura seashore area was reclaimed for land space.
He was politically aligned with the sect of Toru HOSHI, and in 1896, Shohei was elected as a member of Tokyo City Council. He died on April 27, 1906 for the cancer in jaw area, while he was just about to run for the House of Representatives from Tokyo Prefectural Assembly. His age at death was 67.
His first daughter Eiko was known as a novelist with a pen name of Akebono KIMURA; his fourth son Sota KIMURA was also a novelist; the sixth son Shoroku was known as a magician with a stage name of Marini KIMURA; the eighth son Shohachi KIMURA was a painter; the tenth son Soju KIMURA was a novelist who won the Naoki prize; the twelfth son Sojuni KIMURA was a movie director. His adopted son Shozo took over the "Iroha" chain, but he ruined the success of the chain in just a few years.