Godai Tomoatsu (五代友厚)
Tomoatsu GODAI (February 12, 1836-September 25, 1885) was a Japanese samurai who served as a feudal retainer of the Satsuma clan at the end of the Edo period, and a businessman in the Meiji period. He was born in Shirogatani, Nagata-cho Town, Kagoshima-gun, Satsuma Province (near Kagoshima Castle, present Nagata-cho Town, Kagoshima City). His childhood name was Tokusuke. His alias (common name) was Saisuke. He was a prominent businessman of the economic world in Kansai region. He sought to organize commerce and industry and to rebuild trust and order in order to revive the economy in Osaka, which was, GODAI said, "just about to collapse." GODAI ranked with Eichi SHIBUSAWA (who established the Tokyo Chamber of Commercial Law (present the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry), being described as "SHIBUSAWA and GODAI were great contributors to the economy in Eastern and Western Japan, respectively."
Personal Profile and Career
He was born the son of Naozaemonhidetaka GODAI who was one of the authors of "Sangoku Meishozue" (Geography of Southern Kyushu, compiled during the late-Edo period) and Bugyo (magistrate) in charge of recording, and later he moved out and set up a new branch family. As a feudal retainer of Satsuma clan, he studied at Nagasaki Kaigun Denshujo (Nagasaki Naval Training Center). He also smuggled himself into Shanghai City to make an overseas visit. He was charged with escaping from the domain because of smuggling, but he was forgiven for his sin through the mediation of Morihide NOMURA, also a feudal retainer of Satsuma clan, who had met GODAI in Nagasaki City. GODAI was captured by the British navy in the Anglo-Satsuma War that occurred on August 15, 1863, but later he engaged in trade with England by the order of the Domain. After visiting Europe, he became a Sanyo (junior councilor) of foreign affairs office under the new Meiji government in 1868, and he worked at Osaka to serve as Assistant Judicial Officer of foreign affairs office and Osaka prefectural judge and handled diplomatic issues including Sakai incident. He made efforts to establish the Japan Mint in Osaka. He became the first Director of Osaka Customs, marking a new era of customs in Osaka.
After resigning from government office in 1869, he established an assay office for gold and silver, and started a new life as a businessman, engaging in mine management, spinning, manufacturing of indigo and other businesses. He was called a businessman with political ties because he had a strong connection with Saccho han-dominated government, and participated in 'Osaka conference' of 1875 at which Toshimichi OKUBO, Takayoshi KIDO, and Taisuke ITAGAKI gathered in a Japanese restaurant to exchange their views and got involved in the scandal over Kiyotaka KURODA's controversial project for selling off assets owned by Hokkaido Development Commission Office (refer to Meiji juyonen no seihen (the failed Meiji-14 coup of 1881)).
He made efforts to establish instititions such as Osaka Stock Exchange (present Osaka Securities Exchange) the Osaka Chamber of Commercial Law (present the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the first chairman was Tomoatsu GODAI), and Osaka Commercial Training Institute (present Osaka City University and Osaka Municipal Tennoji Business High School), and companies such as Osaka Seido (copper metallurgy company), Kansai Boeki (trading company), Kyodo Unyu (transporting company), Kobe Sanbashi (shipping company), Osaka Shosen (shipping company), and Hankai Railway (present Nankai Electric Railway Co., Ltd.).
His bronze statues were built (in Izumi Park) in Izumi-cho Town, Kagoshima City; in front of Osaka Securities Exchange in Chuo Ward, Osaka City; and in front of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.