- MITSUI History
The Mitsui Public Relations Committee contributes to international exchange and the revitalization of regional cultural activities through a wide range of cultural and public relations activities.
The Enterprising Spirit of Mitsui Hachirobe-Takatoshi
The roots of the Mitsui Group date back to the beginning of the 17th century with a merchant called Mitsui Hachirobe-Takatoshi in Matsuzaka City (now in Mie Prefecture) who is credited with founding the line of Mitsui. Takatoshi’s ancestors were samurai warriors in the Ohmi district (now Shiga Prefecture), however his grandfather was defeated by Oda Nobunaga, and he moved to the Ise district and abandoned the life of a warrior. Takatoshi’s father moved to Matsuzaka and they started to run a pawnbroker business and a store selling ‘sake’ (rice wine) and ‘miso’ (soy bean paste). Takatoshi’s grandfather had been the governor of the Echigo region, and so when they launched their store, it was known as the ‘sake’ store of the Lord of Echigo. Consequently, the names of the Echigo-ya retail drapery store and Mitsukoshi originated from this.
"Echigo-ya" Drapery Store in the Edo Era
Takatoshi was a skillful businessman, and he built up a considerable fortune in Matsuzaka. Then, in 1673, at the age of 52, he decided to establish a retail drapery store in Edo (now Tokyo), which he named Echigo-ya. Takatoshi was also gifted with the spirit of venture, and he thought up many unique ideas, which he applied as new business methods. His first success was to sell merchandise in a store setting. At that time, the best drapery stores mainly dealt in taking orders, delivering finished garments and sales at the homes of their clients. Moreover, a credit account system was generally used in which they paid off their debts twice a year, in summer and prior to the New Year. Takatoshi introduced a store system where customers paid cash, and this speeded up his cash flow. He also abandoned the sliding scale of prices based on what the merchants thought the customers could afford. He dealt in cash transactions only, and maintained fixed prices with no bargaining and no credit sales, which was very popular. In addition, his store sold lengths of cloth cut as customers required (a feature that greatly pleased the general public) rather than only the full kimono cloth bolt length of 11 meters (standard practice at other stores). He also offered quick service and tailoring through a system of allocating each work process to a different artisan. His numerous successes earned him the envy of his rivals.
He devised a new method of money changing and was appointed as financier to the Bakufu Government
In 1683 he also opened a money exchange, and he devised a new method of money changing. He was appointed as financier to the Bakufu Government, and he operated in the three major cities of Edo, Kyoto and Osaka and prospered greatly. He died in 1694 at the age of 73 leaving eight children, a son-in-law and one adopted child. In his will, he stipulated that they must maintain harmonious cooperation with each other. His family followed his dying injunctions and this led to the rise of the House of Mitsui, which passed unscathed through the turmoil of the Meiji Restoration. In 1876, when the new government had got well on track, he founded Japan’s first private sector bank, the Mitsui Bank (today, the Sumitomo-Mitsui Banking Corporation). Subsequently, Mitsui established a wide range of companies in many sectors, and these became leading independent companies in their own areas, and all make major contributions to society.
- MITSUI History