The Birthplace of Iwasaki Yataro
The humble birthplace of Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of the massive Mitsubishi conglomerate is in Aki in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku.
The Birthplace of Iwasaki Yataro 岩崎弥太郎生家
Iwasaki Yataro (1835-1885) was the founder of Mitsubishi, the giant, Japanese conglomerate.
The company has interests in just about every kind of industry and business. This ranges from aircraft, ships, cars, chemicals and finance to mining, food and even nuclear power. Mitsubishi also owns one of the most well-known logos in the world.
The birthplace and childhood home of Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi
Iwasaki was born in relatively humble conditions in what is now the town of Aki in Kochi on the island of Shikoku. The home where he was born and where he grew up is open to the public.
He was born in 1835 into a family of farmers that were fairly well-to-do. His family had actually been samurai, but to pay off family debts his great grandfather sold his status as samurai. This was not an uncommon procedure in the Edo Period and made Japan's strict class system somewhat more fluid in reality than on paper.
At age 19 he left his home and traveled to Edo (present-day Tokyo) to study, but returned soon after because of a dispute between his father and the village headman. Yataro's subsequent involvement in the dispute led to a 7-month spell in prison for him.
Eventually he found employment with the Tosa domain, the old name for Kochi, and was promoted to oversee the domain's trade in Nagasaki. He was able to make enough money in the process to be able to buy back his family's samurai status.
In 1868, following the Meiji Restoration that abolished the domains, he bought the lease for a trading company and began supplying the Japanese Government. This would prove a relationship that was close and lucrative and began the rise of the Mitsubishi Company into a major corporation.
Statue of Yataro Iwasaki in front of his childhood home in Aki, KochiThe interior of Iwasaki Yataro's birthplace, now open to the public
Iwasaki Yataro's birthplace and childhood home is situated in a residential area at the edge of the fertile Aki River valley. Nowadays there are acres and acres of vinyl greenhouses interspersed among the rice paddies.
In front of the property is a large bronze statue of him that was erected to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth. It was relocated to its current location in 2015.
The house was built in 1795 with the funds the family received from selling their samurai status. It is thatched and maintained in good condition though all the rooms are bereft of furniture and decorations.
The bathroom and toilet are in a separate building, an indication that they were not poor farmers. Looking up the structure of the roof is clearly visible. The home is usually unattended, but in the cafe across the street the staff can give some information.
The former Iwasaki home has several storehouse and other outbuildingsLooking up into the roof of Yataro Iwasaki's childhood home
Birthplace of Iwasaki YataroKo Inokuchi, Aki-shiKochi 784-0051Tel: 0887 35 1011Open from 8 am to 5 pm every day.Free entry.
There is no public transport to the house, so a taxi, about a 3 km journey, from Aki Station on the Gomen-Nahari Line is the best option. Aki Station is about 50-60 minutes and 1,170 yen from Kochi Station.
Nearby, about 2 km across the valley, is the site of the former Aki Castle. While nothing of it remains the samurai district around it is still well preserved and worth a visit if you are in the area. Also nearby is a Local History Museum and a Calligraphy Museum.
Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-1867) was a contemporary of Iwasaki and another of Kochi's favorite sons.
The Kochi Municipal Ryoma's Birthplace Memorial Museum in Kochi city and the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum near Katsurahama Beach are both dedicated to him.
The former home of Toyota's founder, Toyoda Sakichi, another giant of Japan's industrial development, can also be visited in Shizuoka Prefecture near Hamamatsu.