Shibusawa Eiichi, 1st Viscount Shibusawa |渋沢 栄一| Shibusawa Eiichi| March 16, 1840 - November 11, 1931}} was a Japanese industrialist. He founded hundreds of modern corporation in Japan, many of which survived to this day.(e.g. First National Bank of Japan, and is known as the "father of Japanese capitalism." Shibusawa was born in Fukaya, Saitama Prefecture. He spearheaded a campaign to redeem the reputation of businessmen in Japan from the Edo period official ideology, which placed merchants at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Another notable asspect is that, despite his massive influence in founding of Japanese Capitalism, he did not form large Zaibatsu organisation. What is know as Shibusawa Zaibatsu was arranged for the purpose of estate rather than business conglomarite empire.
Under the influence of sonnō jōi (expel the barbarians; revere the emperor) sentiment, he formulated a plan along with cousins and friends to capture Takasaki Castle and set fires in the foreign settlement in Yokohama. Ultimately, however, this plan was cancelled and he moved on to Kyoto.
Shibusawa left his home town at the age of twenty-three, and entered the service of Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu (then in line for the position of shogun). He distinguished himself by his work in strengthening the household finances of the Hitotsubashi family.
When he was twenty-seven years old, he visited France and other European countries as a member of Tokugawa Akitake's Delegation to the Paris World Exposition. In this trip Shibusawa observed modern European societies and cultures for the first time, and realized the importance of industrial and economic development.
After returning from Europe at the news of the change of governments now known as the Meiji Restoration, he established the Shoho Kaisho, one of the first joint stock company in Japan, in Shizuoka prefecture. Afterwards, he was invited by the Meiji government to become a member of the Ministry of Finance, where he became a driving force in the building of a modern Japan as head of the Kaisei Kakari, or office of the Ministry of Finance in charge of reform.
In 1873 Shibusawa resigned from the Ministry of Finance and became the president of the Dai-Ichi Kokuritsu Ginko (lit. First National Bank). This was Japan's first modern bank, established under his own guidance while still employed by the Ministry of Finance. With this bank as a base, Shibusawa devoted himself to founding and encouraging businesses of all sorts.
Shibusawa was an advocate throughout his life of the idea that good ethics and business should be in harmony. The number of enterprises in which he was involved as founder or supporter is said to exceed 500. For example, today's Mizuho Financial Group, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Imperial Hotel, Keihan Electric Railway, Taiheiyo Cement, Sapporo Breweries, NYK Line. Moreover, he spearheaded many works for the betterment of society, and was an enthusiastic supporter of education, especially higher education in the field of business, higher education for women, and private schools. Shibusawa involved himself in some 600 projects related to education, social welfare, and others.
In addition, Shibusawa made efforts to promote exchange of goods and goodwill across national boundaries through private-sector diplomacy. Numerous guests from overseas visited the Shibusawa residence in Asukayama, where they talked candidly with him.
[Text quoted from Shibusawa Ei'ichi Memorial Foundation homepage]