Quick Facts: How important is Shibusawa Eiichi for the capitalistic economic development of Japan?

Shibusawa Eiichi was the father of capitalism in Japan. He was a government official who brought financial reforms to Japan. As the Ministry of Finance, he worked for establishing the market economy in Japan by joint-stock company system, a monetary system, a railway line, textile factory and etc. Kenichi Ohno describes Shibusawa Eiichi as, “He spent all his efforts creating a myriad of enterprises, economic organizations, and social bodies.”

In other words, he had the energy, vision, and leadership that contributed many things to Japan in terms of economic development. Differently, from Mitsubishi zaibatsu Yataro Iwasaki who did everything for his own interests, Shibusawa lived as a business promoter and did not construct his zaibatsu. Therefore, Ohno states as “Shibusawa’s business philosophy was neither that of the self-seeking individual nor the utilitarian, but one that unites economics and ethics, the latter of which was based firmly on the Analects of Confucianism.” about Shibusawa.

By writing a letter to Takeo Yamanobe, he laid the foundation of Japan’s textile industry. Moreover, Shibusawa was trying to build private sector economic diplomacy with the U.S. and in China. Thus, he was the main actor of Japanese financial expansion in China.  

Furthermore, as mentioned above, he had played a crucial role in the establishment of many joint stock companies in Japan. Some of them were the Imperial Hotel, Nippon Usen, Nippon Steel, Bank of Tokyo, Osaka Spinning and Sapporo Beer. Also, he established cultural and economic institutions such as the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, Imperial Theater, Japan Women’s University, and Central Charity Association. A state’s development level can be understood by looking at its institutions. Therefore, Eiichi Shibusawa was a defying person for Japan in terms of capitalist economic development and establishment of such institutions. 

Shibusawa Eiichicould could do these reforms because there was a proper atmosphere for it. To generate such people as him in our world, governments and societies should be supportive.

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