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World Review
 february 2005

MEIJI JAPAN, 1868-1911:


Avram Agov

Mitsui – the three wells of Japan’s prosperity

Sokubei Mitsui became a sake brewer and pawnbroker after deciding to become a commoner and start family business in Matsusaka, Ise province. His son, Hachirobei Takatoshi Mitsui, began a traditional clothing wholesale and retail store in 1672. The Mitsui family moved to Edo (later Tokyo) in 1673 and opened a dry goods store. As a result of the wealth accumulated from trade, Hachirobei began a money-exchange business. In 1691 Mitsui became one of the government’s fiscal agents. Interestingly, trade and finance would become the most important businesses of the family during Meiji period as well. In 1710, the Mitsui brothers established a central body (Omotakata) – Mitsui Family business management – which consisted of nine members. The Omotakata managed the family business until the beginning of the Meiji era. In addition to its experience in trade and financing spanning two centuries, the Mitsui family was one of the wealthiest merchant families in Japan before the Meiji Restoration, and this provided enormous leverage for business activities in the changing political and socioeconomic environment.

One of the major changes initiated by the Mitsui family during the Meiji period, was to hire talented outside mangers to reform and manage the business. Rizaemon Minomura was an outside manager who made a considerable impact on the development of Mitsui operations by separating the family from the business. He transformed the money-changing operation into Mitsui Bank in 1876. Mitsui Bussan was set up in 1876 as a trading company by combining the operations of the Mitsui domestic trading business and Senshu Kaisha, which had been initiated by Kaoru Inoue, one of the influential Meiji leaders (Inoe helped the establishment of the Mitsui Bank). Takashi Masuda, vice-president of Senshu, became Mitsui Bussan’s first president. He was a former captain in the Bakufu cavalry division. At that time, trade was something of an “illegitimate child” among Mitsui business dealings, because it was considered too risky. The Mitsui family first invested mainly in the Mitsui Bank. Managers (from outside the family) like Masuda began to play an increasingly important role and family members gradually withdrew from trading. The change was so profound for the Mutsuis that some family members were removed from the family register.

Mitsui Bussan took over the Army Ministry contracts of Senshu Kaisha. No doubt, the connection with the government in the name of Kaoru Inoue played an important role in the initial development of the trading company. At a time when the Mitsui family was reluctant to devote resources to the trading company, the government pushed vigorously in that direction. Trade was considered crucial to earn the badly needed currency for the economy. Takashi Masuda took over the management after Minomura died in 1876. He expanded international trade, probably under the influence of Inoue.

John Roberts remarks that Inoue was most intimately associated with Mitsui partly because of his experience as yonin or business manager for his han (domain), Choshu, before the Restoration. “It may be assumed that the Mitsuis’ house rule of cultivating the “honorable men in power” first drew them to Inoue, just as they had been drawn to Oguri, his recent predecessor in the bakufu. But in this later time, the attraction was mutual, because the financial situation which confronted Inoue was unimaginably complex, and none but the big merchants and their banto could understand how deal with it.” (Roberts, 1973: 95) Ito Hirobumi (one of the leading Meiji figures) returned from the United States in 1871 (also serving as a vice-minister of finance), where he had studied the American money system. He convinced the government to establish a new mint in Osaka. The Mitsuis were appointed agents for the mint to exchange new coins or bullion for old money. (Roberts, 1973: 95) Therefore, it can be concluded that not only the government assisted Mitsui in expansion of its business in areas of mining and foreign trade, but also Mitsui provided the government with its expertise in money exchange and distribution.

In the 1870s, the main business besides the Army Ministry was rice transactions through the Mitsui Bank (rice accepted as collateral) and rice bought for the government. During that time contacts with government were instrumental in developing the trading business of the Mitsui family. In 1877, Mitsui Bussan opened office in Shanghai, and by 1880 in Paris, London, and New York. Government’s support was implemented through the Yokohama Specie Bank (financing export documentary drafts). Another form of governmental assistance was the granting to Mitsui Bussan an exclusive contract with government-owned Miike coal in 1879, which helped further expansion in coal export. And in 1888, when the government decided to sell government-owned enterprises, Mitsui outbidded Mitsubishi to buy the Miike mines (Masuda was labeled “insane” for the high price bidding on behalf of Mitsui). Thereafter, the main business of Mitsui Bussan in Asia became the export of coal. The mines were controlled both by Mitsui Bussan and the Mitsui Bank

Subsidies were also used by the government as a tool in their business policy to facilitate expansion of trade, and this became a strategic shift in policy direction. In the early1880s, the government granted subsidies to promote exports, particularly direct exports, calling for Japanese merchants to acquire commercial rights instead of going through foreign merchants. However, in the mid-1880s, the government changed its policy of direct subsidies and many abandoned companies went out of business. It appears that by the late 1880s Mitsui Bussan was the only substantial trading company to survive these difficulties. At that time the government had little choice but to carry out tight fiscal measures to combat inflation under the Minister of Finance, Matsukata. As a result, Mitsui Bussan ceased export of rice and import of woolen goods and closed branches. Domestic business remained strong, however. In 1890, it still accounted for the largest percentage of business (of the merchandise 40 percent constituted the domestic market – rice, marine products, etc.).

Nevertheless, lack of direct government subsidies obviously had its negative impact on Mitsui business. By 1890, the state of Mitsui Bank worsened and it appears that Inoue had a hand in “fixing” the matter by urging Mitsui to appoint Hikojiro Nakamigawa as vice-president of the Bank in order to reform the bank and the rest of Mitsui business. Nakamigawa was a nephew of Yukichi Fukuzawa (one of the most influential intellectuals), and a protégé of Inoue’s. He had managed the Sanyo Railways since 1888. Furthermore, Mitsubishi people acted as head of the Bank of Japan for fifteen years. This record shows how the political and business elites were interlocked in a web of formal and informal relations, which helped smooth the relations between government and private business. Nakamigawa reorganized Mitsui Bank, Mitsui Bussan, and Mitsui Mines into unlimited partnership in 1893 according to the new Corporation Law. It is interesting to note that probably fear of bankruptcy prompted the distribution of partnership among the eleven houses of Mitsui family so that the whole organization would not go bankrupt. The administration office of the family and the directors of the three big business operations were interlocked, while the family Council (dozoku kai) became the highest decision-making body comprised of family members and directors. Nakamigawa tried to separate the Mitsui family from the management by creating a Board of Directors in 1896 to coordinate overall policy and those of the individual companies as well. Bad loans from Mitsui Bank were settled and Mitsui invested in modern industries such as silk and cotton spinning mills, and electric manufacturing and mining. After the death of Nakamigawa in 1901 the family strengthened its control over its business through the Supervisory Department within the Family Council in order to supervise the Board of Directors. The mills were sold also and the family became more conservative with regard to expansion into new areas.

The Mitsui business was reorganized through the 1909 establishment Mitsui Gomei as a holding company. The three main companies were transformed into limited corporations. Mitsui Gomei owned and controlled 100 percent of each firm’s stock. Family members dominated management. Directors of the firms were interlocked and Takuma Dan became a leading manager; he played a role in each firm. The managerial structure of Mitsui Zaibatsu was complete by 1909 when Mitsui Gomei was established. In the process of its formation, the professional managers tried to separate family power from professional management. “In this process [of formation], in order to control and coordinate the diversified and independent subsidiaries, the interlocking directorate system was developed instead of central corporate office. In order to control and coordinate capital resources Mitsui Gomei was established as the holding company. The interlocking directorate system meant horizontal integration of the subsidiaries including the managerial resources into the business group, and Mitsui Gomei was to control them vertically by the capital resources within the group.” (Yonekura, 1985: 103)

Hidemasa Morikawa compares the structure of the two largest zaibatsu: Mitsubishi and Mitsui. His analysis reveals the different development of the two zaibatsu. Mitsubishi moved from a centralized structure to a more decentralized one toward 1908 because of product diversification. In the 1910s, each division became independent joint stock company. Mitsui developed in the opposite direction from a decentralized to more centralized organization, because Mitsui Zaibatsu was composed of strong enterprise – Mitsui Bank and Mitsui Bussan, and later, Mitsui Kozan (mining business, which grew rapidly – all leaders in their fields. And because these companies tended to be independent, it was necessary for Mitsui Zaibatsu to establish a centralized system in order to control the subsidiary companies. (Morikawa, 1970: 79) Mitsubishi was more loosely organized because it controlled a wider range of businesses, which led to a broad collection of diverse divisions.

Although Mitsui expanded in new areas like coal mining, cotton spinning, and the like, its overall business portfolio was much more focused than Mitsubishi’s in key areas of success (Mitsubishi’s focus started to emerge by the late 1890s, when shipbuilding became important). Probably this was one of the reasons why Mitsui Bussan, for example, became the first Japanese general trading company and became absolutely dominant in its field in Japan by 1911. Furthermore, the centralization process within Mitsui Zaibatsu took place over a period of thirty years of constant adjustments and struggle between the Mitsui family and the professional managers. Centralization had a lot to do with the family’s desire to wrest control from the professional management, dominant almost from the very outset of the zaibatsu. Also, Morikawa points out that despite the centralization of power in the head office, the directors of Mitsui expressed their positions strongly and protected their subsidiaries. At the same time, family members and directors often possessed different interests and opinions and found it necessary to compromise in order to maintain the integrity of the management system. This tendency of compromise in fact weakened the centralized system to a certain degree. Furthermore, the autonomy of the branch offices of Mitsui Bussan, for example, ensured the efficiency of management on an operational business level.

Within the zaibatsu, Mitsui Bussan, the general trading company (sogo shosha), played a leading role as internal integrator. Sogo Shosha was to become a driving force for business expansion and one of the main sources for government revenues. It became a trademark of the Japanese pattern of industrialization. It deserves more attention because of its importance to the business and economic history of Meiji period. Some sales figures will help understand the scope of the business and the development of the trading operations of Mitsui during the Meiji period. In 1876, the total export sales stood at 120,000 yen (total trade volume: 1,100,000 yen), while the export figures for 1911 was 111,644,000 yen (total volume: 224, 980,000 yen). (Yonekura: 1985: 81, 86)

From the very start the Meiji government played a considerable role in the promotion of foreign trade in order to obtain foreign currency. Rice was the main trading item of Mitsui Bussan in the beginning of the period. In the 1880s the government consigned Mitsui Bussan for rice export to Europe on 2.5 percent commission base. Mitsui thus entered the London market and almost immediately began the import of machinery from England. The expansion into coal export has been mentioned above as an example of government assistance (the contact for Miike mines) – secured in 1876 by Inoue’s close friend, Ito Hirobumi, who headed the Ministry of Industry. Mitsui Bussan also received 2.5 percent commission for the sale of coal and a subsidy in the form of 50 percent of the net profit of sales. Through these subsidies Mitsui Bussan was able to buy its own ships for trading. Mitsui Bussan integrated the mining business into the Mitsui conglomerate, turning mining into one of the three major businesses of Mitsui Zaibatsu.

It is true that Mitsui Bussan enjoyed considerable support from the government, but at the same time, the government needed Mitsui as well for its industrialization activities. Other companies were subsidized also, but in the field of general trading Mitsui’s success was unprecedented. Mitsui Bussan (along with Mitsui Zaibatsu) was of such important to Japan’s business expansion that it was called Seisho or the “the political merchant.” By the same token, leaders like Inoue can be called “business politicians,” given their role in the promotion of trade and investment within modern industries. Nevertheless, the process was completed in the private sector; the government merely attempted to strengthen these companies in order to become more competitive globally. Furthermore, besides foreign trade expansion Mitsui played a role in promoting domestic industries as well.

The cotton spinning trade is a good example in this respect. In 1883, Mitsui became involved in the cotton business through its partnership with Osaka Spinning Mills (Masuda was a chief shareholder in the company). First it imported spinning machines from Platt Brothers Company by becoming the latter’s selling agent in Japan in 1886 (Bussan also had a 2.5 percent commission from the value of the import). It also imported steam power engines from the Hargrieves Company. Then it imported raw cotton from China and India. Also, Mitsui Bussan exported the final products, thus closing the business cycle all within its operations. By 1910, it exported one third of the total export of cotton yearn, which became the third largest export item in Bussan’s sales (after raw cotton and coal), constituting 40 percent of its export. In addition, Mitsui Bussan subsidized Toyoda Loom Works from 1899. It should be noted that the cotton business was a booming in Japan in the 1890s and Mitsui trading operations were instrumental in its development. Therefore, Mitsui Bussan played a role as organizer of domestic industry.

In the1890s, Japan’s export volume increased three-fold. The ties between Mitsui coal business and the government were severed and the company pulled out of the domestic rice business. It stepped up involvement in third-country transactions. According to company records, there existed three main factors involved in the decision to expand: 1) financial strength (short-term funds from Yokohama Specie Bank; relied on Mitsui Bank during tightening of loan policy), 2) transportation capability, and 3) information network (information collection and branches). (Mitsui, 1977: 54-55) Other components of Mitsui Bussan’s structure and management style which contributed to its efficiency and growth were the department system and the common accounting system. The company was reorganized into administrative departments and special commodities departments, which also controlled branches. The common accounting system allowed for considerable autonomy of the branches through the self-paying system. This system also enhanced accountability for transactions and business decisions.

Shiichiro Yonekura emphasizes the importance of human resources too. Professional management was one of the key characteristics of the company from the very start of its operations. Prominent mangers like Minomura, Nakamigawa, and Masuda contributed a great deal to the rise of Mitsui Bussan and the Mitsui Zaibatsu. Masuda also initiated a practice in 1880 of hiring college students from Tokyo Commerce College (also known as Hitotsubashi University) as salary mangers. Yonekura comments on Albert Chandler’s explanation of economy of scale for manufactures which can eliminate intermediaries through its cost reduction in transporting, storing, and distribution. “In the case of Mitsui Bussan, however, its accumulated human resources and facilities sustained its cost advantage after mass production at a certain level of scale because of Bussan’s accumulated human resources; in other words, the information processing abilities of Bussan could add some value which manufacturers could not get at that time to the physical distribution. Therefore, within the competitive international market, Mitsui Bussan could develop as a sogo-shosha, particularly as a coordinator and an organizer of industries rather than as a simple trading company.” (Yonekura, 1985: 87) International knowledge and first-hand experience were also key factors to Mitsui success. The City of London became a hub in a closely linked market. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century the telegraph cables and the Suez Canal contributed to the integration of world markets, so Mitsui could capitalize on the acceleration of world trade.

Makoto Kasuya studies Mitsui Bussan’s London Branch. He concludes that the know-how Mitsui acquired in the City related to shipping and marine insurance and connections with brokers was applied to the coal business. Mitsui could use this know-how in the development of new businesses. By and large, rice transactions remained the base of the company’s operations; government commissions were important not only for the London branch but for the whole Mitsui Bussan as well. The import of machinery also formed the core of the branch’s profits, but this was possible because of the position of the branch in the City and credit extended to it by City lenders. (Kasuya, 1997: 86)

Geffrey Jones explains Mitsui Bussan’s success (vis-à-vis British trading firms) with its membership in the Mitsui zaibatsu, while the British lacked such group system. Although William Wray agrees that individual members of Japan’s global networks drew support from their group, he focuses on the “membership and operations of the global network to achieve a more comprehensive synthesis…. Creating links with Asian traders was part of the national competition between Britain and Japan. Insofar as Japan gained at the expense of the British it did so partly because its links became more productive.” (Wray, 1998: 100-101)

A comparison with business development in China will serve to illustrate the advantage of Japanese shipping and trading companies which led to their rapid expansion. Yen-P’ing Hao examines the role of compradors in China’s economy in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Comprador (from Portuguese “purchasing merchant”) held a unique position. He was hired by foreign companies doing business in China mostly in the city port areas. He assisted and often managed transactions with local merchants and suppliers, thus gaining valuable entrepreneurial experience with Western business practices and knowledge about local supply networks, financial institutions, and personal connections. His status in society was relatively low, albeit on the rise. Hao argues that the comprador-merchant can be considered entrepreneur by virtue of the fact that he was an innovator, a risk-taker, a supplier of funds, and also a competent manger, thus disputing those who suggest that one of the major reasons for China’s slow economic modernization was the lack of entrepreneurial spirit. (Hao, 1970: 214-215)

The most famous example of the role which comprador-merchants and their capital played in China’s early industrialization was the establishment of the China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Co. – the first steamship company owned and operated by Chinese. Li Hung-chang, a leading Qing government scholar-official from Shanghai, invited Tong King-sing, a leading comprador, to become general manger of the government-sponsored company in which Tong and other Chinese merchants invested too. (Hao, 1970: 122, 136) The Qing government initiated some enterprises to help modernizing the economy, but Hao concludes that in contrast to Meiji entrepreneurs, the Chinese compradors lacked assurances from the government if they suffered immediate losses. This was a critical difference between Meiji Japan and Qing China in terms of the pace of the economic development. (Hao, 1970: 152) China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Co. is an interesting example of business in China because it was supported by the government (including capital), and compradors’ wealth and expertise in management were capitalized upon. So, why did such companies fail to maintain their positions and to expand further, as was the case with the Japanese companies?

Governmental assurances for losses can be one reason, but this is a questionable argument too, because the government invested in the China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Co., which went to become the leading shipping company in Asia in the 1870s. It is therefore not enough to set up government-owned firms and begin the process of industrialization. The Meiji government attempted a similar approach and the result was mediocre. Later the government was forced to abandon these industrial projects by selling them to private companies. It realized that a strong private sector is the key to industrialization.

In a broader view, China was losing militarily and politically to foreign powers and its weak international position undermined its businesses and their ability to expand. It is no coincidence, therefore, that after years of robust growth after its establishment in 1873, the China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Co. suffered its first setback in 1883-1884. The Sino-French war arrested promising development of the company. The political weakness of the Qing government, as well as depleted financial resources due to war efforts and indemnities (Feuerwerker estimates that the indemnities from the Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer War were more than two times the total capitalization of foreign and Chinese modern enterprises between 1895 and 1913) had a very negative impact on Chinese industries. At the same time, successful internal and external war efforts by the Meiji government provided a boost to shipping and trading companies, for they received lucrative government contracts (remember the role of Satsuma rebellion and Taiwan Expedition for the rise of Mitsubishi shipping business). In addition, after the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895 and Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, the Japanese trading companies expanded quickly their overseas operations and gained dominant position in Asia. An example of this is that the Shipping Department of Mitsui Bussan almost doubled tonnage of its own fleet in the wake of the Russo-Japanese war from 1905 to 1906. (Mitsui O.S.K., 1985: 53) Also, the indemnities from the Sino-Japanese war provided important revenue, which allowed the Meiji government to carry out financial reform in 1895 (introduction of gold standard) and invest into new strategic industries such as shipbuilding.

The most important reason for the different paths taken by Chinese and Japanese business was the ability of the Meiji government to provide an institutional environment conducive to the promotion of business and expansion of foreign trade. Direct government support in the form of contracts and subsidies was also important, but this changed over time for different sectors. In the case of Mitsui Bussan, the subsidies were replaced by loans from 1905.


Qing China entered a vicious cycle in the second half of nineteenth century – the delay in reforms led to further weakening of the government, which in turn increased foreign threats and intrusions. The deepening crisis also undermined reforms. By contrast, Meiji Japan entered a virtuous cycle: the Meiji political revolution led to consistent institutional reforms which stimulated economy and business expansion and, in turn, strengthened the state and military power of the country. Japan thus gained greater power in Asia and increased recognition in the West (which helped eliminating unequal treaties), and this acted further to facilitate business expansion.

The success of Meiji reforms was determined by the successful connection between the traditional economy and the modern sector through implementation of a new institutional framework which changed the direction of development. There was no Taiping rebellion in Japan to disrupt the Chinese polity and economy. What started as an effort to repulse the foreigners from Japan (sonno joi – “revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians”), ended up as industrialization, for the Meiji leaders realized that military might was based on economic power. They thus put fourth the strategy for Meiji Japan and gave it a name: fukoku kyohei (rich country and strong defense). Change was instituted and gained momentum as a reform movement first by powerful daimyo and later by the Meiji government. Continuity of economic development was key to success, for industrialization was not so much disruption as it was a socioeconomic continuum. Successful industrialization gave rise to overestimation of the role of the government. It is true that the involvement of the Meiji leaders was essential to the changes, but not as engineers of industrialization. Industrialization took place as a result of the interplay between macroeconomic and infrastructural (physical and legal) frameworks and the dynamics of private enterprises. The government was not creator of industrialization, rather facilitator. The government was successful precisely because it learned what constructive steps it could take in order to assist in economic growth. The engine of industrialization was indeed private business. And because trade and export were so crucial to the process of industrialization, trading companies which became an integral part of zaibatsu, played a leading role in laying the foundation for economic growth. Of these, Mitsui was one of the outstanding stories.

The name of Mitsui can be translated as “three wells” and it fills this description in more ways than one. First, Mitsui Zaibatsu was composed of three major businesses: trade, finance, and mining. Also, the three resources for Mitsui success were tradition, optimal circumstances provided by the Meiji government, and trade-driven expansion. The tradition of the conglomerate included much experience in trading and finance, wealth, and the rule of “cultivating noble men of power.” Optimal conditions meant institutions and policies that stimulated industrialization and business growth. Trade was the backbone not only of the zaibatsu, but also of the industrialization of the economy, because it provided link between the traditional economy and modern sectors. It is true that the government helped the private sector, but the former also needed the private sector as the engine of industrialization. At first the government tried to set up government-owned enterprises, then later stressed the development of private sector through subsidies (the direct subsides in shipbuilding industry stopped in 1885). At the same time, the government needed the experience of big merchants like Mitsui to reform finance and trade. One example is the assignment of the new Osaka mint to the Mitsui house in 1871. Moreover, Mitsui Bussan received assistance in the form of contracts and subsidies (later loans), but once it gained momentum it began turning out new enterprises, a good example of which is cotton spinning in the 1890s. It also subsidized companies like Toyoda Looms (which would later become one of the symbols of Japan’s industrial might – Toyota Motors), and thus facilitated the growth of domestic industries. In the end, it is true that nationalism played a role in both government policies and the way of thinking of business leaders. However, the history of Mitsui can again serve as a good example in this regard. Takayasu Mitsui almost lost his life during the unification wars in Japan. His son, Sokubei, gave up the sword and said that Mitsuis must acquire money and that profit could be made honorably. Since then, his descendants continued along this path and, 250 years later, earned their place among the Meiji elite not through politics but through what they did best – business.

The legacy of Mitsui is profound for Japanese business and economic history. It set the pattern for export-oriented, private sector-driven industrialization which has shaped Japan’s economic development. It had an enormous effect in other parts of Asia too, for other countries emulated Japanese industrial policy while companies emulated the business structure and strategy of Mitsui. Countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and other Newly Industrialized Economies (NIE) in Asia have followed this path, thus setting in motion the so called “flying geese” mode of development, in which the leader, Japan, was followed by others. Business groups or chebol, such as Hyundai and Samsung of South Korea, for instance, bear close resemblance to Japanese corporate forms, of which Mitsui has been one of the leading examples.

There are numerous definitions of modernity which bear the imprint of Western experience. Anthony Giddens argues that modernity is basically a Western project, for its two organizational complexes, nation-state and systematic capitalist production, have their roots in the specific characteristics of European history. However, one of the fundamental consequences of modernity is its globalization. “Globalization – which is a process of uneven development that fragments as it coordinates – introduces new forms of world interdependence, in which, once again, there are no “others.” Therefore modernity cannot be viewed as Western from the standpoint of its globalising tendencies (Giddens, 1990: 175).

Marx stressed the critical role of the proletariat in carrying out the proletarian revolution by exclaiming: “Workers from the world, unite.” He saw the revolution as a world event and not as an isolated revolt in one country. When we discuss the industrial revolution, we should emphasize the critical role of the industrialists and, among them, the pivotal role of the merchants, who not only provide the foundation for industrialization, but also contribute to globalization of the economy. Industrialization, therefore, cannot be considered a strictly national phenomenon, but mostly a product of international development and interaction. Therefore, one might say: “Merchants and industrialists from the world, unite.”

Avram Agov

University of British Columbia

December 28, 2002

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Avram Agov is born in 1964 in Dolna Oryahovitza. He graduated Sofia University "St Kliment Ohridski" in 1988 with a BA degree of philosophy and history as a second major. After one-year specialization at Columbia University, New York, in East Asian Studies (1991-1992), he obtained an AM degree at Harvard University in 1994 - interdisciplinary program of East Asian Studies with focus on Korea. Avram Agov graduated Korean Language Institute at Yonsei University, Seoul, in 1996. He worked at Samsung Electronics from 1996 to 2002. The city council of Seoul gave him the award of "honorary citizen of Seoul" in 2001. Currently he is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he studies business and economic history of East Asia. He is also a teaching assistant in a 20th century world history course. His first book - "The Land of the Morning Calm: A Tale about South Korea," was published in 2004 in Bulgaria.