Yataro Iwasaki (岩崎 弥太郎 Iwasaki Yatarō, January 9 1835–February 7 1885) was a Japanese financier and shipping industrialist, and the founder of Mitsubishi.
He was born in a provincial farming family in Aki, Tosa province (now Kochi prefecture), the great grandson of the man who had sold his family's samurai status in obligation of debts. Beginning his working career in the employ of the Tosa clan, he left for Edo (now Tokyo) aged 19 in search an education to further his ambitions.
His studies were briefly interrupted when he returned home a year later, after his father was seriously injured in a dispute with the village headman. Having accused a local magistrate of corruption for failing to hear his complaint, he was subsequently imprisoned for seven months.
Returning to Edo, he socialised with political activists and studied under the reformist Toyo Yoshida, who influenced him with ideas about opening and developing the then-closed nation through industry and foreign trade. Soon, through Yoshida, he found work as a clerk for the Tosa government, and bought back the family's samurai status with the wages he saved. He was later promoted to the top position at the Tosa clan's trading office in Nagasaki, responsible for trading camphor oil and paper to buy ships, weapons, and ammunition.
Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868 which forced the disbandment of the shogunate's business interests, Iwasaki travelled to Osaka and leased the trading rights for the Tosa clan's Tsukumo Trading Company. The company changed its name to Mitsubishi in 1873.
Mitsubishi diversified rapidly, first acquiring extra ships and expanding its passenger and freight services, later providing transportation for Japanese troops to Taiwan and Kyūshū. This led to more government support, leading to mail supply contracts and further shipping rights on the lucrative Shanghai route through the Mitsubishi Transportation Company which Yataro founded. Subsequently he invested in mining, ship repair and documentary finance.
In 1884 he took a lease of the Nagasaki Shipyard and renamed it Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, allowing the company to undertake shipbuilding on a full-scale.
Yataro died of stomach cancer aged 50, and was succeeded at the helm of the family business first by his brother, and later his son.
- "The Man Who Started It All", Mitsubishi.or.jp
- "The origin of MHI can be traced all the way back to 1884", MHI-ir.jp