In Our Roots, we will examine the earliest origins of values that continue to shape and guide our activities today. In this first installment, we focus on Miwa Iwasaki, the mother of Mitsubishi Founder Yataro Iwasaki. Miwa greatly influenced Yataro and also laid out a set of precepts for the Iwasaki Family to live by.
Miwa was the daughter of a doctor, but her father passed away when she was only 13, so she went to work in the household of a retainer of the local feudal lord. Miwa then lost her mother at 15 and subsequently married a low-ranking samurai by the name of Yaziro Iwasaki at the age of 16.
Life was certainly not easy for Miwa, but one year, a neighborhood woman came to her in tears, seeking money. Miwa had long been frustrated by the woman’s weak character, so she firmly refused; however, upon seeing the woman wearily trudge homeward, she ran ahead of her and secretly slipped what little money she had into the woman’s house. Miwa was a considerate person, and even after Yataro achieved success in business, she remained a pillar of the Iwasaki Family.
Miwa established the following precepts for the Iwasaki Family:
- 1. Do not stray from the straight and narrow way.
- 2. Do not cause children hardship.
- 3. Do not heed the slanderous comments of others.
- 4. Cherish and protect the family.
- 5. Do not become complacent when you are in good health.
- 6. Do not forget what it is like to be poor.
- 7. Always have a patient heart.
It must have been sobering for Yataro, who was said to be arrogant on occasion, to recall these words of his mother.
In February, newspapers in Japan reported that a company employee in Kochi Prefecture made an interesting discovery near the house where Yataro was born in Aki City. The man found what is believed to be a jar used by Miwa to frugally stash away meager savings back in the days when the Iwasaki Family was on the brink of poverty. The jar, which contained nearly 180 Edo-period coins, will be displayed along with other Iwasaki Family heirlooms at the Aki City Museum of History and Folklore until January 30, 2011.
Photos courtesy of the Mitsubishi Archives and Aki City Museum of History and Folklore