vol.19 Hisaya's Passion for Papermaking and Farm Management
We highlight episodes related to the papermaking business and Koiwai Farm, two ventures that Hisaya Iwasaki, Mitsubishi's third president, took a strong interest in.
During the two decades he served as Mitsubishi's president, Hisaya presided over a broad expansion of the company's business, largely centered on mining and shipbuilding operations. This coincided with a period in which Japan made great strides in establishing itself as a modern nation. One business that Hisaya took a special interest in was papermaking.
Hisaya purchased the papermaking business of the Walsh Brothers and established the Kobe Paper Mill in 1898 after Thomas Walsh decided to leave Japan following the death of his brother. The Walsh Brothers were American entrepreneurs with whom Hisaya's father, Yataro, had maintained close ties ever since his early days in business in Nagasaki. It was with the help of the Walsh Brothers that Hisaya's uncle, Yanosuke, was able to travel to the U.S. to study in the early 1870s.
After changing its name to Mitsubishi Paper Mills in 1904, the company built a new factory in Tokyo and established operations in Shanghai. The papermaking business had originally been managed under the Mitsubishi umbrella, but it was transferred to the Iwasaki family when Hisaya stepped down as president. Hisaya remained personally involved in managing the company, which was incorporated in 1917.
Meanwhile, in Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan, a different business was taking root. The venture was launched in 1891 by three men who shared the dream of establishing a farm that employed western agricultural methods. The name of the venture, Koiwai () Farm, was formed by combining characters from the names of its founders: Japan Railway Vice President Gishin Ono (; the O in Ono is also read Ko); Mitsubishi's second president, Yanosuke Iwasaki (); and Railways Minister Masaru Inoue (). Hisaya became in charge of the farm's management in 1899.
Hisaya saw stockbreeding as being central to the farm's operations. He imported thoroughbreds from England and focused on breeding stallions and racehorses. He imported dairy cattle, such as Holsteins, while introducing new production techniques for dairy products such as milk and butter. The farm also grew oats, corn, potatoes, soy beans and other crops while steadily working to promote afforestation. Through years of sustained efforts, the farm transformed what had once been untamed wilderness into a great expanse of verdant forests and fields.
Hisaya stayed at the farm with his family every summer. He took joy in seeing the children who lived on the farm and how the livestock had grown. Late in his life, Hisaya spent time at Suehiro Farm near Narita, where he was frequently reminded of Koiwai Farm, which always retained a special place in his heart.