Mitsubishi Corporation

vol.20 Aided by His Former Classmates, Koyata Keeps Mitsubishi on Track

Our Roots A history of rising to the challenge
Photo courtesy of the Mitsubishi Archives

vol.20 Aided by His Former Classmates, Koyata Keeps Mitsubishi on Track

We focus on the experiences that shaped Koyata Iwasaki on his way to becoming Mitsubishi's fourth president.

Koyata Iwasaki was born in Tokyo in 1879 as the first son of Yanosuke Iwasaki (the second president of Mitsubishi and younger brother of Mitsubishi founder Yataro Iwasaki). After elementary school, Koyata began to study at a private boarding school established by his father. Koyata and the other students formed close bonds while facing challenges together at the strict and austere school.

In 1899, Koyata entered the University of Tokyo, but he left before graduating in order to study in England. Although shy and mild-mannered as a boy, Koyata grew to become a dynamic young man while studying at Cambridge University. The international outlook of his British colleagues strongly resonated with Koyata as he learned about politics, economics and other subjects from eminent professors. He returned to Japan with dreams of becoming a politician, but entered Mitsubishi at his father's behest. For 11 years, Koyata supported the company's management as a vice president while serving under his cousin, Hisaya, who was 14 years older. During this time, Koyata accumulated a wealth of business experience. Meanwhile, Japan was rapidly developing the foundations of an industrial nation and Mitsubishi built a strong presence in sectors such as mining and shipbuilding.

In 1916, Hisaya handed the reins of the company over to Koyata, who was just 36 years old. At that time, Mitsubishi's management team included many of Koyata's classmates from his boarding school days. As former classmates, these executives felt free to speak candidly with Koyata. The rigorous discussions held by the executive team helped to ensure sound decision making at Mitsubishi. The strong bonds they forged as students lasted a lifetime and the boarding school proved to be a vital hub for producing valuable human resources.

A Man of Diverse Interests

Koyata was known for his wide-ranging interests. He was well versed in diverse fields—from poetry, painting and calligraphy to tea ceremony, music and pottery—and he leveraged this knowledge while providing support for various cultural activities throughout his lifetime.
Koyata and his father amassed a rich collection of culture treasures. This eventually formed the basis for the Seikado Bunko Library, which is comprised of approximately 200,000 literary volumes and 6,500 works of oriental art. In 1924, Koyata relocated the library to Setagaya in Tokyo, and in 1940, he established the Seikado Foundation.
In addition, Koyata supported the activities of Kosaku Yamada, a renowned Japanese composer and conductor who studied music in Germany. He also helped to establish the Tokyo Philharmonic Society in an effort to promote the spread of western music. Over the years, Koyata dedicated great efforts to foster the development of musicians and orchestras in Japan.