Shibusawa Eiichi and Tatsuuma Kichizaemon

Jul. 1 (Mon.),2024

Hello. It is now July. This summer is going to be hot again. Please take care of your health. By the way, the design of banknotes for Japanese yen will be renewed this month. For example, the person of 10,000 yen bill will be changed from Yukichi Fukuzawa to modern industrialist Eiichi Shibusawa. It is with a certain sadness that we will have fewer opportunities to see the banknotes printed of Yukichi Fukuzawa that we have been accustomed to using for long time. On the other hand, Eiichi Shibusawa, who was chosen for the new design, was also associated with sake brewers in the Meiji era. In this issue, we will introduce the relationship between Eiichi Shibusawa and Tatsuuma Kichizaemon to commemorate the issuance of the new banknotes.

The Letter to Tatsuuma Kichizaemon from Shibusawa Eiichi

The letter was written by Shibusawa Eiichi to Tatsuuma Kichizaemon XIII. This letter describes the maintenance of the Gyeongbu Railway in South Korea. Shibusawa appealed for the construction of a railroad connecting Seoul and Busan, which would play a major role in trade between Japan and South Korea, and he passed a second resolution for a stock offering. He also asked Tatsuuma to take on the appropriate shares, and at the same time asked him to solicit members of his family. (However, there is currently no record Tatsuuma acquiring shares in response to this request.) The letter was written in November 12, 1901, the year of Gyeongbu Railway Co. was founded.

So what kind of association did Shibusawa have with the Tatsuuma family? In June of 1901, Tatuuma Kichizaemon assumed the name of the 13th generation. Therefore, it is unlikely that a relationship had been established between the Tatsuuma Kichizaemon XIII and Shibusawa Eiichi, a major figure in the business world, at this point. So why Shibusawa sent to the letter?

This may be related to a transaction between Tatsuuma Honke Shōten and Kyōdō Unyu Gaisha (Kyōdō Transport Company). Kyōdō Unyu Gaisha was a marine transport company which was established in 1882 with the involvement of Shibusawa. This company established in opposition to Japan Post Steamship Mitsubishi Corporation, established by Yatarō Iwasaki in 1875.

In 1884, Tatsuuma Kichizaemon Ⅺ assumed the position of Nishinomiya’s agent for the joint transportation company for transporting sake casks from the breweries in Nishinomiya to Tokyo and elsewhere. In the picture of Tatsuma Honke Shōten at that time, there was also a nameplate showing that at the entrance. So, Shibusawa had been associated with Tatsuuma family since Tatsuma Kichizaemon Ⅺ, and it seemed that he sent a letter to Kichizaemon XIII to accept the stock offering.
In this issue, we introduced about the letter from Shibusawa Eiichi. In 1885, Kyōdō Unyu Gaisha established by Shibusawa merged with Japan Post Steamship Mitsubishi Corporation to form a giant shipping company, Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line). Tatsuuma Kichizaemon XIII also established Tatsuuma Kisen Corporation and he left his mark on the history of modern shipping. I would like to introduce Tatsuuma Kisen again at some point. We look forward to seeing you again next time!


I’ll make you understand the depth of sake brewing!


Oh, sake has been loved and enjoyed by people just like sakura.