Sites Related to Mitsubishi’s History
The founding family of the old Mitsubishi organization left an impressive legacy of architecture, treasures and landscapes. Here we present a selection that has deep connections with Mitsubishi. As these sites are open to the public, we hope you will use the information to experience Mitsubishi’s history and culture.
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Sites Related to Mitsubishi’s History
The Seikado Bunko Library and the Seikado Bunko Art Museum
A quiet spot in nature
A 10 minute walk from Kinuta-koen Park will take you to Seikado Bunko, which occupies an English-style country cottage in a quiet residential area of Okamoto, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, where the natural setting of Musashino is still preserved.
The Seikado Foundation currently possesses about 200,000 old Japanese and Chinese books and documents, and as many as 6,500 antique works of art, including 83 masterpieces registered by the Japanese Government as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.
This collection of important cultural materials was started around 1887 by Yanosuke Iwasaki, the second president of the Mitsubishi Company, who retained an admiration for Far Eastern culture, which had fallen into neglect during the period of the Westernization of Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912), and wished to preserve such cultural materials and prevent them from becoming scattered and lost. The collection was enlarged and strengthened by the founder’s son Koyata Iwasaki, Mitsubishi’s fourth president.
In 1992, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Seikado collection, a new art museum was opened and activities in this area greatly expanded.
“Seikado” is the studio-name of Yanosuke Iwasaki.
The exhibition is held several times a year with information and lectures by special researchers and curators available. (Check exhibition schedules before your visit since there is no regular display.)
The Oriental library
Toyo Bunko is located along Shinobazu-dori, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. In 1917, Hisaya Iwasaki purchased the private library of George Ernest Morrison, an advisor to the Office of the Chinese Government. He improved on this collection of European language materials by increasing the number of classical Chinese and Japanese books, collecting and selecting sources from all over Asia. In 1924 he established the center as Japan’s first library devoted exclusively to Asian Studies. Toyo Bunko currently houses around 1,000,000 books and materials in Japanese, Chinese, various other Asian languages and European languages, including globally important literature such as five works designated as national treasures and seven works designated as important cultural properties. Toyo Bunko is an important center for Asian studies in Japan and globally.
A museum has been established to house these valuable works and promote Asian studies. Using the latest digital technologies and architecturally-designed spaces it displays a long-hidden collection of rare books and pictures, with an emphasis on works designated as national treasures or important cultural properties. Visitors can also refresh themselves at the onsite restaurant “Orient Café,” which is operated and directly supplied by Koiwai Farm.
The Mitsubishi Archives (annex to the Mitsubishi Economic Research Institute)
Feeling close to the dawn of Japan’s modern era
The Mitsubishi Archives were established in 1995 as an annex to the Mitsubishi Economic Research Institute (MERI) to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the founding of Mitsubishi. The Archives are located on the site of the former residence of Hikoyata Iwasaki (Yataro’s grandson), next to the former main residence of the Iwasaki Family―an area with a long connection to Mitsubishi.
The main mission of the Mitsubishi Archives is to safe keep Mitsubishi’s historical business documents and materials, to conduct research and studies on the history of Mitsubishi’s diverse business development since its establishment at the dawn of the Meiji era down to modern times, along with that of Japanese industry, and to give the public access to these materials. There is an exhibition hall where visitors can view a panel display of Mitsubishi’s history and its historical context, as well as a selection of Mitsubishi’s actual historical artifacts. The collection includes original writings of Yataro Iwasaki, documents including contracts from Mitsubishi’s earliest days, public records, old photographs, and other items that tell the fascinating history of industrial development in Japan, and at Mitsubishi.
Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum
Marunouchi’s first office building reopened as an art museum
The Mitsubishi Ichigokan museum opened in Marunouchi, Tokyo, in the spring of 2010 as an art museum. It holds three planned exhibitions a year featuring mainly modern art from the latter half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century. The original red brick building was designed by Josiah Conder and made use of the Queen Anne style of architecture from the Victorian era in England. The building was erected in 1894 by Mitsubishi as the first Western-style office building in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district. The original structure was torn down in 1968, but faithfully reconstructed as much as possible with reference to the original building plans and photographs.
Collections center on Western art from the late 19th century, the same era as the original building. These include works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Odilon Redon, and Félix Vallotton, among others.
Inside the museum, there is the Café1894; Store1894, the museum store; the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Archive Room, where visitors can feel the history of Marunouchi; and the Mitsubishi Center Digital Gallery, where one can view the Mitsubishi Group’s archived cultural assets. The museum is truly a space in which visitors can imagine the era when Marunouchi was once a red brick city affectionately known as the “London Block.”
The birthplace of Yataro Iwasaki
The birthplace of Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of Mitsubishi
In 1835, Yataro Iwasaki was born here as the eldest son of Yajiro and Miwa Iwasaki. His brother Yanosuke and eldest son Hisaya were also born here. The site is enclosed by a hedge, and contains the thatched cottage that was relocated here around 1795 by Yataro’s great grandfather, and an earthen-walled storehouse built in the Meiji period. The ornamental tiles of the storehouse roof display the Iwasaki family crest, a three-tiered water chestnut design that is the origin of the three-diamond Mitsubishi symbol. The stones in the inner garden were arranged by Yataro himself during his youth to represent the Japanese archipelago. They are thought to represent the ambitious global dreams of the young man.
The stately home of the Iwasaki Family
British architect Josiah Conder, whose work includes Rokumeikan and St. Nicolas’s cathedral, designed this mansion for Hisaya Iwasaki. Although there used to be more than 20 buildings on the site of about 50,000㎡, only three of them remain today: the Western-style house, the billiard hall, and the Japanese-style house. This style is Jacobian, in the manner of the British Renaissance, and the interior is highly ornamental. The delicate design, which was rare in the architecture of the time, will transport you back to the early days of modern Japan.
Tosa Inari Shrine
Mitsubishi’s birthplace blessed by Tosa Inari
When the site for one of the Tosa Clan’s warehouses had been prepared, Tosa Province presented a rock as the goshintai, namely, an object of worship to be housed in a Shinto shrine that would contain the spirit of a protecting deity, and the shrine was founded. Subsequently, Toyotaka Yamauchi, the clan’s sixth leader, ceremoniously transferred a portion of the Oinari god of fertility, rice and agriculture from Fushimi, Kyoto, enshrining it there in the shrine, which became known as the Tosa Inari Shrine. During the late 19th century, the land came into the possession of Yataro Iwasaki, who held such a deep devotion to the shrine that by tradition it is now considered the patron shrine of Mitsubishi.
Koiwai Farm began as one tree planted on waste land
Koiwai Farm was named after its cofounders, Gishin Ono (then vice president of Japan Railway. The “O” of Ono is read as “Ko” in Koiwai), Yanosuke Iwasaki (then president of Mitsubishi), and Masaru Inoue (then Director General of the Railway Agency). Many decades were spent for the foundation as the ground was acidic and extremely sterile as of its opening in 1891. Today the site attracts a lot of visitors as a fertile farm. Today many buildings on the site are designated as important cultural properties. The farm also offers tours of its historic buildings and production sites, and runs participative programs to help promote interest and understanding of dairy farming and forestry.
Kiyosumi Gardens, a sublime garden of the Meiji Era
Yataro Iwasaki purchased the estate grounds of a daimyo of the Edo era, to provide his workers and noble guests with a place for recreation. The work of landscaping continued after his death, and was completed as a sublime garden with a central pond surrounded by wellmaintained paths and trees. Although it suffered great damage in the Great Kanto Earthquake, the garden helped save a number of lives as it was used as housing for evacuees. Yataro’s heirs donated it to the City of Tokyo in the following year of 1924, when it reopened as Kiyosumi Gardens.
An Edo-era daimyo’s garden heavily influenced by waka poetry and literature
A confidant of one of the early Tokugawa shoguns built this exquisite Japanese garden in what is now Tokyo. It was counted as one of the two greatest gardens of the Edo period. (The other is Koishikawa Korakuen.) After seven years of construction, it was completed as a landscaped garden adopting the same style as the garden of Katsura Rikyu, an imperial Villa in Kyoto. This delicate garden contains a manmade pond and a hill raised at the corner of Musashino plain, which gives it a feeling of warmth. Yataro Iwasaki obtained the garden at the beginning of the Meiji era. His descendents donated it to the City of Tokyo in 1938.
Relax and enjoy the fabulous view of the changing seasons at
Sanyo-so is an elegant Japanese-style villa constructed for Hisaya Iwasaki in the middle of an expansive garden designed by Kyoto-based gardener, Jihei Ogawa. The estate was converted to a hotel in 1947, and it still offers a great view of the 10,000 ㎡ garden. Registered as a national tangible cultural property in June 2017.
Hakone Yumoto Yoshiike Ryokan
Hakone Yumoto Yoshiike Ryokan is situated in a tranquil yet expansive garden
Situated in one corner of an impressive 33,000㎡ garden, this state registered cultural property is a former villa of the Iwasaki family estate, and is surrounded by spectacular scenery. Now run as a Yoshiike Ryokan Hotel (established in 1941), it offers visitors a chance to ramble along the paths of the landscaped garden, which was completed in 1908, enjoy the cherry blossoms, azalea, and, calla lilies in spring, hydrangeas in summer, and colored leaves in autumn.
Hotel de YAMA
A resort hotel with a beautiful garden and a view of Lake Ashi
Built on the site of Koyata Iwasaki’s villa, this resort hotel is situated by Lake Ashi. It will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2018. Visitors can enjoy the changing view of the seasons with azalea and rhododendron planted by Koyata Iwasaki over 100 years ago, while Mt. Fuji sits majestically in the background.
Tonogayato Gardens abound with natural paths
This garden was originally founded as a villa for Sadae Eguchi, who later become president of South Manchuria Railways Co. The Iwasaki family purchased the villa from him in 1929, commissioning Saku Tsuda to design additional buildings including a Western-style mansion and a Japanese tea house (Koyotei). The garden also features a pond and roaming paths. It is now owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and open to the general public. There is an admission fee.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki Shipyard &
Machinery Works Historical Museum
Housed in an historic building, the rich history of the Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works spans over 160 years
The Historical Museum was opened in 1985 in a refurbished historic building in the premises of Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works. The building was originally built in 1898 during the formative years of the shipbuilding industry. It was built as a wood pattern shop for producing the molds for metal castings in response to the increasing demand for cast-metal products. It is the oldest existing building in the Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, and is a timber post-and-beam two-story red brick building. Inside the museum, more than 900 items are displayed, including a collection of the oldest machine tools in Japan such as the very first domestically-developed land steam turbine. In July 2015, the building was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the assets comprising the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.
The first piece of Showa-era architecture to be registered as an important cultural property
Meijiseimeikan is a reinforced concrete building with a steel framework featuring eight floors above ground and an additional two floors underground. Designed by Prof. Shinichiro Okada of Tokyo Art School (Tokyo University of Art), an influential figure in architecture of the day, it was completed in 1934 after three years of construction and boasted many advanced facilities at the time. Meijiseimeikan is highly appreciated as a master piece of classicism, and is considered one of the best modern Western-style buildings. Surviving the tumultuous Showa era, it was requisitioned by GHQ after WWII for use by the Allied Council for Japan.
NYK Maritime Museum
Contributing to the modernization of Japan’s maritime transport
The NYK Maritime Museum offers the opportunity to learn about over 130 years of modern maritime transport history with its extensive resources, model ships, and beautiful prints of passenger ships. The exhibits cover the untold story of the origins of NYK (Nippon Yusen Kaisha) through to modern times. The historic museum building was originally built as the Yokohama branch of NYK in 1936 and has distinctive Corinthian columns reaching up to the top of the second floor. Set tickets that include entry into the NYK Hikawamaru, a ship moored only 15 minutes’ walk away, are also available.
Back to the golden days of passenger ships
The Hikawamaru is a cargo-passenger ship that was built in 1930 to service the shipping route to Seattle. It was a state-of-the-art ship at that time, and is a reminder of the age of luxury passenger liners prior to World War II. During the war, the Hikawamaru served as a hospital ship, and was moored at a special pier in Yamashita Park in Yokohama in 1961. Open to the public, in 2016 it was designated as a nationally important cultural property. The ship is a beloved symbol of Yokohama, and is highly regarded as a precious part of Japan’s industrial heritage.
Sado Gold Mine
Major gold mine is a candidate World Heritage Site
The Sado Gold Mine is a major gold and silver mine that was developed following the discovery of gold in 1601. After supporting the treasuries of the Edo and Meiji governments, it became a royal property in 1889 along with the Ikuno silver mine until it was sold to Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha in 1896. The Sado Gold mine remained under the management of Mitsubishi Mining Co., Ltd (now Mitsubishi Materials Corporation) until its closer in 1989. Total gold production was 78 tons and silver production was 2,330 tons respectively over 388 years. The mine is now open to the public for sightseeing, and Mitsubishi is working alongside local government to have it appointed as a World Heritage site.
Ikuno Silver Mine
The mine that supported the modernization of Japan
Said to have been discovered in 807, the great Ikuno Silver Mine was active through the Oda, Toyotomi, and Tokugawa periods, and along with Sado Gold Mine supported the modernization of Japan. By the time of its closure in 1973, the mine had yielded 1,723 tons of silver. Today the mine tunnel has been opened to the public as a sightseeing attraction by a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Materials Corporation. In 2017, the remains were recognized as a cultural asset comprising the Japan heritage “Gin-no- Bashamichi Old Silver Mine Carriage Road.”
A mine that tells the history of industry in Tohoku
Osarizawa Mine was discovered in 708. Mitsubishi obtained the mine in 1889. The mine produced 4.4 tons of gold, 155 tons of silver and 300,000 tons of copper until its closure in 1978. Today the mine is open to the public for sightseeing operated by a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Materials Corporation.