Monday, May 14, 2012

"all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years" - Early Sony

Trains Running around Tokyo

Early Sony

There was a small company in Tokyo immediately after WWII.

But it had some remarkable members in its board of directors, stakeholders, and executive advisers.  For example, they included an ex-minister of education, the former Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency, and an ex-chairman of the largest bank of Japan at the time.

The company is now called Sony.  But why could Sony, when it had only 10 or so engineers after WWII, get support from those  persons of great renown?

Sony was first launched by Masaru Ibuka (1908 - 1997) in 1946.  Ibuka was an inventor who got a great prize in an exposition held in Paris in 1930s with an invention he had devised when he was a student of Waseda University.  He had already launched his own company before WWII.  In business with the Imperial Navy of Japan, he came to know Akio Morita (1921 - 1999), a then engineering officer and a future co-founder of Sony.  After WWII, Ibuka started a new company called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Industry) with several members.  As this company drew some attention from a newspaper, its activities were reported in the public.  Then, Morita, who was then living in his hometown far from Tokyo after leaving the Navy, read the newspaper to know his old and senior friend Ibuka was doing something interesting in Tokyo.  Morita soon joined Ibuka.     

This is a well-known story of the start of business leading to the foundation of Sony, the name officially adopted in 1958 for Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo.

But why could Sony, when it had only several engineers after WWII, get support from such  persons of great renown as the former Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency whose duty involved daily and direct communications with the emperor?

The mother of Ibuka had a friend since her university days who married a novelist.  As Ibuka lost his father when he was three years old, he in his childhood often went to the house of this novelist called Nomura to spend time.  As Nomura became successful, Ibuka continued to maintain this  association even after he graduated from the university.  And this Novelist had a country villa in Karuizawa, a popular resort area for rich citizens of Tokyo.  And at the next of Nomura's villa was a summer house of  a leader writer of The Asahi Shimbun newspaper named Maeda.  As Tamon Maeda had a daughter, young Ibuka was introduced to her to marry eventually in 1936.

Ibuka's father-in-law Maeda became the minister of education of the Japanese Government in 1945 after WWII.  But Maeda was later expelled from a public position by the General Headquarters led by General MacArthur, the supreme commander of the allied forces, due to his political standpoint during WWII.  Accordingly, Maeda decided to become president of Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo his son-in-law Ibuka established.

However, ex-minister of education Maeda had no experiences in business, so that he consulted his friend Michiji Tajima, a former banker who had once worked for the Bank of Japan and was to serve the emperor as the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency from 1948 to 1953.  Tajima introduced to Maeda an ex-chairman of the largest bank of Japan at the time named Junshiro Mandai.  Further through social connections of Mandai, various influential people in Japan such as former prime minister of Japan Tanzan Ishibashi and future chairman of the Federation of Economic Organizations Taizo Ishisaka joined Sony as an executive or a stakeholder.

Therefore, before Sony became a big name in the industry in Japan as well as in the US, the emerging electronic maker had improbable leaders inside it who were notable members of the Japanese society.  So, it is natural that when executives and managers of Sony started to play an active role in the global market, they never felt timid.  Sony's executive officers were from the beginning so close to the upper society of Japan.  When Sony succeeded, even imperial family members came to look on the company office.  It is said that Emperor Showa knew Sony as a company his former Grand Steward Tajima led, since Tajima became chairman of the board of Sony actually. 

One of episodes that characterized these elite leaders of Sony is that the then chairman of Sony Michiji Tajima, when he was the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency serving the emperor in the Imperial Palace, often used his own money but not public money for dinners and so on with politicians  and people concerned with the imperial house so as to save costs of the Agency and avoid accusation from the public against the imperial house account.  Indeed early Sony was supported by some Japanese elites who had traditional Japanese virtue.
Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K. (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation), also known as Totsuko, established in Nihonbashi, Tokyo with start-up capital of 190,000 yen for the research and manufacture of telecommunications and measuring equipment. 
Company head office and factory relocated to Shinagawa, Tokyo.
Successful commercialization and sales launch of Sony's “power megaphone.” 
Completion of first magnetic tape recorder prototype. 
Japan's first magnetite-coated, paper-based recording tape, “Soni-Tape,” launched.
Japan's first magnetic tape recorder, the G-Type, order launched. 
Sendai plant established in Tagajo, near Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. (in April 1992 it was renamed Sendai Technology Center.)
Announcement of Japan's first PNP alloy-type transistor and germanium diode. 
Decision made to use SONY logo on Totsuko products.
Totsuko listed on the OTC (over-the-counter) market of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
Japan's first transistor radio, the TR-55, launched. 
Company name changed to Sony Corporation.
Sony listed on the TSE. 
Formal announcement of research results leading to the negative-resistance “Esaki Diode” prototype. 
Sony Corporation of America (SONAM) established in the United States.
World's first direct-view portable TV, the TV8-301, launched.
Sony America about 1960

(to be continued...)

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Gen 5:12 And Cainan lived seventy years and begat Mahalaleel:
Gen 5:13 And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters:
Gen 5:14 And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.