The history of Mitsubishi parallels the story of modern Japan. The founder, Yataro Iwasaki was from the city of Kochi on the island of Shikoku, which was the home of the powerful Tosa clan. He worked for the clan and distinguished himself in managing its Osaka trading operations. In 1870, he set up his own shipping company, Tsukumo Shokai, with three steamships chartered from the clan. That was the beginning of Mitsubishi.
The company grew rapidly while undergoing a number of name changes: to Mitsukawa Shokai, Mitsubishi Shokai, Mitsubishi Jokisen Kaisha (Mitsubishi Steamship Company), Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha (Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company).
Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company inaugurated service to China and Russia and enjoyed a virtual monopoly on overseas routes. But the political winds shifted against Mitsubishi in the early 1880s, and the government sponsored the establishment of a competitor. The ensuing competition nearly bankrupted both companies.
Government intervention produced a temporary truce. But cutthroat competition resumed when Yataro died in 1885 and was succeeded by his brother Yanosuke. The feud ended with a government-arbitrated merger in 1885, which created Nippon Yusen–today’s NYK Line. © 2006 Mitsubishi