The Most Successful and Moralistic Merchant at the Dawn of Japanese Capitalism. Shibusawa and His Confucianism

  • Itaru ShimazuEmail author
Part of the Ethical Economy book series (SEEP, volume 56)


Ei-ichi Shibusawa contributed greatly to modernizing Japan, mainly as the president of the First Bank of Japan. But he was also a zealous preacher of Confucian ethics. The main question which my essay tries to answer is whether Shibusawa’s Confucianism explains his success as a businessman. My answer is rather negative. His success was more due to his unique career started as a son of a rich farmer, the influence of Saint-Simon school which he was exposed to while sent to Paris International Exposition and his experience and connections he acquired in working as a leading bureaucrat in early days of Japan’s nation-building. It is often the case that the reason of one’s success given by oneself is not always for others to trust.

Ei-ich Shibusawa, 1840–1931, might be the most interesting man among Japanese leaders who contributed in shaping Modern Japan in late nineteenth century. He was unique in being business minded, tendency rarely found in his contemporary leaders who were, in a sense, politico-military maniacs. He believed that Confucian morality and business can go along well with each other and his favorite catchword in later years was ‘Ron-go (Since I do not know how Westerners pronounce Chinese names and books, let me put them in Japanese pronunciation or in my translation into English hereafter.) (Confucian Bible) and abacus!’

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dokkyo UniversitySokaJapan

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