William Wray presents an in-depth examination of the origins and institutional growth prior to World War I of Mitsubishi, today Japan’s largest industrial group, and the Nippon Yusan Kaisha (N.Y.K.), now the world’s leading shipping enterprise. Drawing heavily upon previously inaccessible archival material from Japanese and Western companies, Wray shows how Japanese business grew out of institutional change through conflict. Three major themes illustrate tension and conflict: the struggle by managers to retain company autonomy, the role of the government in planning and intervening in the economy, and internal company disputes between managers and stockholders over financial issues.
This study, however, is much more than the history of two companies. It provides extensive analysis of decisionmaking in the Meiji government, the finances of the Imperial House, trading strategies, international commercial diplomacy, imperialism, and the shipping industry’s response to war.