Delivering Innovation

Yoshisuke Aikawa was the founder and first president of Nissan zaibatsu. He was born in 1880 in what is now part of the city of Yamaguchi. Aikawa graduated from the Imperial University of Tokyo with an engineering degree and began working for Shibaura Saisakusho, Toshiba’s forerunner. He took a trip to the United States where he investigated malleable cast iron. When he returned to Japan, he founded the Tobata Foundry in 1909, which is now known as the Hitachi Metals Company.

In 1928, Yoshisuke Aikawa became president of the Kuhara Mining Company, now the Nippon Mining & Metals Company. He created a holding company called Nihon Sangyo or Nissan for short. In the stock market boom that followed 1931, Aikawa bought majority stakes in more than a hundred Nissan subsidiaries to create the Nissan Konzerne. This group included some of the most technologically advanced companies in Japan at the time.

In 1937 it moved to Manchukuo and eventually moved the Nissan headquarters to Manchukuo, where it became part of the Manchuria Industrial Development Company. As president and chairman, he led all industrial efforts in Manchukuo and received bank loans from American steel manufacturers to support Manchukuo’s economy.

Yoshisuke Aikawa disagreed with the political views of the Imperial Japanese Army and predicted that Nazi Germany would be defeated if a general war broke out. He also supported the Fugu Plan to settle Jewish refugees in Manchukuo. Forced by the Kwantung Army, Aikawa resigned as president in 1942 and returned to Japan. After the surrender of Japan, Yoshisuke Aikawa was arrested by the American occupation authorities and imprisoned in Sugamao prison for twenty months as a suspect of Class A war crimes. He was released, but during this time the Nissan zaibatsu had been disbanded. .

After his release, Yoshisuke Aikawa played a key role in Japan’s economic rebuilding after the war and bought a commercial bank to organize small business loans. The zaibatsu was transformed into Nichiyo-kai, Nissan Group.

Nissan Motors was a small side business for the Nissan Group compared to the main real estate business. During the real estate crisis of the 1990s, the Nissan Group divested most of its real estate and gave Nissan Motors more independence, especially after Renault SA bought a 39% stake. Nissan’s turnaround can be attributed to CEO Carlos Ghosn, who was installed in 1999. He separated Nissan Motors from Nissan keiretsu’s connections and debt.

Yoshisuke Aikawa died in 1967 of an inflammation of the gallbladder and is buried in the Tama Cemetery on the outskirts of Tokyo.

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