Post-Grant Reports


Eiichi Shibusawa and the 1909 Japanese Commercial Mission to America

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Asian History | International Business


Eiichi Shibusawa is well known as one of the Meiji era’s most prominent business leaders. Upon visiting Europe as part of Tokugawa Ariake’s delegation to the 1867 World Exposition in Paris, he became convinced of Japan’s need to industrialize. He served in the new Meiji government’s Ministry of Finance before leaving in 1873 to become the president of the First National Bank, which became the springboard for his entrepreneurial efforts. The Shibusawa Memorial Foundation credits him with founding or supporting nearly 500 business enterprises and 600 educational and social welfare organizations during his lifetime.

In 1909, Shibusawa led the Japanese Commercial Commission visit to the United States. This group of fifty business leaders met with chambers of commerce in major cities across America including Seattle, Portland, New York, Denver, and Los Angeles. It also visited American leaders like financier J.P. Morgan, inventor Thomas Edison, and President William Howard Taft.

By examining local newspaper accounts and chamber of commerce documents, this project found that Japanese and American business leaders were desperately seeking to emphasize their common commercial interests in the midst of rising political and racial tensions between their two countries.


This research was conducted as part of a Linfield College Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant in 2013, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

The student collaborator was Sydney Owen.

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