Kazuo Inamori was born January 30, 1932 in Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Inamori graduated from Kagoshima University in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied chemistry. He became a researcher at Shofu Industries in Kyoto, Japan. There he was important in several developments, developing fosterite as an insulator for high frequency radio waves; using fosterite for the mass production of high frequency insulator components; and developing an electric tunnel kiln for use in sintering.
In 1959, Inamori and several other colleagues established Kyoto Ceramic, later known as Kyocera. The company manufactured high-frequency insulator components for television picture tubes for Matsushita Electronics Industries (later Panasonic) in Japan, and silicon transistor headers for Fairchild Semiconductor and ceramic substrates for IBM in the United States. At Kyocera, Inamori implemented his Amoeba Management system.
After deregulation of Japan’s telecommunications industry in 1984, Inamori founded Daini Denden (DDI) Corporation. DDI later entered the cell phone business, merging with KDD (Kokusai Denshin Denwa) and IDO (Nippn Idou Tsushin Corporation in 2000 to form KDDI, which has grown to become Japan's second-largest telecommunication services provider.
At the age of 77, Inamori became the CEO of Japan Airlines when it entered bankruptcy protection on January 19, 2010, and led the air carrier through its restructuring, eventually allowing the company to re-list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in November 2012. Inamori has been an International Advisor of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
Inamori, who is a Zen Buddhist priest, established the Inamori Foundation in 1984, which awards the annual Kyoto Prize to honor those who have made "extraordinary contributions to science, civilization, and the spirituality of humankind."