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Mitsubishi Group
Native name
Mitsubishi Gurūpu
    • Tsukumo Shokai (1870)[1]
    • Mitsukawa Shokai
    • Mitsubishi Shokai (1873)
    • Mitsubishi Kisen Kaisha (1875)
    • Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi Kaisha (1875)
    • Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha
Company typePrivate conglomerate
Founded1870; 154 years ago (1870)[1]
FounderYatarō Iwasaki
Area served

The Mitsubishi Group (三菱グループ, Mitsubishi Gurūpu) is a group of autonomous Japanese multinational companies in a variety of industries.

Founded by Yatarō Iwasaki in 1870, the Mitsubishi Group historically descended from the Mitsubishi zaibatsu, a unified company which existed from 1870 to 1946. The company was disbanded during the occupation of Japan following World War II. The former constituents of the company continue to share the Mitsubishi brand and trademark.

Although the group of companies participate in limited business cooperation, most famously through monthly "Friday Conference" executive meetings, they are formally independent and are not under common control. The four main ones are MUFG Bank (the largest bank in Japan), Mitsubishi Corporation (a general trading company), Mitsubishi Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (both diversified manufacturing companies).


Yatarō Iwasaki, the founder of Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi company was established as a shipping firm by Iwasaki Yatarō (1834–1885) in 1870 under the name "Tsukumo Shokai" (九十九商会).[3] In 1873, its name was changed to Mitsubishi Shokai; Mitsubishi (三菱) consists of two parts: "mitsu" (三) meaning "three" (as in the three oak leaves from the crest of the Yamauchi or Tosa family that ruled over Yatarō's birthplace and employed him) and "hishi" (菱, which becomes "bishi" under rendaku) meaning "water caltrop", and hence "rhombus", which is reflected in the company's logo. It is also translated as "three diamonds".[4]

Mitsubishi was established in 1870, two years after the Meiji Restoration, with shipping as its core business. Its diversification was mostly into related fields. It entered into coal-mining to gain the coal needed for ships, bought a shipbuilding yard from the government to repair the ships it used, founded an iron mill to supply iron to the shipbuilding yard, started a marine insurance business to cater for its shipping business, and so forth. Later, the managerial resources and technological capabilities acquired through the operation of shipbuilding were used to expand the business further into the manufacture of aircraft and equipment. The experience of overseas shipping led the firm to enter into a trading business.[5]

In 1881, the company bought into coal mining by acquiring the Takashima Mine, followed by Hashima Island in 1890, using the production to fuel their extensive steamship fleet. They also diversified into shipbuilding, banking, insurance, warehousing, and trade. Later diversification carried the organization into such sectors as paper, steel, glass, electrical equipment, aircraft, oil, and real estate. As Mitsubishi built a broadly based conglomerate, it played a central role in the modernization of Japanese industry.[6]

In February 1921, the Mitsubishi Internal Combustion Engine Manufacturing Company in Nagoya invited British Sopwith Camel designer Herbert Smith, along with several other former Sopwith engineers to assist in creating an aircraft manufacturing division. After moving to Japan, they designed the Mitsubishi 1MT, Mitsubishi B1M, Mitsubishi 1MF, and Mitsubishi 2MR.[7]

The merchant fleet entered into a period of diversification that would eventually result in the creation of three entities:

The firm's prime real estate holdings in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo, acquired in 1890, were spun off in 1937 to form Mitsubishi Estate, now one of the largest real estate development companies in Japan.[8]

World War II[edit]

Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighter

During World War II, Mitsubishi manufactured military aircraft under the direction of Dr. Jiro Horikoshi. The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a primary naval fighter of the Japanese military. It was used by Imperial Japanese Navy pilots throughout the war, including in kamikaze attacks during the later stages. Allied pilots were astounded by its maneuverability, and it was very successful in combat until the Allies devised tactics to use their advantage in armor and diving speed.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

Mitsubishi made use of forced labor during this tenure. Laborers included Allied prisoner of war, as well as Chinese and Korean citizens. In the post-war period, lawsuits and demands for compensations were presented against the Mitsubishi Corporation, in particular by former Chinese workers. On July 24, 2015, the company agreed to formally apologize for this wartime labor, and compensated 3,765 Chinese laborers who were conscripted to Mitsubishi Mining during the war.[18] On July 19, 2015, the company apologized for using American prisoners of war as forced laborers during World War II, making them the first major Japanese company to apologize for doing so.[19]

Mitsubishi was involved in the opium trade in China during this period.[20]

Post-war era[edit]

Mitsubishi was among a number of major Japanese conglomerates targeted for dissolution during the occupation of Japan. It was broken up into a large number of smaller enterprises whose stock was offered to the public. For several years, these companies were banned from coordinating with each other and from using the Mitsubishi name and trademarks. These restrictions were lifted in 1952, as the Korean War generated a need for a stronger industrial base in Japan. Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which had themselves been broken up into many smaller entities, again coalesced by the mid-1950s.[21]

Mitsubishi companies participated in Japan's unprecedented economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s. For example, as Japan modernized its energy and materials industries, the Mitsubishi companies created Mitsubishi Petrochemical, Mitsubishi Atomic Power Industries, Mitsubishi Liquefied Petroleum Gas, and Mitsubishi Petroleum Development. The traditional Mitsubishi emphasis on technological development was in new ventures in such fields as space development, aviation, ocean development, data communications, computers, and semiconductors. Mitsubishi companies also were active in consumer goods and services.

In 1970, Mitsubishi companies established the Mitsubishi Foundation to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the first Mitsubishi company. The companies also individually maintain charitable foundations. Mitsubishi pavilions have been highlights of expositions in Japan since EXPO'70 in Osaka in the 1970s to 1980s.

Mitsubishi, along with other manufacturers, was affected by the Kobe Steel scandal in 2017, which involved falsified data for products supplied to the aerospace, car and electric power industries.

On November 28, 2018, the South Korea Supreme Court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which serves as one of Mitsubishi's core companies, to pay 10 Koreans 150m won ($133,000; £104,000) in compensation for forced labor which it oversaw during the Japanese occupation of Korea.[22][23] 18 family members of other victims of the forced labour which Mitsubishi Heavy Industries oversaw and who sued sometime before 2008 will also be awarded compensation as well.[23] All 28 plaintiffs had previously filed a lawsuit in Japan, but had their lawsuit dismissed by the Supreme Court of Japan in 2008.[23] The Japanese Government has responded to the court's decision that it is a breach of the international law, citing the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea.


Business form[edit]

The Tokyo Building, the headquarters building of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation in Tokyo
Mitsubishi EDM/Laser office in North America
The main campus of Seikei University

The Mitsubishi Group is made up of about 40 individual companies without a controlling parent company. Each of the Mitsubishi companies owns substantial (but usually not controlling) portions of the shares of the others.

Twenty-nine of the group companies participate in the Friday Conference (金曜会, Kinyō-kai), a luncheon meeting of their most senior executives held on the second Friday of each month. The group began its tradition of monthly executive meetings in 1952, and over time the meetings became a venue for coordinating policy between the group companies. By the 1990s, this practice was criticized (particularly by non-Japanese investors) as a possible violation of antitrust law. Since 1993, the Friday Conference has officially been held as a social function, and not for the purpose of discussing or coordinating business strategy. Despite this, the Friday Conference has been a venue for informal cooperation and coordination between the group companies, most notably in bailing out Mitsubishi Motors during the mid 2000s.[24]

In addition to the Friday Conference, the group companies' heads of general affairs hold a meeting on the third Monday of each month, and the group companies' legal and IP departments hold a trademark policy coordination meeting on the first Friday of each month.[24]

The company briefly dabbled in television during the early 1990s, when it inked a deal with Westinghouse Broadcasting International to become the Japanese distribution representative.[25]

Core members[edit]

Three of the group companies are informally known as the "Three Great Houses" (御三家, Gosanke) and hold a separate coordinating meeting prior to each Friday Conference:[24]

Ten other "major" group companies participate in the coordinating meeting on a rotating basis (with six of the ten companies participating in any given month):[24]

Other members[edit]

Related organizations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Origin Archived 2023-04-05 at the Wayback Machine on website
  2. ^ "Overview of Mitsubishi Group". Archived from the original on 2022-04-04. Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  3. ^ "Origin". Archived from the original on 5 April 2023. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Mitsubishi Mark". Archived from the original on 5 April 2023. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  5. ^ Odagiri, Hiroyuki (1996). Technology and Industrial Development in Japan. Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-19-828802-6.
  6. ^ "The History of Mitsubishi Group". GearHeads. 19 May 2012. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  7. ^ Wragg, David W. (1973). A Dictionary of Aviation (first ed.). Osprey. p. 195. ISBN 9780850451634.
  8. ^ "History". Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd. Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  9. ^ Wilcox, Richard (9 November 1942). "The Zero". Life Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 December 2023. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  10. ^ Jablonski, Edward. Airwar. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1979. ISBN 0-385-14279-X.
  11. ^ Green and Swanborough 2001
  12. ^ Hawks, Chuck. "The Best Fighter Planes of World War II" Archived 2017-08-09 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved: 30 July 2015.
  13. ^ Young, Edward M. (2013). F4F Wildcat vs A6M Zero-sen. Osprey Publishing. p. 36. ISBN 9781780963228.
  14. ^ Thompson with Smith 2008, p. 231.
  15. ^ Mersky, Peter B. (Cmdr. USNR). "Time of the Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons, 1942–1944." Archived 2012-04-29 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 30 July 2015.
  16. ^ Angelucci and Matricardi 1978, p. 138.
  17. ^ Willmott 1980, pp. 40–41.
  18. ^ "Mitsubishi to compensate forced Chinese labourers in WWII - timesofindia-economictimes". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  19. ^ "Mitsubishi Materials apologizes for using U.S. POWs as slave labor". Reuters. 20 July 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  20. ^ Hastings, Max (2007). Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–45. New York: Vintage. p. 413. ISBN 978-0-3072-7536-3.
  21. ^ Morris-Suzuki, Tessa, ed. (1989). Japanese Capitalism Since 1945: Critical Perspectives. M.E. Sharpe. p. 109. ISBN 9780873325516. Archived from the original on 2023-12-19. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  22. ^ Denyer, Simon. "New South Korean court ruling angers Japan, deepening crisis between America's closest Pacific allies". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2019-07-28. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  23. ^ a b c "Mitsubishi payout ordered over WW2 labour". BBC News. 29 November 2018. Archived from the original on 29 November 2018. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  24. ^ a b c d "三菱グループの最高決定機関「金曜会」の知られざる権力構造と裏序列". Shukan Diamond. 25 January 2016. Archived from the original on 13 December 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  25. ^ Amdur, Meredith (1992-02-17). "Dealing in Monte Carlo" (PDF). Broadcasting. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-10-27. Retrieved 2021-10-27.

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