A Wizard with Electricity
They dubbed him the "father of electricity in japan" for his long list of technological achievements.
Toshiba's other founder, Ichisuke Fujioka, was born in 1857, the eldest son of a samurai. At eighteen he began studying under Professor William Ayrton, an expert in telegraphy and electric lighting. Later, he switched on Japan's first arc lamp, at a location in Ginza. In 1884, on a tour of the United States, Ichisuke met Thomas Edison, the “King of Inventors,” and reportedly pledged to devote himself to establishing a Japanese electric power industry. After returning home, Ichisuke started to manufacture prototypes of incandescent light bulbs, and, he set up his own firm, Hakunetsu-sha, in 1890.
After intense effort, he succeeded in developing an economical, durable light bulb, and went on to lay the foundations for a domestic electric power industry that could hold its own against the Europeans and Americans. He was also involved in constructing an electric railway and the introduction of electric power to the nation. Ichisuke was true to his word to Edison: he took Japan into the age of electricity.
A Wizard with Electricity 1
When Japan's first domestically made light bulb was switched on 115 years ago, its illumination symbolized cultural enlightenment.
An enlightened education establishes the basis for a career as a pioneer of modernization.
Ichisuke was born in 1857, the eldest son of a samurai in the service of the feudal domain of Iwakuni, a noted center of education. At the age of eight, he began attending the domain's official school. At 15, he transferred to the Iwakuni English language school, where he achieved top marks. Indeed, his talents were so impressive that a year later he was appointed to teach there.
His outstanding abilities eventually caught the attention of the former feudal lord of Iwakuni, and he was sent to study in Tokyo. At the age of 18 he enrolled in the elite engineering school of the Ministry of Works, where he majored in telegraphy under the supervision of a leading researcher, Professor William Ayrton, who introduced him to such forward-looking technologies as the telegraph and the arc lamp. The professor taught him other lessons, too, which were to remain with him for life: "Respect fundamental principles; constantly challenge yourself; don't just imitate — make something even better." After graduating at the head of his class, Ichisuke began teaching.
But although his success as a researcher seemed ensured, he was more drawn to the world of business than to scholarship. One example of this preference was his part in switching on an arc lamp in Ginza at the request of Tokyo Electric Light.
Ichisuke's calligraphy at age 10.The kanji characters, pronounced shizen, mean "the greatest good." this remained ichisuke's motto throughout his life, manifested in his personality, talents, and conduct.
[photo courtesy of Iwakuni School Education Museum]
Electric lamps being installed on Tokyo's Ginza, as shown in a souvenir color postcard
[photo courtesy of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc.,Electric Power Historical Museum]
A Wizard with Electricity 2
It started from his trip to the U.S.A.-Visiting Edison Electric Light Company in New York
In 1884 Ichisuke Fujioka, a young engineer who played an important role as the pioneer of electrical engineering in Japan, was appointed by the government as a delegate and traveled to the United States. After inspecting the Electric Expo in Philadelphia,--a grand event that showcased the arrival of the electric age to the world; he visited Edison Electric Light Company (later General Electric) in New York. There, he observed various electric apparatuses including incandescent lamps. He was very impressed by American technology, and subsequently wrote a letter to Thomas Edison when he stayed in Boston, the next stop on his trip (a draft of the letter still exists). In the letter, Ichisuke asked Edison to send incandescent lamps and telephones to Japan in order to introduce them to Japan's leaders. In the following year, the Imperial College of Engineering received 36 incandescent lamps and a pair of telephones from Edison. The trip to the United States shaped Ichisuke's destiny leading to the development of incandescent lamps in Japan.
Ichisuke's photo of Edison, and his letter to
the famous inventor
[photo courtesy of Iwakuni School
The Mazda Lamp goes on sale.
In 1886, Ichisuke resigned from teaching at university to start manufacturing prototypes of incandescent light bulbs. In 1890, he established Hakunetsu-sha, which later became Tokyo Electric to launch full-scale production. After six years of grueling effort, the company managed to boost output to 280-290 bulbs a day. But it still failed to match imported bulbs in terms of cost, and its financial situation looked bleak.
Then, in 1904, the Russo-Japanese War led to a dip in imports, and domestically made light bulbs began to sell briskly. At this point Ichisuke made up his mind to establish a beneficial partnership with Edison's giant firm, General Electric. In 1908, the Kawasaki plant came on line, dramatically boosting production capacity and competitive capabilities. In 1911, it released a tungsten bulb, the "Mazda Lamp." Thereafter, economical, durable, domestically produced light bulbs steadily gained ground. In 1939, the company merged with Shibaura Engineering Works, the heavy electric equipment manufacturer established by Hisashige Tanaka, to form Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co., Ltd., a comprehensive manufacturer of electrical appliances.
Thus, twenty-one years after Ichisuke's death, his ambition to produce a full range of electrical goods using Japanese technology came to fulfillment.This legacy is still with us today.
A Wizard with Electricity 3
Ichisuke leaves academia for business, where his long record of achievements earns him the nickname "the father of electricity in japan."
THE ELECTORIC TRAIN
At an 1890 exposition, Ichisuke exhibited Japan's first electric train, which he designed himself by modifying a U.S.-built carriage. Later, he supervised construction of the first electric railway in Japan, the Kyoto Electric Railway, which started service in 1895. He also designed the electric motor that powered the train. Subsequently, Ichisuke superintended planning and construction of the Tokyo municipal electric railway. Thus, he played a central role in the spread of the electric railroads in Japan.
Japan's first electric train on displayat the
Third National Industrial Exposition.
Ichisuke Fujioka stands next to the driver's cab.
[photo courtesy of the Tokyo Electric
Power Company, Inc., Electric Power
In Tokyo Electric Light's early days, Ichisuke was involved in designing and building five power stations in Tokyo, and took part in construction of many power stations in outlying towns as well. Japan's first hydroelectric plant, too, was built under his supervision.
Japan's first high-rise, the Ryounkaku, was completed in 1890, and it was equipped with Japan's first electric elevator system, also designed by Ichisuke. Two elevators, each with a 10-person capacity, served the first to eighth floors of the 12-story structure. But the authorities did not approve: half a year after construction, they ordered operation suspended.
Picture of the Ryounkaku
[photo courtesy of the Tokyo Electric
Power Company, Inc., Electric Power