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A Wizard with Electricity 2

It started from his trip to the U.S.A.-Visiting Edison Electric Light Company in New York

Ichisuke's photo of Edison, and his letter to the famous inventor
Ichisuke's photo of Edison, and his letter to the famous inventor
Reference:
Ichisuke's photo of Edison, and his letter to the famous inventor
[photo courtesy of Iwakuni School Education Museum]

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.

The Mazda Lamp goes on sale.

Hakunetsu-sha in its early days
Hakunetsu-sha in its early days
The Mazda Lamps
The Mazda Lamps

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.

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