Abstract: The Banking System in East Asia in the late 19th century focusing on the Establishment of National Bank in Japan

Masato Kimura


This paper will examine Japan’s case focusing on the role of Shibusawa Eiichi.  There have been a number of studies on the role of Shibusawa as the national leader who introduced to Japan the Western banking system by establishing First National Bank, the forerunner of a nationwide banking network, established in the early Meiji era. Nonetheless, there remain several incompletely understood dimensions of Shibusawa’s view of banking and his more general philosophy of public-private partnerships in Japan’s modernization. They include the need to clarify (1) why Shibusawa left government service to become an inspector general of First National Bank, (2) how he managed First National Bank for almost forty years until his retirement, as president, in 1916, and (3) Shibusawa’s view, as a business leader, of the proper balance between public and private organizations in Japan’s modern development. In short, there is a need to better understand the characteristics of Shibusawa’s thoughts and activities regarding these three questions by digging more deeply into Shibusawa’s views on how organizations best operate in modern society, particularly those related to banking.

The goal of this paper is to examine Shibusawa’s gappon method by focusing on the relationship between public and private from his perspective as a banker whose status as the president of the First National Bank and other leadership positions, such as the Japan’s Bankers Association, enabled him to have an outsized influence on Japan’s transition to the economic system that characterizes the country today.