Abstract: The Birth of the Industrial Banker in Early 20th Century Japan: Takajiro Kurosawa, Silk Cocoons, the Suwa Warehouse and the Silk Reeling Industry

Aki Kinjo


This study investigates the emergence of the industrial banker in early 20th century Japan. After abandoning the national seclusion order in 1859, raw silk became the primary Japanese export, commanding over an 80% share of the global market in the 1930s and helping Japan develop into an economically advanced and industrial nation. By analyzing the contribution of Takajiro Kurosawa, who led the effort in making the Suwa region of Nagano prefecture the leading industrial cluster in raw silk manufacturing, I argue that not only the banking innovations but also a sense of public duty in financing and developing the silk reeling manufacturing industry played an important role. Specifically, this study focuses on the Suwa Warehouse, established by Kurosawa in 1909. Partnering with the Nineteenth Bank, a dominant bank in the region and of which Kurosawa also was the president, the Suwa Warehouse played a crucial role in the unprecedented development of the region: establishing a platform to provide secured lending using silk cocoons as collateral to silk reeling manufacturers, many of which were small and medium enterprises. Until now, the historical literature had little to say about the contribution of the Suwa Warehouse, largely because of a lack of available resources. This study draws on recently uncovered documents kept by the Suwa Warehouse that have neither been accessed nor examined by previous scholars. The story that emerges provides significant insight into the development of a business civilization committed to building a prosperous and sustainable society beyond personal greed—a spirit much in demand in today’s financial industry. This study is supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Grant# 16K03795).