Chubei ITO (the first) (伊藤忠兵衛 (初代))
Chubei ITO (August 7, 1842 - July 8, 1903) was a Japanese merchant and businessman. He founded two big trading companies such as ITOCHU Corporation and Marubeni Corporation, and formed the Itochu Zaibatsu (conglomerate) by diversification.
The Ito family as a merchant started to grow since Chubei and his older brother Chobei ITO began travel peddling of Omi linen in 1858. ITOCHU Corporation and Marubeni Corporation officially call this year to be the year of the foundations. On August 7, 1842, Chubei (the first) was born as the second son of Chobei ITO (the fifth); his family had been running a store 'Bencho' that had been selling some fabrics and products called 'mimitsuki-mono'; they were also a landowner of a large field including fields of 9,918 – 19,836 square meters for their own. He started a business of peddling in May, 1858 at Hachime-mura, Kawara-go, Inukami County in the east of Omi Lake (present Hachime, Toyosato-cho, Inukami County). They peddled to Sakai and Kishu.
His older brother Chobei took charge of buying in their hometown and later opened 'Ito Chobei Shoten' (Ito Chobei's Store) at Shin-Kawabata, Hakata. In February 1872, Chubei also opened a drapery shop of silk, cotton and linen 'Benchu' at 2 chome, Honcho, Osaka, and dealt with linen, Bino textile and Kanto textile. These two stores repeated merger and division to form present ITOCHU and Marubeni.
Upon Benichu's open, he established a store law and employed Rieki-sanbun-shugi (a financial system dividing profits to three categories) to allot the 50% of the net profit to his family, 30% to reserve fund of the main store and 20% to employee's salary, and it was called 'Mitsuwarigin.'
Such dividend to the employees enhanced their motivation to work, which was the method of management that had been traditionally applied by Omi merchants. He was a devout believer in the Shin sect, and always said that 'business is Kusatsu's work' ('Kusatsu' was the parody of 'Bosatsu' [Bodhisattva]; he meant that business was not an original work Bodhisattva had to engage); and he believed that the key to the prosperity was in development of people's talents and sharing the profits.
In 1885, he founded 'Ito Sotoumi Gumi' in the form of associative organization along with his nephew Tetsujiro SOTOUMI; they set the office in Kobe and began a direct trade. In 1893, he opened a cotton thread and yarn store 'Ito Itomise' at 2 chome, Azuchi-cho, and start dealing with cotton thread and yarn, too. In 1896, he founded 'Nitto Limited Partnership' to begin import of Chinese cotton and export of Japanese cotton.
In 1894, his older brother Chobei (the sixth) died (aged 61). On July 8, 1903, Chubei (the first) died at his second residence in Suma district. Due to this, his second son Seiichi ITO succeeded and took over the name of Chubei ITO (the second) at the age of 17.
He served as mayor of Toyosato Village and was loved by the local people.