Tanaka Hisashige (田中久重)

Hisashige TANAKA (October 16, 1799 - January 11, 1881) was an inventor nicknamed 'Thomas EDISON of the East' and "Karakuri (gimmick) Giemon," who lived from the Edo Period through the Meiji Period. He was born in Kurume, Chikugo Province (present-day Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture). TANAKA Seizo sho (TANAKA manufacturing factory) which he founded was called TOSHIBA CORPORATION later.

Time in Kurume (the Kyushu region)

On October 16, 1799, Hisashige was born as the first son of Yaemon TANAKA, a craftsman of tortoise shell in Kurume, Chikugo Province (present-day Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture). His childhood name was Giemon. While young, Hisashige already exercised his talent in invention, and showed new devices of popular string puppets one after another in festivals of Gokoku-jinja Shrine in Kurume (Torihoka Town, Kurume City), which earned him enormous popularity. He also succeeded in demonstrating his inventions in various places of the Kyushu region, Osaka, Kyoto and Edo, and became well known across the country.

Time in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area)

In 1834, Hisashige moved to Fushimi, Osaka (present-day Fushimi-cho, Chuo Ward, Osaka City) where he constructed various devices such as a portable candle stand and an automatic-refueling lamp (that used compressed air to replenish oils), for which he won a nickname, 'Karakuri Giemon' and also popularity among people. He then moved to Kyoto to learn western culture and technology including astronomy and sciences. In 1851, Hisashige completed his masterpiece, 'Mannen Jimeisho' (a mechanical stand clock), which is now designated as a national important cultural property.

The clock which is commonly called 'Mannen Dokei' was overhauled once for analysis and restored by researchers of TOSHIBA and SEIKO Holdings, and its replica was exhibited in The 2005 World Exposition in 2005. Although a hundred technicians and state-of-the art materials were mobilized for the analysis and restoration work, the analysis of the clock took more time than expected. Therefore, a thick brass board which was used in a spiral spring was not ready in time for the opening day of the Exposition of Global Harmony (during the Expo, a stainless-steel spring was substituted for the brass one), and the replica exhibited could not be in perfect restored shape. Now, the original 'Mannen Jimeisho' was in the hands of the National Museum of Nature and Science and designated as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage in 2007.

Time in Saga (the Kyushu Region)

In 1853, with the recommendation of Tsunetami SANO, Hisashige assumed the post of 'Seiren gata' (a research and development section of advanced technologies) in the Saga Domain, Hizen Province which area was ruled by a Western-studies geek, Naomasa NABESHIMA, where Hisashige succeeded in building Japan's first models of a steam locomotive and a steamboat. In 1863, he completed the first domestic Armstrong Cannon by using a reverberatory furnace installed in the Saga Domain. Hisashige committed himself to the rise of the Saga Domain. In 1864, he returned to his native Kurume Domain and got involved in the process of purchasing warships and creating guns and cannons for the Domain, contributing to the development of the military industry.

Time in Tokyo

In 1873, Hisashige moved to Tokyo. In 1875, he started 'TANAKA Seizo sho' (the TANAKA manufacturing factory), a telegraph machine maker, in Ginza, Tokyo. On January 11, 1881, Hisashige died at the age of 82, dedicating all his life to invention. After his death, his adopted child, Hisashige TANAKA, succeeded to the factory and built the foundation of the current TOSHIBA.

Lessons from Hisashige

Hisashige, who had high motives and did not concede for his invention, left a following lesson.

"Knowledge can be obtained through failures.
To fulfill one's dream, there need to be a motive, perseverance, courage and failure, and a success never comes before these elements.'