Kataoka Naoteru (片岡直輝)

Naoteru KATAOKA (August 3, 1856 - April 13, 1927) was a businessman in the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods. A member of the House of Peers. His birthplace was in Tosa Province. Elder brother to Naoharu KATAOKA. One of the personalities who contributed to the economic development and growth of Kansai region before the war.

From his birth to the time of his separation from Bank of Japan.

Born to the first son to Naohide MAGOGORO and Nobuko in Shitahansan village, Takaoka County, Tosa Province (present Tsuno Machi, Kochi Prefecture)

He lived his childhood along with his younger brother Naoharu in the house where he was born located in an isolated location during the end of the Edo period, and because of its isolation, the place was often used by loyalists to the Emperor for their clandestine meetings and as a hiding place. While Naoteru and Naoharu were too young to be involved at the time, their father Naohide was deeply devoted to support the loyalists for Emperor and they were struggling to make ends meet as a result of spending his own funds. Worse still, their father died from illness and left them a large debt that compelled their mother Nobuko to work day and night in order to repay the debt, and consequently the brothers were separated as Naoharu was sent to Torin-ji Temple. Naoteru studied assiduously and he had a little over ten students under his aegis when he was fourteen in which he was able to help the household with his meager earnings.

Later, Nobuko brought Naoharu back from the temple and he left for Tokyo in May when he was sixteen after making the necessary arrangement for the household and Naoharu to Nobuko. After arriving in Tokyo, he stayed at his relatives house and enrolled in telegraph school but after learning it was not to his liking, he enrolled in the Naval Accounting School (neither school required tuition). He enlisted in the Navy as an assistant Naval Pay Officer upon graduation after having the experiences of being an accompanying attendant, non-crew member warship boarding and like. He was appointed to the position of the director of the Navy budget bureau after the ranks of shukeikacho kokoroe (assistant to pay officer section chief) and chushukei (assistant director) of the Navy budget bureau in time with his selection as a member of the Navy Minister Michitsugu SAIGO's suite that was sent to Europe and North America. Upon his return, he rendered his services in handling the work left over from the Minister of the Navy's official travel abroad, went to France, also assumed the position of chief accounting officer of the cruiser Itsukushima however his military career ended when he was discharged from his duties in September.

After leaving the Navy, the following July he was appointed to the position of secretary to the Homeland Minister Togama KONO upon recommendations from which his civil officer career began. In the following September, Kono was appointed to Minister of Education by the Emperor, and as a result, Kataoka was appointed to Secretary of Osaka after returning to the Ministry of the Interior (Japan) since he was discharged as Secretary to the Minister of Education. He directed a number of successful projects including waterworks, Osaka Harbor, and sewer systems however his civil servant career ended when he left the Ministry of the Interior in April.

He took a position with the Bank of Japan in June the same year. After a period of bank apprenticeships, he was appointed to the position of an assistant Osaka branch manager in October the same year and then the position of the Osaka branch manager in February the following year. During that time, the position of the Osaka branch manager of Bank of Japan gave him the power to control the Kansai region financial world and his tenure at the Bank of Japan era contributed in building his aspirations of becoming a businessman.

Gas business

After he left Bank of Japan, he took a position as company president of Osaka Gas Company upon recommendation. Osaka Gas Company was founded in 1899, however due to the following deflation it dissolved and existed in name only. It was Soichiro ASANO who bought out the company after acquiring the majority shares of the stocks and put Naoteru, who knew a lot about economic situation in Kansa region, in the president position. During this time, there were movements to revitalize the economy by actively inviting foreign investments. Naoteru was suited for coordinating American investors and engineers with his foreign language skills that he acquired while in the Navy. He was dismissed in July after operating results plummeted due to the company's price hike plan for the gas rates in order to cope with inflation after the First World War was denied by Osaka City.

He contributed to the founding of Hiroshima Gas Company and was later appointed as president upon request of Yoshigoro OBAYASHI whom he had befriended and other locals during his time in Hiroshima where he opened a branch office, the location of which there was a rear logistic base during the Russo -Japanese War. Also at the same time, he became a managing director of Hiroshima Electric Rail Company, but resigned from both companies in February.

Around this time, numerous gas companies were established in the major cities around the country. In Osaka City, there was Osaka Gas Company already as mentioned earlier however none existed in the neighboring Sakai City, and it was under examination for Osaka Gas Company to provide the service to Sakai City as well. To do so however required the change of the company articles through a shareholder meeting and the consent from Osaka City amongst others that made an early project commencement impossible. Sakai Gas Company was newly founded and he assumed the president position as well until he was dismissed from Osaka Gas Company as the president.

Gas manufacturing produced a by-product coal tar and as a result Toyo Lumber Preservation Company was founded to make and distribute creosote oil by distillation for lumber preservation use. He assumed the position of president until his retirement form the business world.

Electric railway business

During the 30's of the Meiji period, the existing Nankai Railway and Koya Railway systems were inadequate in connecting Osaka City and Kishu (present Wakayama prefecture) as the commute took over two hours by Nankai Main Line. In December, Kataoka assumed the role of president of the newly founded Hankai Tramway Co., Ltd. which served to connect the cities between Osaka and Sakai. Hankai Tramway Co., Ltd. and Nankai Railway's lines overlapped creating useless competition and to avert such competition, both companies were merged by Nankai Railway merging with Hankai Tramway Co., Ltd. and he remained as the president under the conditions of the merger. However, Naoteru delegated the day-to-day business operations to Tadaaki OTSUKA from Nankai Railway and limited his involvement to listening and discussing over the report with him. In September, he was elected to become a member of Kizokuin (the House of Peers) by Imperial order and also decided to retire from the business world. He associated with the company in the capacity of an advisor after resigning from the company. Tadaaki OTSUKA was elected to be a successor president however due to his health reason, it was necessary to select an early successor and he was involved in that process.

In April 1907, Shuzo TOYAMA retired as president just prior to the shareholder's meeting of Hanshin Electric Railway Co., Ltd. which left the president's position vacant. Naoteru was approached to become the president however, he declined because of his involvement in the gas business at the time. In December, he became the managing director of Kita Osaka Electric Tramway when it was founded and within a few months, he became the managing director of Hanshin Electric Railway Co., Ltd. when it merged with the company. In 1917, he gladly accepted to fill the vacancy as president in light of Rinsaburo IMANISHI's proposal to dismiss a senior managing director and realize his own desire of consolidating private railway companies in Kansai region. There were high hopes of utilizing his deep-rooted connections with Nankai Railway and Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd., however this never came to pass since he resigned as president in 1922 for the same reason he resigned as president of Nankai Railway.

He supported and revived the construction project owner Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. and its contractor Obayashi Gumi that incurred massive debt from the Ikoma tunnel project. More about this to be covered in the following Kitahama Bank incidents.

Kitahama Bank incidents

An article about reckless management practices at Kitahama Bank was published in Osaka Nichinichi Shinbun (Newspaper). Despite the story being exacerbated, there existed a sliver of truth which took its toll on the bank in March of the same year. Although the problem was kept under control due to ample funds from the bank's trading exchange market, huge withdrawals were made through the note clearing house as days went by. By detecting such development, Naoteru together with Chiyosaburo WATANABE took counter measures of their own without consulting with the president of the Kitahama Bank Kiyochika IWASHITA who was then in Tokyo unbeknownst to a developing event. First, after negotiating an agreement with the Governor of Osaka and the chief editor of the newspaper company to stop publishing the article, he sent a telegraph to Iwashita and upon arriving in Osaka he visited the chief editor of the newspaper company to put a stop to the article which ended up being too late as the bank had insufficient funds to satisfy customer withdrawal requests the next day. Amongst the chaos of those associated with Kitahama Bank, the first request for financial aid to Fujita Zaibatsu was rejected by Baron FUJITA because of his father's will stating his desire for them not to get too deeply involved with the bank. Because of this, he consulted with the Bank of Japan branch office and received cooperation to arrange a means of rescuing Kitahama Bank through the Bank of Japan head office. In addition, on the 24th, Osaka Tegata Kokansho (note exchange) filed a petition requesting need of emergency aid to the Finance Minister and the head of the Bank of Japan while the Governor of Osaka Prefecture filed a petition for rescue aid as well. Although the request for the special loan to rescue Kitahama Bank was approved on that same day at the Bank of Japan head office, the loan for only three million yen was depleted within three days and withdrawals were unable to be met once again. Upon further consultation between the Finance Minister and the head of Bank of Japan and under the condition that Kitahama Bank executives would assume responsibility for the loan, necessary funds were granted and withdrawals were once again possible from the 29th after Fusazo TANIGUCHI, who was most entrusted and was successful in persuading Baron Fujita who was the thought to be the least likely to cooperate with their plan. The bank was reorganized with the appointment of Shotaro SUGIMURA as the new head of the bank who had the opinion of the executives in insisting the complete exclusion of Iwashita and his clan from Kitahama Bank upon his resignation for taking his responsibility for the event. Soon after, a one million yen embezzlement scandal erupted at the Nagoya branch of the bank and he proposed his dismissal from the president position due to its difficulty to remain as a going concern during the emergency shareholder meeting held in August of the same year. Naoteru searched for his successor to avert the bankruptcy, however, couldn't find any good candidate for the position. In November of the same year, Kitahama Bank made its third start with Tohei TAKAKURA who made a success in the stock market as the head of the bank. The reason for Naoteru's deep involvement in the crisis was not only out of his concern that such failure would affect the economy of the Kansai region but also a subsequent failure of Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. and Obayashi Gumi whose president was his friend Yoshigoro OBAYASHI.

The underlying reason for the toll taken at Kitahama Bank was the reckless massive loan made to Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. in connection with the Ikoma tunnel construction project. In fact, Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. was struggling to stay afloat because of the cost of Ikoma tunnel construction. Also its project contractor Obayashi Gumi was facing insolvency without getting paid after the promissory notes became worthless. Naoteru moved to reorganize Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. as the most important priority in order to rescue Obayashi Gumi and the Kitahama Bank. First, he submitted a proposed reorganizational plan to Mitsui Bussan, one of the major creditors excluding Kitahama Bank and Obayashi Gumi, after their consultation. Naoteru reorganized the new management team with Ryuji OTSUKI as its principal after he was requested by the creditors and the people of concern for the recommendation of new president and among other matters. The business at Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. improved afterwards with the increased ridership and cost cutting measures. Obayashi Gumi did their best for reconstruction. Many of the creditor banks moved to foreclose on the loans regardless of the collaterals held in order to minimize their losses in the event of insolvency when the promissory notes issued in connection with the construction project by Osaka Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. were found to be worthless. Together with Watanabe, Naoteru negotiated with many creditor banks to extend the loan to the full amount of the collateral value, but was unsuccessful. In 1915, he was notified by few of the creditor banks that the loan would be foreclosed if around two hundred thousand yen could not be raised. Watanabe went to see Dr. Seiichi KISHI in Tokyo and borrowed some tens of thousands of yen from him also they received a loan of around two hundred thousand yen from Mitsui Bank on the condition of surrendering negotiable instruments with the value equal to seventy percent of the loan amount along with jointly cosigning the loan by the three Naoteru, Watanabe and Kishi to avert the crisis situation in the end. He continued to be involved with in-house organizational matters and supported the company as an advisor even after it became a joint stock corporation.

A stock certificate forgery by an employee at Kitahama Bank was brought to light with damage amounting to eight hundred thousand yen. Damage to the bank's credibility was far greater than the monetary losses as this brought on the possibility of another crisis. Naoteru requested Chiyosaburo WATANABE to coordinate between banks and with his diligent efforts, the crisis was averted and settled at one fifth the amount of the full liability. Kitahama Bank later merged with Sanjushi Bank and thus ended its mark in history.

Later years

He was appointed as a member of the House of Peers by order of the Emperor just before retiring from the business world and, other than supportive participation in national politics, he spent his days in quiet retirement with his grandchildren by staying away from annoying matters.

December 1926, he felt a stomachache. He was diagnosed as having pancreatitis and the condition improved at one time after treatment, but in March the following year, it developed into a duodenal ulcer and he left in peace at 12:53 AM in April the same year. He died at the age of 72.