Kawasaki Shozo (川崎正蔵)

Shozo KAWASAKI (August 10, 1836 – December 2 1912) was a Japanese politician as well as an entrepreneur. He was the founder of the Kobe Kawasaki combine. He was the founder of Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation as well as a member of the House of Peers. He was a baron. His childhood name was Isoji.

Personal Profile

He was born in Daikoku-cho near Kagoshima Castle in Kagoshima Province (currently Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture). He moved to Nagasaki at the age of 17 and engaged in trading, in which he handled gold and rice due to the domain order. Although he was assigned as a Kagoshima municipal officer and Kurayashiki-warehouses officer, he convinced the domain to purchase a few Western sailing ships and gained an enormous profit by transporting goods from Satsuma to eastern regions. After moving to Tokyo in 1871, he became the vice-president of Japan Mail Steamship Company in 1873 and worked hard to open up the sea route for mail service between Tokyo and Ryukyu. In 1878, the company was merged with Mitsubishi Steamship Company. In 1877, he opened up a company handling sugar and also gained an enormous profit by transporting Ryukyu fabrics which enabled him to start his long-desired business, a shipbuilding company. He established Tsukiji Shipyard in 1878, Hyogo Kawasaki Dockyard in 1880, and Kawasaki Dockyard (now known as Kawasaki Heavy Industries) in 1887, after the disposal of the government-operated Hyogo Dockyard 1886. In 1896, KAWASAKI reorganized Kawasaki Dockyard into a public company, and he retired to the position of an advisor. Since Shozo did not have any children to take over his business, he chose Kojiro MATSUKATA, the third son of Masayoshi MATSUKATA, as his successor due to Masayoshi coming from the same village as himself and being the benefactor in the early days of the business. Meanwhile, he became a high tax paying member of the House of the Peer in 1890, published 'Kobe Newspapers' in 1898, and was appointed as the chairman of Kobe Kawasaki Bank which he established in 1905. He was also known as an art collector and made a museum named Choshunkaku in his own house in Kobe.

Shozo as an art collector

He was more commonly known as an art collector than as an industrialist in the shipbuilding business after his retirement in 1896. As Shozo visited other houses for his work, he paid close attention not only to the houses and gardens but also to the calligraphic works, paintings, ornaments, and decorations displayed in the tokonoma, which helped to develop his eye for arts. Houses, gardens and arts were his only hobbies, and this helped to keep his ambitions encouraged. Kawasaki's involvement in the art collection was similar to the reasoning behind his involvement in the shipbuilding business, which was based on the nationalism of people who lived in the Meiji Period, and that is to say Japanese traditional arts were exported to art collectors in Europe and the United States which left very few masterpieces to be admired in Japan after the Meiji Restoration. Since Kawasaki was concerned about traditional artworks being exported to foreign countries, he began collecting them at around the time of starting Tsukiji Shipyard in 1878 and purchased more than 2,000 masterpieces in his lifetime. He built a museum at his magnificent house in Nunobiki, Kobe which began construction in 1885, and his collections were exhibited and open to the public. Among his collections, 'Kanzan Jitttoku Nifukutsui' by a famous Chinese artist from the Gen Period, Ganki and 'Senju Sengen Kannon' by KASUGA no Motomitsu (both were later designated as national treasure) were quite well known. However, most of his collections were sold in order to save the Kawasaki, when they were caught in a financial crisis in 1927. Kawasaki was not only well known for being an art lover but also for creating artworks of his own. When he began aiming to create cloisonné wares in 1896 which were as good as Banreki cloisonné from Ming Dynasty, Owari cloisonné successor Sataro KAJI and his entire family were sent to Kobe in 1897 to research on the cloisonné wares in a studio built on Mt. Nunobiki where they successfully created beautiful cloisonné wares 3 years later. He displayed the big incense burner and vase in World Exposition held in Paris in 1990 and won the grand prize of honor. Although he carried on producing beautiful cloisonné wares which were named as 'Kawasaki's jewel cloisonné wares,' no items were being sold since he found joy in giving them away to art lovers. In order to attend World Exposition in Paris, Kawasaki took 7 family members to Europe where they viewed the shipbuilding industry of England and arts from various countries. This was his last glorious social activity. After that, he became ill and visited his villa all across Japan to prioritize his health, and 'a wealthy person's retirement' was the word to describe Shozo KAWASAKI's lifestyle around this time.