Namihei Odaira and the Founding of Hitachi

One of the foremost pioneer industrialists in the electrical industry was born in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan on January 15, 1874. His name was Namihei Odaira, the founder of Hitachi Ltd., Japan’s largest manufacturer of electrical machineries and a leading producer of semiconductors.

Namihei Odaira
Namihei Odaira (Cedit:

Namihei was born five years after the Meiji Restoration. He was sent to study electrical engineering at the Tokyo Imperial University and graduated in 1900. He went to work in a copper mine located northeast of Tokyo and was assigned to the repair shop. While tinkering with mining equipment, he and his team produced a 5-horsepower (3.7-kilowatt) electric motor. The owners of the mining company organized Hitachi (meaning rising sun) as a division to manage the production of the motor and Namihei was appointed manager. Other products manufactured in the succeeding years included the transformer, AC ammeter and voltmeter, water turbine, and fans.

In 1920, Hitachi was incorporated as a separate company and Namihei was installed as managing director. He was promoted to president in 1929, a position he held until 1947 when he was removed by the American Occupation authorities.

In 1924, Hitachi produced a large-scale DC electric locomotive, the first to be manufactured in Japan. This was followed by elevators and refrigerators in 1932. More electrical gadgets and equipment were added later.

Namihei died in 1951 at the age of 77. In 2019, Hitachi had revenues of $85.5 billion, ranked #102 in the Fortune Global 500 List.


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