The Life of Kazuo Inamori: From Failure in School to Success in Business

Kazuo Inamori is a Japanese entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded Kyocera and KDDI, the number one ceramic company in Japan and the second largest telecommunication company respectively. He was born in Kagoshima Prefecture on January 30, 1932.

Kazuo Inamori
Kazuo Inamori (Credit:

Kazuo Inamori is the son of a devoted Buddhist couple whose home was destroyed during World War II. As a high school student, he read the book “Truth for Life” while he was recuperating from tuberculosis. The book became his guide for the rest of his life. Though he failed his junior high school examination, he did not despair. He was challenged and went on to attend Kagoshima University where he graduated in 1955 with a degree in applied chemistry.

After graduation he was offered a job as a researcher at Shofu Industries, an insulator manufacturer in Kyoto. His first assignment was to look into the synthesis of forsterite ceramics. Soon he was in dispute with his bosses about the direction of the company. He left the company and started his own company which he named as Kyoto Ceramics.
In the 1960s, Kyoto Ceramics developed substantial breakthrough in the usefulness of ceramics for the nascent electronic industry. The company received large orders from Matsushita for its insulator components, from Texas Instruments for electrical resister rods and from Fairchild Semiconductor for silicon transistor headers. But the biggest order came from IBM for ceramic substrates.

In 1984, Kazuo entered the telecommunication industry after it was open up to the private sector. It merged with other companies to formed KDDI in 2000. In 2010, he was appointed CEO of bankrupt Japan Airlines. Under his leadership, the airline was brought back to profitability after only two years and was relisted in the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2012.
Kazuo became a Zen Buddhist priest. He is married though with three children. He is a celebrated management guru who has developed what is called the “Amoeba Management”, a style of breaking down large organization into small units as in the organism Amoeba.



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