The Life of Yoshisuke Aikawa: Founder of Nissan

On this day, November 6 in the year 1880, one of the foremost industrialists of modern japan was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture. His name was Yoshisuke Aikawa, the founder of Nissan Zaibatsu of which Nissan Motors was the main member company.

Yoshisuke Aikawa
Yoshisuke Aikawa (Credit:

Yoshisuke Aikawa was a descendant of Inoue Kaoru, a member of the Meiji Oligarchy. He attended the Tokyo Imperial University (now University of Tokyo) and graduated with a degree in machine engineering. He joined the Shibaura Seisakusho (now Toshiba Corporation) as a mechanic. Later, he travelled to the United States to study cast-iron technology. Upon his return, he founded Tobata Foundry (now Hitachi Metals) in Kitakyūshū City with the backing of his great uncle Inoue.

In 1928, Yoshisuke became the president of the Kuhara Mining Company (now Nippon Mining & Metals Company). Later, he established Nihon Sangyo, from which the word Nissan was formed, as his vehicle to acquire over a hundred companies during the stock market boom in the early 1930s. These companies included Nissan Motors, Isuzu, NEC Corporation, Nippon Mining Holdings Company, Nissan Chemicals, Hitachi, Nichiyu Corporation, Nichirei Corporation, Nissan Marine Insurance, and Nissan Mutual Life Insurance. They formed the conglomerate which was called Nissan zaibatsu. When the Japanese occupied the northeastern part of China or the Manchuria region in 1937, he moved the headquarter of Nissan there as part of the Manchurian Industrial Development Company.

When Japan was defeated in World War II, Yoshisuke was arrested by the American occupation authorities on suspicion that he was a class-A war criminal. Nissan Zaibatsu was broken up into independent companies. After he was released, he became active in the economic reconstruction of Japan. In 1953, he was elected to the House of Councilors in the Japanese parliament called Diet.

Yoshisuke Aikawa died of acute gallbladder inflammation in 1967. At present, Nissan is one of the largest automotive companies in the world with production facilities in 20 countries and employing more than 144,000. In 2016, it produced over 5.6 million vehicles. It ranked no. 83 on the 2020 Fortune Global 500 with consolidated revenues of $104 billion in 2019.


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