Fujikura : The Beginning
Founder Zenpachi Fujikura
The story of Fujikura begins at the dawn of Japan's electric wire industry in February 1885, when Zenpachi Fujikura started manufacturing silk and cotton insulated winding wires. He previously operated a water mill in his hometown in Funatsugawa, Ueno-mura (presently Sano-shi), Tochigi where he was engaged in the agriculture and rice-polishing business, but moved to Myojinshita, Kanda, Tokyo in 1875 at the age of 33. He then moved to 1-1 Awaji-cho, Kanda, and started manufacturing of hair accessories based on the side job of his wife Ine in 1881. As Zenpachi was a man of enterprising spirit, a rush of orders were placed for the hair accessories featuring the family's inventions from all over the Japan, allowing them to enjoy the prosperity of this business for about a decade.
It was in 1882 that Tokyo citizens saw an electric light in the first demonstration held in downtown Ginza. The second demonstration was held in the Nihombashi Avenue in November of the next year, and gathered a record-beating number of spectators. Zenpachi and Tomekichi, his 16-year brother who had just come to Tokyo, was in this crowd. The experience in that night caused an interest in electricity in the mind of Zenpachi, who later proceeded to the electric wire business finding common points in the braiding technology he used in hair accessory manufacturing and that used in electric wire insulations.
USA Visit of Tomekichi Fujikura (in later became first President)
Tomekichi moved to the house of his eldest brother Zenpachi in Tokyo in 1883 to go to the schools of Chinese classics and English language as well as to assist the busy plant of his brother's. In July 1886, he traveled to the USA with a strong will to learn new civilizations in other countries. He was aged 19 at that time. He worked in the day and learned English in the evening in the USA, and returned to Japan in July 1890. In the same year, he was adopted by a family named Matsumoto.
Young Tomekichi Fujikura
(San Francisco, 1888)
Days in the USA
(Tomekichi inside the circle)
San Francisco dormitory
(Dr. Harris inside the circle)
Kanda Awaji-cho Plants
The first silk-/cotton-insulated winding wire plant started operation at 1-1, Awaji-cho, Kanda, in February 1885. It has a staff of 12 persons including Zenpachi Fujikura, his wife Ine Fujikura and Harukichi Fujikura (later became Nakauchi). The plant was also used as the house of the Fujikura family and had three rooms (16.5, 13.2 and 9.9 m²), and the 16.5 m² room with wood floor was used as the workshop. The workshop was later increased to three rooms, and another house was leased in 2-chome, Awaji-cho, and became the "2-chome plant." The braid machines were operated manually so every machine was attended by one person.
The plants became very busy and operated regardless of day and night. The equipment included a large wooden braid machine with a 60 cm square size and five small iron-made braid machines. They were used to manufacture silk- and cotton-insulated winding wires as well as hair accessories and coat strings.
|2-Chome plant (arrow)||Maps of Awaji-cho plants in Kanda||Place of foundation: Awaji-cho Plant (arrow)|
In April 1888, the family leased a former silk mill in the imperial estate in Shinjuku (presently the Shinjuku Imperial Garden) and opened the Shinjuku Plant. The plant was powered by a watermill on a small canal drawn from the Tamagwa Waterworks, and two wooden workshops with tiled roofs and brick floors (15 m x 32 m) were built on both sides of the watermill. The equipment included 8 braid machines and 20 electric-wire braid machines, which were operated by a staff of 5 to 6 workers. The plant started operations with manufacturing of Tokyo wires and paraffin wire lamp cords, and also started research into rubber-insulated wires.