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Home > About JPO > History of Industrial Property Rights > Ten Japanese Great Inventors

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Ten Japanese Great Inventors

(Prepared by Pubulic Relations Section Genneral Affairs Division)

Introduction

The system of industrial rights in Japan, founded a hundred years ago, celebrated 100 years of its existence on April 18, 1985. During this period, the system played a very important role in the industrial development of Japan, which was accelerated by this system for technological development. Up until the present time, the rights to some 2 million and five hundred thousand patents and new utility models have been granted to investors in Japan. This enormous development of patents and utility models was important not only for Japan, but also its contribution to economic development worldwide was not insignificant.

That is why we thought that the best way to celebrate this occasion of the one hundred year anniversary of our system of industrial property rights would be by selecting from inventors and authors of utility models those inventors whose contributions were particularly memorable and of historical significance. That is why we asked professor Seiji Kaya from the Tokyo University to select 10 persons known for their scholarly knowledge and experience. After these 10 inventors were selected, a relief was created to commemorate their achievements and introduce them to Japanese people. This will serve not only to commemorate the successes of these award winning inventors for eternity, but at the same time, we hope that it will also play a role in further promoting the technological progress in our country, through the inspiration provided by the ingenuity of our technicians and researchers who have contributed so much to the development of current technology.

April 18, 1985

Sakichi Toyoda

Picture of Sakichi Toyoda

Patent Number 1195
Wooden Weaving Machine Driven by Human Power

Sakichi Toyoda was born in year 3 of the Keio Era (1867) in Totomikuni (presently Shizuoka Prefecture).

The Patent Monopoly Act was proclaimed when he was 18 years old. Because he was very interested in national issues and wanted to dedicate his efforts to these issues, he decided that he would "dedicate his life's work to inventions", and started wrestling with the problem of how to improve weaving machines and similar devices. When he saw in year 23 of the Meiji Era at the Third Exhibition for Encouragement of Industry, which was held in Ueno, Tokyo, that most of the machines were manufactured abroad, this increased his determination to make a contribution to a gradual development of our domestic research and development. He perfected the design of a wooden weaving machined driven by human power, a design which greatly increase the quality of the product as well as the productivity of a machine creating weaving patterns, and which was widely used at the time. He obtained patent rights for the first time in (to patent number 1195, in year 24 of the Meiji Era).

In year 27 of the Meiji Era, he invented a yarn reel returning machine, which was easy to use and very efficient. With his successful background in this trade and industry, he started developing a power-driven weaving machine and completed the design of this wooden weaving machine driven by human power in 3 years. He obtained the patent rights to his design in the following year. This was the first ever power-driven weaving apparatus that was invented in Japan. He continued the development of machines also in the following year, and in year 36 of the Meiji Era he completed the epoch making design of an automatic shuttle apparatus completing the automation of the weft design. This was the first invention of an automatic weaving machine. He still continued improving the design of automatic weaving machines even after that, and obtained the rights to 84 patents and 35 new utility models. He was awarded the Blue Ribbon Award in year 45 of the Meiji Era and the Order of Merit of the Third Class in year 2 of the Showa Era. He died in year 5 of the Showa Era (1930).

Sakichi Toyoda Wooden Hand Loom, Automatic Loom

Kokichi Mikimoto

Picture of Kokichi Mikimoto

Patent Number 2670
Cultured Pearls

Kokichi Mikimoto was born in year 5 of the Ansei Era (1858) in Shimakoku (at the present in Mie prefecture). Filled with an entrepreneurial spirit, he came to Tokyo in year 11 of the Meiji Era with a desire to found a business. At that time, he was able to study and observe buying and selling of pearls in Yokohama, which was his first encounter with pearls. In order to obtain pearl oysters, he started cultivating them in year 21 of the Meiji Era in Ago Bay. In year 23 of the Meiji Era he saw at the National Exhibit for Promotion of Industry how objects can be inserted into Akoya oysters and other pearl oysters to create cultured pearls. He already wanted to start cultivating cultured pearls and at this exhibition he met an examiner of exhibits who told him that could perhaps learn how to cultivate pearls from oysters a professor at the Imperial University. During the same year, he started studying cultivation of pearls and at the end of his study after four years, in year 26 of the Meiji Era, he was able to successfully grow and produce cultured pearls from a protuberance inside the shell of an oyster, for which he obtained his first patent (patent number 2670, in year 29 of the Meiji Era). This semicircular cultured pearls were slightly different from common pearls, but it they were well received and widely used as a decorative object. After this invention, he continued to examine methods aimed at creating a circular cultured pearl, and in year 41 of the Meiji Era he obtained the patent rights to his mother of pearl property cultivating method. Spurred by this invention, the pearl cultivating business in Japan has grown enormously to become one of the industries of the country. He also obtained patents for other inventions related to cultivation of pearl producing oysters, etc. He was awarded the Order of Merit of the First Class in year 29 of the Showa Era. He died in year 29 of the Showa Era (1954).

Kokichi Mikimoto Cultured Pearls

Jokichi Takamine

Picture of Jokichi Takamine

Patent Number 4785
Adrenaline

Jokichi Takamine was born in the first year of the Ansei Era (1854) in Ecchukoku (presently in prefecture Toyama). In year 12 of the Meiji Era, he graduated from Engineering Faculty (presently the Engineering Faculty of the Tokyo University) in applied sciences, and the next year he went on a study stay to England. After he came back to Japan in year 16 of the Meiji Era, he was employed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. Because he was interested in the patent system, he stopped in Washington to examine the American system when he was dispatched to America. After that he was appointed by the Patent Office Commissioner Korekiyo Takahashi to the post of Vice Commissioner of the Patent Office in year 19 of the Meiji Era. In addition to that, he was also working at the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, where he was participating in a number of research projects relating to brewing processes, the manufacture of Japanese paper, and of other products. Although he retired from the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce in year 21 of the Meiji Era, he passionately continued his research activities.

In year 23 of the Meiji Era he successfully improved the brewing methods using original yeast and obtained the patent rights to his method. These brewing methods were then transplanted to America when American brewers also started using these methods. A method to manufacture diastase, which is a digestive agent, was invented in America, for which he obtained a great number of patents. At the same time, he also studied the effect of adrenaline, which is a hormone secreted by medulla, which was studied in many places in the world. Although the effect of this hormone was clear, it was necessary to isolate it in a pure form in order to make it possible to use this hormone for clinical purposes.

After he was asked by an American company manufacturing pharmaceutical to isolate adrenaline, he successfully developed a method to manufacture pure adrenaline through separation of crystals with several creative methods which he created by reducing atmospheric pressure without increasing the temperature of the solution while eliminating the solvent. He obtained the patent rights to the manufacturing method that he invented (patent number 4785, year 34 of the Meiji Era).

This method represented the first crystallization of a hormone, and it was valued very highly as it represented an important contribution to manufacturing of daily pharmaceutical products which are necessary for treatment. He received the Order of Merit of the Third Class Order in year 11 of the Showa Era. He died in year 11 of the Showa Era (1922).

Jokichi Takamine Taka-Diastase, Adrenaline

Kikunae Ikeda

Picture of Kikunae Ikeda

Patent Number 14805
Sodium Glutamate

Kikunae Ikeda was born in the first year of the Genji Era (1864) in Kyoto. In year 22 of the Meiji Era, he graduated from the Science Faculty of the Tokyo Imperial University, and from year 32 of the Meiji Era he spent two years as an exchange student abroad in Germany. After his return back to Japan, he was employed as a professor by the Tokyo Imperial University. He was engaged in special research activities at the Physics Faculty. He tried to create more interest in applied research which would be linked directly to social progress and to an improved standard of living for Japanese people, which among other things motivated his research of the deliciousness of seaweed called konbu in Japanese. Because he thought that it should be possible to come to an understanding of the condiment representing the component which makes konbu so delicious in order to manufacture it for industrial purposes, he pursued his research of this subject and the result of his research activities was the discovery that this component is sodium glutamate (monosodium glutamate).He obtained the patent rights to the manufacture of sodium glutamate (patent number 14805, year 41 of the Meiji Era).

Sodium glutamate can be used for commercial purposes because of the way it works in foodstuffs, and it is widely sold as a condiment. Because sodium glutamate imparts a special flavor to foodstuffs and helps to preserve stable characteristics, it is widely used as an additive which enriched the cooking style of Japanese people. In addition, it is also widely accepted all over the world and used as a flavor enhancing condiment. Even after retiring from the Tokyo Imperial University in year 12 of the Taisho Era, Kikunae Ikeda continued his passionate research of methods aimed at completing the technology to manufacture sodium glutamate which is produced mainly from the sugar beat waste liquor which can be used as a raw material for manufacturing sodium glutamate. He died in year 11 of the Showa Era (1936).

Kikunae Ikeda Sodium Glutamate

Umetaro Suzuki

Picture of Umetaro Suzuki

Patent Number 20785
Vitamin B1

Umetaro Suzuki was born in year 7 of the Meiji Era (1874) in Shizuoka prefecture. After graduating from the Faculty of Agricultural Technology of the Tokyo Imperial University, he became a postgraduate student and attained the title of doctor of agricultural sciences in year 34 of the Meiji Era. In the same year he went to study abroad in Switzerland and then in Germany, where he studied organic chemistry. He returned to Japan in year 39 of the Meiji Era. He then became professor at the Faculty of Agricultural Technology of the Tokyo Imperial University next year, in the 40 of the Meiji Era. At the same time, he noticed that there were many beriberi patients among the soldiers in Japan, and also people who came to Tokyo from the provinces became ill with beriberi and many of them died. The government established a special commission for research of beriberi as it was necessary to determine the measures that could be adopted to cope with this emergency. That is why Umetaro Suzuki started studying this problem in order to explain the cause of the disease. He confirmed through experiments that a component facilitating healing was contained in rice bran. He explained the effect of this effective component, called "aberic acid" (which is called vitamin B1 today), successfully isolated "aberic acid" form rice bran, and received the patent rights to his invention (patent number 20785 in year 44 of the Meiji Era).

This property was then used for the first time worldwide for extraction of vitamins. In addition, he also confirmed through experiments with animals that "aberic acid" is an indispensable nutritional component, thus founding the basis for the vitamin science of today. He was decorated with the Culture Order in year 18 of the Showa Era, and also with the First Class Order of the Sacred Treasure. He died in year 18 of the Showa Era.

Umetaro Suzuki Vitamin A, Vitamin B1

Kyota Sugimoto

Picture of Kyota Sugimoto

Patent Number 27877
Typewriter for Japanese Language

Kyota Sugimoto was born in Okayama prefecture in year 15 (1882) of the Meiji Era. Because of his desire to become a specialist in communication technology, he entered the Training Institute for Communication Technology in Osaka, and completed his studies at the training institute in year 33 of the Meiji Era. At that time, typewriters were already commonly used in Europe and America, but no practical type of typewriter has been developed yet for the Japanese language, which would make it possible to write Japanese without using a pen.

Because a typewriter which could be used to type Japanese would be very useful if it could be used with a language using complex and difficult characters (kanji), unlike the simple alphabet used in Europe and America, peopled were hoping that such a typewriter would be invented. After he completed his studies at the training institute, Kyota Sugimoto started working in the letterpress technology field, and then turned his attention to development of a typewriter for text in Japanese. At that time, typewriters which could be used to write Japanese utilized characters arranged either on a cylindrical surface or on an arc-shaped surface, but only a few characters were available. He invented a typewriter for Japanese text which is based on an ingenious construction using a cylindrical tool supporting the paper part and a character part moving forward and backward, with a character carriage moving from the left to the right. He obtained the patent rights to the Japanese typewriter that he invented (patent number 27877, in year 4 of the Showa Era).

This invention amounted to an epoch making design on which current typewriters for Japanese are based, contributing greatly to efficient processing of documents and creation of different types of documents. In year 28 of the Showa Era he was decorated with the Blue Ribbon Award, and in year 40 of the Showa Era he received the Small Asahi Ribbon Award. He died in year 47 of the Showa Era (1972).

Kyota Sugimoto (Japanese Typewriter)

Kotaro Honda

Picture of Kotaro Honda

Patent Number 32234
KS Steel

Kotaro Honda was born in year 3 of the Meiji Era (1870) in Aichi prefecture. He started studying physics at the Science Faculty of the Tokyo Imperial University, and later became interested in the mechanism of magnetic attraction under the guidance of scholars specializing in iron and steel and performing experiments with magnets under the leadership of professor Hantaro Nagaoka from the Department of Physics. He graduated from the same university in year 30 of the Meiji Era and became a postgraduate student engaged in research activities at the Physics Institute where he attained the rank of doctor of science. In year 40 of the Meiji Era, he studied in Germany, and after his return to Japan, he started teaching at the Tohoku Imperial University of Sciences which was then established. When World War I broke out, imports of magnetic steels were interrupted which is why independent development of this material in Japan was urged as very necessary. He invented KS steel which has a very strong magnetic resistance and serves as a hardened permanent magnetic steel, three times more resistant to magnetism than existing tungsten steel. He obtained the patent rights to his invention of KS steel (patent number 32234, in year 7 of the Showa Era).

The name KS steel, which was given to a type of magnet, was created from the first letters of the name of Kichiei Sumitomo. In addition, in year 8 of the Showa Era, he also invented a new type of KS steel (NKS steel), which is an alloy of the strongest permanent magnets in the world whose magnetic resistance is several times higher than that of the initial KS steel. In year 6 of the Showa Era, he became General Director of the Tohoku Imperial University, and in year 9 of the Showa Era he became also the director of the Tokyo University of Sciences. He was awarded the Culture Award in year 2 of the Showa Era and the Big Asahi Ribbon of the First Class in year 29 of the Showa Era. He died in year 29 of the Showa Era (1954).

Kotaro Honda KS steel, New KS steel

Hidetsugu Yagi

Hidetsugu Yagi

Patent Number 69115
Yagi Antenna

Hidetsugu Yagi was born in year 19 of the Meiji Era (1886) in Osaka prefecture. After he graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Tokyo Imperial University, Faculty of Sciences, in year 42 of the Meiji Era, he studied from year 2 of the Taisho Era in England, America, and Germany, and in Germany he continued research of generation of electric waves used for wireless communication. He returned to Japan in year 5 of the Showa Era. The topic of wireless communication which he pursued during his studies abroad would become a research theme to which he would dedicate his entire life. In year 8 of the Taisho Era he became a professor at the Faculty of Engineering Sciences of the Tokyo Imperial University which was then established and during the same year he also attained the title of doctor of engineering sciences. He was able to foresee that short waves or ultra short waves would become the main element for communication using radio waves and he aimed his research in this direction. This resulted in the publication of his papers called "Generation of Short Wavelength Waves", "Measuring Specific Wavelengths with Short Wavelengths", and other papers. The so called Yagi antenna is based on these published articles. He invented it as a an antenna using his "method for directional electric waves". He obtained the patent rights to his invention (patent number 69115, issued in the year 15 of the Taisho Era).

Because this invention uses a very simple construction, it enabled directional communication with electric waves. This construction is still used basically in any type of antenna which is used today for ultra short or extremely short waves. In year 17 of the Showa Era he became Director of the Industrial Sciences Faculty of the Tokyo University, in year 19 of the Showa Era he became General Director of the Technology Institute, and in year 21 of the Showa Era also General Director of the Osaka Imperial University. He was decorated with the Blue Ribbon Award in year 26 of the Showa Era, with the Culture Award in year 31 of the Showa Era, and in year 51 of the Showa Era with the Large Asahi Award of the First Class. He died in year 51 of the Showa Era (1976).

Hidetsugu Yagi Yagi Antenna

Yasujiro Niwa

Picture of Yasujiro Niwa

Patent Number 84722
Phototelegraphic Method

Yasujiro Niwa was born in year 26 of the Meiji Era (1893) in Mie prefecture. He graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering at the Faculty of Sciences of the Tokyo University in year 5 of the Taisho Era and then worked at the Research Institute for Electronics of the Ministry of Communications. Because his activities at the Research Institute for Electronics confirmed to him the importance of private enterprise, he apologized to the Ministry of Communications and started working for a privately owned company. At that time, the communication technology in Japan was based mainly on technology which was introduced from Europe and America. Because he felt strongly that it was important to pursue independent research and development in Japan, he went to study the research situation in Europe and America in year 13 of the Taisho Era. After his return to Japan, he continued his research in the field of transmission of images and invented a phototelegraphic method based on transmission through cables. He received patent rights to his invention (patent number 84722, in year 4 of the Showa Era).

This device for phototelegraphic transmission was not only very easy to use, but it also made it possible to completely recreate images with excellent results so that it could be used for the first time as a broadcasting device for broadcast of news and photographs during the coronation ceremony of the Japanese emperor. This successful use represented a great stimulus for the communication industry in Japan thanks to the creativity and ingenuity which leads to practical applications. After perfecting the cable phototelegraphic transmission method, Yasujiro Niwa turned his attention to research of transmission of images through radio and in year 4 of the Showa Era, he successfully tested wireless transmission of images over large distances in Tokyo. In year 24 of the Showa Era he became the Director of the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Tokyo University, in year 34 of the Showa Era he was awarded the Order of Cultural Merits, and in year 46 of the Showa Era he received the Order of Merit of the First Class. He died in year 50 of the Showa Era (1975).

Yasujiro Niwa Phototelegraphic Method

Tokushichi Mishima

Picture of Tokushichi Mishima

Patent Number 96371
MKM Magnetic Steel

Tokushichi Mishima was born in Hyogo prefecture in year 26 of the Meiji Era (1893). He graduated from the Metallurgy Department of the Faculty of Engineering of the Tokyo Imperial University in year 9 of the Showa Era. After graduating, he devoted himself to research in the field of metallurgy sciences in metallurgy laboratory. When he was trying to explain the theory of magnetism in magnetic steel, he discovered that the magnetic characteristics are restored when aluminum is added to non-magnetic nickel steel. During the progress of his research he invented MK magnetic steel which has excellent stability and is more resistant than conventional hardened steels. He received patent rights to his invention (patent number 96371, in year 7 of the Showa Era).

This magnetic steel represented a revolutional product in the history of permanent magnets, and it became the basis for magnets Alnico which are still widely used. MK magnetic steel is cheaper than magnetic materials which were used up until then, and it is widely utilized in magnets used in dynamos, communication equipment, radios, speakers and other types of popular electronic products and other manufactured products, which represented a great contribution to consequent technological development. The name of MK steel was created from the first letters of the name of the beloved house where Mitsujima was born and raised (Mitsujima ka). He became professor at the Tokyo Imperial University in year 13 of the Showa Era. He was decorated with the Blue Ribbon Award in year 25, and with the Large Asahi Ribbon Award in year 50 of the Showa Era. He died in year 50 of the Showa Era (1975).

Tokushichi Mishima MK Magnetic Steel

Members of the Memorial Committee for 100 Years of the System of Industrial Property Rights

Committee Chairman

Keijiro Murata

Minister of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry

Member

Shoso Shimosato

Officer at the Office for Science and Technology

"

Yoshihiro Inayama

President of the Keizai Dantai Association,
Director of the AIPPI Japan Association

"

Hiroshi Ifuka

President of the Patent Association

"

Sadakazu Nagamura

Director of the Japan Center for Patent Information

"

Haruo Suzuki

President of the Japan Patent Association

"

Masatsugu Suzuki

Director of the Association of Patent Attorneys

"

Manabu Shiga

Patent Office Commissioner

The above named committee was established for a number of activities related to commemoration of 100 years of the industrial property right system in Japan.

[Last updated 7 October 2002]