Mitsubishi's Scottish Origins
the important figures in the history of Mitsubishi is a
remarkable Scotsman. Thomas Blake Glover came to Japan in
1859 to manage the newly established Nagasaki office of a
British trading house. He later participated in establishing
businesses that would became pillars of Mitsubishi's early
growth and diversification.
was born the son of a coast guard officer in 1838 and grew
up in the port city of Aberdeen, Scotland. He joined Jardine,
Matheson & Co. on finishing school and worked briefly in the
company's Shanghai office before taking up his assignment in
Nagasaki, Japan's only international port from 1639 to 1859
under the isolationist policies of the Tokugawa Shogunate,
was a thriving entrepot. Glover soon built a bustling
business there, largely in exporting tea. A larger business
opportunity emerged with rising tensions between the
Shogunate and rebellious clans in southern Japan. Glover
made a fortune selling ships and arms to the rival factions.
for coal surged as steamships multiplied in Japanese waters.
Glover, in partnership with the Hizen Clan, invested in
developing the Takashima coal mine on an island near
Nagasaki in 1868. Their mine was the first in Japan to
employ Western methods of mining. Financial troubles later
forced Glover to sell his stake, but he stayed on as manager
of the mine for several more years. Mitsubishi acquired the
mine in 1881 in the organization's first main
diversification beyond shipping.
Glover played a role in that later became part of Mitsubishi
is the Nagasaki Shipyard. Japan lacked modern facilities for
repairing ships. So, Glover imported the necessary equipment
for a slip dock in Nagasaki in 1868. He later sold his share
to the government, which leased the dock to Mitsubishi as
part of the shipyard in 1884.
forged lasting friendships with Mitsubishi founder Yataro
Iwasaki and with Yataro's brother, Yanosuke, the
organization's second president. The elder Iwasaki
represented the Tosa clan in Nagasaki. He was in the market
for ships and armaments for his clan. And Glover was the
premier broker of those items in Nagasaki.
turned frequently to his foreign friend for support and
advice as Mitsubishi grew. Glover's knowledge and
understanding of international business was invaluable to
Mitsubishi, where he was an advisor for 40 years.
thus contributed immensely to the industrialization and
modernization of Japan. Emperor Meiji recognized that
contribution by naming the Scotsman to the Order of the
Rising Sun in 1908. Some of the industry that Glover
fostered in Japan continues to quench the thirsts of
grateful beer drinkers. He joined a group of investors,
which also included Yanosuke Iwasaki, that took over the
defunct Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama in 1885. They
established Japan Brewery Company, which later became Kirin
died in 1911 in Tokyo. His Nagasaki mansion, which local
tradition identifies as the setting of Madame Butterfly, is
a tourist attraction today. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
donated the mansion to the city in 1957. In further homage,
the company acquired the Glover family home in Scotland and
donated it to the Grampian-Japan Trust, a natural and
historical preservation society.
Our thanks to Mitsubishi for letting us
use this content from their page at
We got some pictures of Glover House in
Aberdeen from Stan Bruce...
Documentary about the Scot who
did so much to help Japan become the technological
powerhouse that it is. I'm not saying that makes him worthy,
but it's an interesting story. A BBC Scotland production.