Shibusawa Eiichi’s Obsession With Confucianism

Confucianism in Japan: Tracing Shibusawa Eiichi's Obsession with The Analects of Confucius, July 2015

TOKYO – This is a must-go, I think, for scholars and followers of Confucianism when staying in Tokyo, Japan: Shibusawa Eiichi (1840-1931) was a Japanese industrial titan, champion of civil society, economist, banker, politician, and humanist. Little known fact, Shibusawa was also a brilliant Confucianist.

He studied the Confucian Classics and published profoundly on rujia (the Confucian school), and believed that the teachings of the ‘Lunyu’ (The Analects) foster not only family values (Shibusawa war married twice, and had 11 children), and guide all human diplomatic relations, but also inform businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Shibusawa Eiichi's writings on Confucianism
Shibusawa Eiichi’s writings on Confucianism (Lunyu/The Analects)

He was involved in the founding of over 500 enterprises and organization, including one that later evolved into Mizuho, our trusted family bank. Anyway, it is difficult to study the beginnings of Japan’s modern society without stumbling over the workings of this fascinating person. As a mentor and educator, Shibusawa Eiichi stressed the importance of business education, while at the same time he also wanted to be seen (and photographed) with as many influential figures of his time as humanly possible. Here’s a picture with him and Tagore -India’s supreme poet:

Shibusawa Eiichi Confucian Entrepreneur and Humanist here with Tagore
Shibusawa Eiichi was an educator who wanted to be seen (and photographed) with other global humanists. (Here with India’s Rabindranath Tagore)

A visit to the ‘Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation’ at Nishigahara, Kita-ku, in Tokyo, will not, cannot disappoint. There you’ll find three small museums, a water-park, playgrounds for kids, but most importantly Shibusawa’s family residence, guest house, gardens, and the Memorial Hall – all situated on a mountain-park just opposite Oji train station. (If you can, use the Toden Streetcar Arakawa Line to get there, the “lone survivor” of Tokyo’s old street tram system.)