The foundations of the former Mitsui & Co.
Following the Meiji Restoration, both the public and private sectors in Japan had their sights set on catching up to and surpassing the major U.S. and European powers. The race was on for industries to modernize their manual labor-based production facilities. The former Mitsui & Co.* played a major role in this shift.
In the 1800s, Japan's cotton spinning industry experienced a rapid rate of growth. The former Mitsui & Co. helped to underpin the industry by taking on an organizational role. It imported spinning machines made by UK firm Platt, known as the best in the business at the time, and held an 85% share of all spinning machine imports into Japan. Besides importing Chinese raw cotton via the Shanghai branch, it also began trading Indian cotton, which led to the establishment of a local office in Bombay in 1893. By 1894 raw cotton had become the former Mitsui & Co.'s most important trading item in terms of volume.
Through the successful development of these businesses, by 1909 the company accounted for 25.9% of exports and 22.8% of imports in Japan, and had increased its share of Japan's entire trading volume from onefifth to one-quarter, solidifying its position as the number-one Sogo-shosha.
* Legally speaking, there has been no continuation between the former Mitsui & Co. and the current Mitsui & Co.