If we are to develop our trade with Japan it will be necessary for us to regard the country more in the light of a civilised European State than we have hitherto been accustomed to do, and to study its requirements accordingly, rather than confound them with those of the general category of less advanced markets beyond the seas.
‘The Cotton Industry of Japan’,Manchester Guardian 27 May, 1887.
THE ENGINEER KIKUCHI Kyōzō was born in what is now Yawatahama, Ehime prefecture, on Shikoku island in 1859, and started his studies at the Imperial College of Engineering (ICE) at Tōkyō in 1879. After studying on the general course for two years, he opted to specialize in mechanical engineering (kikaika). He graduated in the spring of 1885 with a top-class degree, and made his career in the cotton spinning industry, working with a succession of leading textile companies until his resignation from the board of Dai-Nihon Spinning in 1940. He died twoyears later. Kikuchi was, par excellence, a trained engineer who also became a leading figure in the business world, using his technical expertise as a springboard for wider business involvement. The focus of this chapter is on Kikuchi's role as one of the architects of the development of one of Japan's most important industries in the pre-World War II period. It considers how he acquired his technical knowledge, how he developed that knowledge further, often through trial and error, and how he diffused it to a network of enterprises that included several of Japan's largest businesses.
Much has already been written on the process of technology transfer and the acquisition of technological expertise in Japan's industrial growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including by a number of the authors in this volume. It has been powerfully argued that the import and dissemination of new technologies was well supported by social capability, business and information networks, human capital resources and the role of the Japanese state. One of the doyens of the history of technology in Japan, Nakaoka Tetsurō, has argued that latecomer countries such as Japan can only benefit from the advantages of backwardness by engaging in the production of standardized products, while trial and error was of crucial importance in technology transfer in the engineering field.