Born in 1622 as the youngest of eight children, Mitsui Takatoshi moved to Edo at age 14 to help his older brother Toshitsugu. When he was 28, he returned to Matsusaka to take care of his mother. At age 52, he opened textile stores in Edo and Kyoto with his children. Until moving to Kyoto at age 65, he remained in Matsusaka, where he managed two shops and achieved extraordinary success with the excellent business sense he inherited from his mother.
Sell From Storefronts,
Use Cash Transactions
Sensational New Selling Techniques
Before Mitsui Takatoshi, most merchants in Japan sold their wares on credit and did not display them in their shops. Customers would order particular items and the merchant would bring them to their residence, decide on the price, and collect all payments as a lump sum twice a year—once at the New Year and once in mid-summer. However, Takatoshi thought that merchants should do business not only with samurai but also with ordinary townspeople, so he began displaying his wares in his shop, with fixed-price tags, to be paid for with cash.
Umbrella Rental Service
Whenever it rained, Takatoshi would rent out umbrellas with the shop's logo printed on them. The umbrellas were a very effective advertising method, essentially turning customers into walking billboards.
As a way to attract customers, Echigoya would print and hand out a large quantity of flyers during big sales and store openings.
The Leading Company
of Edo's Nihonbashi
In 1673, Takatoshi opened "Mitsui Echigoya Gofukuten," a small shop in the heart of Edo's leading fashion district, Nihonbashi. He also opened an "Echigoya" in Kyoto, and had his eldest sons manage the stores. The Edo shop moved to Surugacho (now Muromachi in Tokyo) in 1683, where it grew into a massive store. Surugacho continued to be the heart of the Mitsui operations in Edo, and the shop became Japan's first department store in 1904 under the new name "Mitsukoshi."
Echigoya as one of Edo's
Echigoya was the subject of many woodblock art prints. By looking at these pictures, we can see a "Fixed Price for Cash Transactions" sign displayed in the storefront, and find that the goods and name of the salesperson were suspended from the ceiling inside the shop.
The Mitsui Family Roots
Originally samurai from Omi (now Shiga Prefecture), the Mitsui family moved to Ise Province during Takatoshi's grandfather's generation. During his father's generation, the family became merchants, and opened a shop in Matsusaka that sold sake and miso, and served as a pawnbroker.
Business Was His Pleasure
While his father was fond of Japanese poetry, Takatoshi felt there was no need for interests beyond business. He dedicated his entire life to the merchant craft.
Let’s Walk Matsusaka
Birthplace of the
Located on Honmachi Street, the Birthplace of the Mitsui Family has been designated an historical site by Matsusaka City. Although not open to the public, you can view the front gate and white walls from the outside. Inside, the well where Takatoshi had his first bath still remains.