Kishi in Japan

    ‘Kichimatsu was born on 1/7/1872 to a well-educated Japanese businessman and banker, Ukichi Kishi of Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture. Ukichi was born in 1839 as the fourth son of Heizo Yamamoto and was adopted into the Kishi family at the age of eleven.  Nagaoka was an oil town after the Meiji Restoration and particularly after the Higashiyama oil field was developed in 1892.  Crude oil was brought to the town and refined there. Refineries exceeded forty at one time. Ukichi Kishi founded the Nippon Petroleum Company in 1888 and founded Nagaoka Petroleum Company in 1898 and had organized the 69th National Bank (Hokuetsu Bank after 1948).’[2]

    ‘Kichimatsu had a younger brother Hachitaro and a sister Chiyo.  Chiyo married Yamazaki and had a daughter, Hatsu.  Hatsu was Kichimatsu’s ‘favorite’ niece and when Kishi returned to Japan, she was “mustered” to meet him.  Kishi told Hatsu that Americans were hostile to Japanese immigrants who used to work there for money only and go back to Japan some day. “I would never return to Japan. I would die in America.”’[2]  Hatsu had an opportunity to visit her cousins, Taro and Toki in the 1970s.

    Kichimatsu attended Tokyo’s prestigious Hitotsubashi University, which was well known for placing its graduates in important positions in big business[1].  ‘Kishi was a hero of the school as a member of its boat club.  He spent many hours in the Oxford eight, a sport introduced from England.  He had a sturdy and powerful physique for the middle four, and pulled the fifth oar of Gembu, a school boat.’[2]   If his teammates had an oar they did not like, they would give it to him break.

    ‘His employment at Nagaoka Petroleum Company was interrupted in 1904 when war with Russia broke out. The patriotic excitement surrounding the war gave Kishi and his friends the romantic idea of joining the cavalry.  But a calmer, more sober assessment of their qualifications convinced them that they could serve Japan better by enlisting in the quartermaster corps.  As army quartermasters Kishi and his friends could use their business background to help supply the regular troops with food, clothing and other necessities.  After Kishi signed up he was sent to Manchuria on the mainland of China, where he spent the years of the war, 1904 and 1905.  He was quite proficient at procuring food for the soldiers, always managing to buy the fattest cattle and sheep from the local people.  One day his superior officer actually confronted him and asked if he were doing anything illegal.  Kishi explained that instead of offering a set price for each cow or sheep, as other quartermasters did, he paid by the pound.  This meant he was brought the best animals, while other regiments had to settle for lesser stock.  Kishi also supplied the troops with at least one hot meal a day.  While most quartermasters insisted on buying rice, which was scarce and expensive, Kishi bought soybeans, millet and corn, which were cheap and plentiful.  For such efficiency and resourcefulness, Kishi was awarded the Japanese Order of the Kite, a medal seldom given to quartermasters.’ [1] 
   ‘After the war ended with a Japanese victory, Kishi considered staying in Manchuria to farm.  But the lawlessness in the countryside discouraged him, as did the high price of land.  Ironically, even though bandits and thieves roamed freely stealing from farmers, the price of land remained high.  Land was a popular commodity because it was the one thing bandits could not steal.  Because of the lawlessness and the cost of land, Kishi left the mainland and returned to Japan.’[1]  ‘The Nagaoka Petroleum Company had been sold to the Takarada Petroleum Company.  The International Oil Company, the subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company in Japan, had entered the oil fields of Niigata Prefecture and had taken away business from minor local petroleum companies.’[2]   ‘He began work for a firm which made sewer pipe.  But this new job neither taxed his skills as a businessman nor fulfilled his desire for adventure.’[1]