1911 Sumitomo Electric Wire and Cable Works (Foundation of the Company)
Aiming to Achieve Domestic Production
—Development of Wire and Cable Business
In 1897, a man visited a steelworks in the United States. Witnessing the technological prowess evident there, he felt impatient with the backwardness of his home country. His name was Kankichi Yukawa, and he later assumed office as the fifth Director General of Sumitomo, but at that time he was an officer of the Ministry of Communications,* which had wide jurisdiction over transportation, communications and electricity. Yukawa was visiting the US on business as a member of the Universal Postal Union. In that era, Japan was not capable of manufacturing even basic materials for infrastructure, including steel sheets and electric wires, and thus had no other choice but to rely on imports. Seeing the situation of his country, Kankichi understood that the development of Japanese manufacturers was an urgent necessity. In 1905, he decided to join Sumitomo.
To achieve fully effective production of communication, electrical cables, Kankichi established Sumitomo Electric Wire and Cable Works in 1911 by separating the wire and cable business from Sumitomo Copper Rolling Works. In autumn of the same year, the new company succeeded in the practical application of lead-coated power cables for the first time in Japan. They were used as high-voltage underground cables in Kyoto City. While overcoming failures caused by technological immaturity one by one, Kankichi spared no expense in encouraging research. Subsequently, Sumitomo Electric Wire and Cable Works succeeded in the domestic production of communication and electrical cables, achieving a huge leap in technological expertise. In this way, Kankichi worked toward developing pioneering technology.
* Ministry of Communications: present-day Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications