" When getting into business, I decided to handle spun yarn because I thought it was something worth doing."
So decided Yosaburo Yagi, the founder, 100 years ago.
He was born and raised in a rice dealer's family.
He carried through "giving oneself entirely to the task consistently."While pulling together the strength of everyone,he built up the company's position of today for its development in the future.
His store was founded in October 1893 with capital of 20,000 yen. The frontage was 2.5 ken (about 4.5 meters) and the house rent was 8 yen 25 sen per month. This small store was the first step in our history.
The biography of Yosaburo Yagi says that during his lifetime Yosaburo devoted himself entirely to the association with someone whom he admired. Mr. Sanji Muto is the name of the someone.Mr. Sanji Muto, a businessman and statesman through the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods (1868-1989), was appointed Manager for the Hyogo Branch in 1894 when Kanegafuchi Spinning Co.,Ltd. constructed a new factory. After that he devoted his life to the development of the Japanese spinning industry while building up Kanebo as Japan's prominent company.
At that time Kanebo was in its foundation period as well. While technically Kanebo's yarn was completely impeccable, the market was reluctant to recognize its real worth on the grounds that Kanebo's yarn was fine and selling prices had to be lower than products offered by other firms. Japanese traditional cotton yarn really looked thick because its was spun by hand on a spinning wheel and cotton fibers were not sufficiently twisted. To the eyes of the general public accustomed to the traditional yarn, Kenebo's yarn looked lean.
Yosaburo, the founder, gave advice to Mr. Muto to take advantage of the evaluation of a yarn dealer with a discerning eye for the real worth of yarn. Thisman said "Kanebo's yarn is well spun." In the meantime, Yosaburo started public campaigns against end users obsessed with erroneous observations. As a result, Kanebo's yarn was given the evaluation that it is excellent and the company continued to gain confidence increasingly.
Yosaburo devoted all his energies to the handling of Kanebo's products and deepened the relationship with Kanebo. It is written in the biography of Yosaburo that "clearly Yagi Shoten of today also owes a great deal to the favor and encouragement of Mr. Muto." In the meantime, Yosaburo traveled overseas for the first time for the inspection of business in Shanghai in 1898, with Mr. Muto. His observations of a spinning firm in Shanghai operated by an Englishman contributed significantly to the management of his firm later.
In 1896 Yosaburo purchased land at 2 Chome, Minamikyutaro Machi, Osaka and established a new store. Later in 1901 another new store was constructed. Sakae Watanabe, then an employee (later, Director of the company) made notes of the interesting appearance of the store in his memorandum entitled "Notes on the Box with Three Drawers" as follows.
"The store front was a raised 24-mat room. Half of the shop front or the rear section was separated into two sub-sections used by accounting and calculation, respectively. Stepping up on an ornamental horizontal timber fixed at the edge of the floor to the raised tatami(mat) shop room sat sales clerks in the order of Nakano, Watanabe, Yabuuchi (Masakichi) and Iwao (Kamejiro) from north to south, all facing east. With a wooden square-shaped hibachi (brazier or fire box half- filled with burning charcoal and ashes. This was replaced in summer by tabakobon or a box or tray in which fire and smoking utensils are kept) in front of them and with the box with three drawers on their right-hand side, sales clerks discussed business with visiting customers. In those days, it was a custom at every store to make price arrangements by using large soroban (Japanese abacus). Sometimes sales clerks went into spirited price negotiations with customers and when a large business was consummated, an abacus was thrown away and both parties clapped their hands lavishly."
"Sales clerks wore maedare (apron), haori (short Japanese overgarment) and blue duck cloth kakuobi (a stiff waistband), with a tabacco pouch being attached to it, and emptied the pipe into a brazier by knocking the metal head upon the rim, when they negotiated business with customers. The store owner who was frequently outside sat besides Nakano from north to south. The store owner was thinking about something at all times while puffing away at a silver tabacco pipe."
"All sales clerks from a spinning firm who visited the store every day wore Japanese-style clothes and sat besides a charcoal brazier and stayed long to discuss business. This was convenient for the store because we could make purchases judging from our sales and request whatever volume we needed."
With the Russo-Japanese War which broke out in 1904, the spinning industry continued its activity with a rush of orders for military cotton cloth as well as orders from overseas. In the meantime, yarn dealers later to be called the "five cotton firms" in the Kansai region (Marubeni, Itochu Shoji, Nichimen Jitsugyo, Toyomenka and Gosho), "eight firms" in the Semba area (Mataichi, Iwata Shoji, Maruei, Tazuke, Takemura Sangyo, Takenaka, Toyoshima and Yagi) as well as imported textile fabric dealers such as Itoman, Yamaguchi Gen, Tamurakoma and Inanishi all continued to make rapid progress.
Map of the Semba area in Osaka
(Early in the Taisho period)
In 1913 Yagi Shoten celebrated the 20th anniversary of its foundation. The Japanese industry entered a period of a chronic depression in the 1900s. The spinning industry did not see a growth of domestic demand. In addition, exports to China reached the point where they could not rise any further and a resigned mood prevailed within the industry. Nevertheless, Yagi Shoten continued to improve its performance constantly through steady sales efforts.
In this year Yosaburo decided on the modernization of business in commemoration of the company's 20th anniversary. Capital was increased to 500,000 yen all at once and the store was reconstructed as a Western-style building. Sales stands made their first appearance. Female employees were employed as bill collectors and telephone operators. "Don," a common title of address to employees since the Edo period (1600-1867), was discontinued and was replaced by "Kun" (Mr.). Because of exceptional reforms for an individual store, all these new attempts attracted the attention of not only families of merchants in the Semba area, but also many other people. It was reported that some people even took a roundabout way to see what was actually happening at Yagi Shoten.
In 1918 Yagi Shoten celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation. The number of employees was more than 200. On April 28, 1918 Yagi Shoten was reorganized as a joint stock company.
An employee who joined the company at that time spent 2-3 months to help with packing and collection. In addition to collection, one of the important roles assigned to bill collectors was to make sure about the appearance of customer's place of business (store appeal), the number of employees, orderly arrangements within the store, the attitude of store employees and fund positions. Evening hours were spent by copying invoices to learn the location, products being handled and forwarding agents of the customer. The next 3-4 years were spent as a delivery clerk to learn the actual conditions of business. It took 10 years at least to become a full-fledged sales clerk.
When the store was reorganized as a joint stock company, priority was placed on the sales divisions consisting of four departments, namely, cotton yarn, cotton cloth, foreign trade and Manchuria. Among other things., the foreign trade department was strengthened.
"The sound policy" and the company creed "giving oneself entirely to the task consistently."
"When doing anything, you have to have a convincing reason which you can explain to other people. If you act accordingly, you will make no mistake," so preached Yosaburo Yagi, the founder.
He was deeply moved by the Emperor's inspirational calligraphy in the Taisho period (1912-1926) reading "giving oneself entirely to the task consistently" which he adopted as the company creed. The spirit of "giving oneself entirely to the task consistently" has been inherited continuously and is very much alive even today.
"Hikifuda"distributed by the company in its foundation days.
※"Hikifuda":Handbills or circulars or notices distributed by merchants to advertise products or announce the opening of store and sales.