Mitsui Bussan in London

1876 trading arm of Mitsui zaibatsu founded. Appointed by the Japanese government as marketing agents for rice sales to Europe.

1877 April – Mitsui sends American Robert Walker Irwin to London to act as their agent. Mitsui exported 139,563 koku of rice to Europe in 1877 – it was mainly used as starch for weaving cloth rather than for eating.

Robert Walker Irwin

1877 Watanabe Senjiro (1860-1916) arrives in Britain on the Takasago maru (according to Oba Sadao)

Watanabe Senjiro

1878 Mitsui Yonosuke, third son of Mitsui Kofuku, who had studed in US for five years, arrives in London. Irwin returns to Japan and his older brother Richard takes over.

1879 September – official opening of London Branch Office (according to Makoto Kasuya – The Business Activities of Mitsui & Co’s London Branch 1879-1896)

1880 Official opening of the office, upgraded from an agency, at 1 Crosby Square/28 Bishopsgate street within. Sasase Moroaki sent to be branch manager. It was the fifth office overseas after Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris and New York. However the Paris office was closed soon after, so the London office was the only Mitsui office in Europe

1880 Sharp fall in Japanese economy and spiralling inflation caused Japanese government to restrict rice exports. Sasase diversifies into textile machinery, imports of china, earthenware and silk.

1880 Mitsui‘s London office starts to act as agent for Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance

1881 Sasase, married, merchant, aged 29 living as a boarder at 37 Walterton Road, in Paddington, with 15 year old scholar Masuda Yusakei (Yusuke?).

1881 Younike Mitsui, unmarried, merchant, aged 25, living as a boarder at 122 Lancaster Road, London, with Isahaya Yenzo, a scholar from Nagasaki.

1882 imported cotton spinning machines from Britain for Osaka Cotton Spinning Co

1883 buys Ecchu Maru built by Short Brothers of Sunderland, in 1881, later transfers it to KUK

1883 office staff were Sasase Motoaki, Watanabe Senjiro,

1885 Tanabe Jiroichi becomes second general manager of Mitsui in London

1886 Tanabe Jiroichi returns to Japan due to illness. Watanabe Senjiro becomes new general manager of Mitsui in London

1886 Mitsui becomes agent for British firm Platt Bros machines

1887 3 Japanese staff in the London office

1891 Watanabe Senjiro is one of the founding members of the Japan Society. Census – Watanabe is a lodger at Mary Ann Davison’s mother’s boarding house.

1893 Watanabe Senjiro marries Mary Ann Davison, widow of Colonel (actually Captain) Thomas Davison.

1893 5 Japanese expatriate staff in the London office

1894 Turnover of London Branch, excluding ships amounted to £884,700 (£121m in present day value) – included rice, coal, spinning and weaving machinery, cotton, yarn, steel rails, locomotive and passenger cars, chartering of coal transportation vessels. lso heavy machinery to Japanese army and navy and printing machinery for Japanese newspapers.

1895 Turnover of London Branch, excluding ships amounted to £871,800. 6 Japanese expatriate staff.

1896 Turnover of London Branch, excluding ships amounted to £1,004,400. 8 Japanese expatriate staff

1898 10 Japanese expatriate staff.

1902 Watanabe Senjiro recalled to Tokyo Head Office, when Masuda Takashi, founder of Mitsui & Co retired. Watanabe was manager of Mitsui 1903-1907.

1910 Mitsui became the first Japanese member of the Baltic Exchange, through Watanabe’s reputation and popularity.

1911 Watanabe Senjiro and Mary Ann Watanabe living in Hampstead with the son Yoneo aged 11 and daughter Isa aged 15 and six servants.

1916 Watanabe Senjiro dies of a heart attack in Japan. His wife Mary Ann and son returned to England. Watanabe leaves around £5m in present day value. Mary Ann Watanabe was active in Anglo-Japanese society until her death in 1951.