ITOCHU Corporation's History

ITOCHU Corporation's History's image


Year ITOCHU Corporation's History

ITOCHU's founder, Chubei Itoh, commenced linen trading operations. (ITOCHU Corporation established)

When Chubei Itoh I was 15 years old, he began itinerant trading in linen, traveling to Osaka and Kishu. In the following year, he traveled as far as Nagasaki via Okayama, Hiroshima, and Shimonoseki. At this time, Japan concluded the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with five countries, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and the Netherlands, opening an era of free trade. The sight of foreigners, battleships, and foreign trading posts astonished Chubei and sparked his curiosity. He became convinced of the limitless potential of commerce.

What is itinerant trading?
Itinerant trading means door-to-door wholesaling of products. It was a style of business that involved regular travel to familiar places (commercial areas) in different regions. Ohmi Merchants adopted a style of business in which they took products from their local area and the Kansai district to local regions, and procured products of the local regions and sold them in the Kansai area. Chubei carried sample books to take orders, and by using the express transportation services, he transported the products to the inns that are located in the area where customers were located, and sold the products there.



Chubei Itoh establishes the “Benichu” drapery shop in Osaka.

Chubei opened Benchu, a drapery store at Honmachi 2-chome, Higashi-ku, Osaka, east of Nakahashisuji. Benchu mainly handled linen and fabrics from the Bino and Kanto regions. At that time, the Fushimi-machi area was the center of drapery wholesalers, while Honmachi was attracting many used clothing merchants. Despite this, in selecting the base of his business in Osaka, Chubei Itoh I chose Honmachi, anticipating the future development of the Honmachi area. He is said to have chosen Honmachi because it was accessible by road from Kawaguchi-cho, where boats could dock, and the cost of land was less than a half that in Fushimi-machi.
Once Benchu was open, Chubei drew up a charter. In it, he set out his workers' rights and duties, unique for the time, to ensure that all workers, including junior staff, could work to their utmost capabilities. The important ethos pervading the management style of Chubei Itoh I was his commitment to training his staff. Based on trust in his workers, he promoted competent workers in a bold manner, and adopted a meetings-based system of management, which could be regarded as the democratization of management.



An expanded Benichu is renamed “Itoh Honten” (Itoh Headquarters).


Chubei Itoh establishes Itoh Itomise (Thread and Yarn Store), to which ITOCHU traces its roots.

Itoh Itomise (Thread and Yarn Store)

Chubei opened Itoh Itomise, a cotton thread wholesale store, at Azuchi-cho 2-chome, Higashi-ku, Osaka. Under Chubei Itoh I, the general manager, the store started with ten workers, including an assistant general mangers, manager, and assistant manager. Itoh Itomise adopted a series of management systems that were revolutionary for the times, including the codifying of the sharing of profits by three stakeholders, the introduction of Western-style bookkeeping, and the issuance of Jitsugyo, a monthly business magazine (which became a leading magazine for the fabric industry; with some copies sold to the public). Through these initiatives, Chubei developed a base of mutual trust between the store manager and workers, and achieved efficient management.
The store became the basis of the operations that ITOCHU Corporation has since built.



Itoh Itomise is reorganized under the name C. Itoh & Co.


Opened the branch office in New York.


The Woolworth Building where the branch office in
New York was located

ITOCHU International celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2018 !

ITOCHU’s expansion into the US began in 1918 with the establishment of the branch office in New York.
In March that year, the founder Chubei Itoh II traveled to the US and established a branch office on the 19th floor of the Woolworth Building on Broadway.

At the time, the Japanese cotton textile industry was growing too rapidly for the suppliers of the essential cotton-spinning machinery to keep pace, and production had reached full capacity.
The US was a producer of cotton-spinning machinery, but it was hard pressed just to cover domestic demand, with a two-year order backlog. Opening the branch office in New York, Chubei II aimed to purchase spinning machinery and expand the company’s area of trade by attempting not only to export cotton from Japan, but also to export US cotton to the Philippines and US steel products to Japan.

One of the objectives for opening the branch office was to export machinery to Japan. Chubei II made a forward contract with Saco Lowell Shops for 70,000 spinning machines to be delivered the following year. As it was difficult to obtain new equipment, ITOCHU purchased a small spinning factory in the eastern US with all of its equipment included, and sent the 7,600 used spinning machines from the factory to Japan. The trade with Saco Lowell Shops expanded steadily, and the company’s imports of the same model grew to 150,000 units.

At the branch office in New York
Takenosuke Itoh (front row, fifth from the left)
on his visit

Chubei II expanded his exports to Japan from spinning machinery to other products such as machine tools and rolling stock, and business at the branch office in New York steadily expanded.
The business continued to expand step by step into mining, heavy industry and chemical products, automobiles and timber.
In 1918, Osaka Jidousha was established as a sales company for automobiles, and commenced trading with automakers such as Velie, Grant, and Maxwell. Maxwell later became Chrysler.

In this way, the branch office in New York grew its trading volume significantly, and at its peak employed over 20 people, including national staff.



The CI logo[CI]is created for use outside Japan.


Sanko Kabushiki Kaisha, Ltd. is established by merging of C. Itoh & Co., Marubeni Shoten Ltd., and Kishimoto Shoten Ltd.


Sanko is merged with Daido Boeki Kaisha, Ltd. and Kureha Cotton Spinning Co., Ltd. to form Daiken Co., Ltd.


Daiken Co., Ltd., a company created from the merger of trading and manufacturing firms during World War II, separates into C. Itoh & Co., Ltd., Kureha Cotton Spinning Co., Ltd., Marubeni Co., Ltd., and Amagasaki Nail Works, Ltd.


The Company lists on the Osaka Securities Exchange and the Tokyo Stock Exchange.


Opened the New York Office.


Established C. Itoh & Co., (America) Inc.


245 park Avenue where C. Itoh & Co., (America) Inc.
was located

In January 1952, C. Itoh & Co., (America) Inc. was established under New York State Law as ITOCHU’s first overseas subsidiary, and included the San Francisco and Portland Offices in its jurisdiction. It was in December 1953 that international telex, a vital facility for a sogo shosha, was set up and eventually became possible for the Tokyo Head Office to send telexes directly to the New York and San Francisco Offices via telephone.

As business operations developed, the office was relocated to 60 Broadway in 1954, before expanding in 1956 from the lower Manhattan business district to Park Avenue in the midtown district, where major corporations congregated. In 1961, the office was moved to International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation’s ITT Building on Park Avenue, and was relocated again to a newly built building at 245 Park Avenue in 1967.

The former office next to Grand Central Terminal

C. Itoh & Co., (America) Inc. announced its new company name in 1992, and now provides trading services for more than 20,000 items and manages a portfolio of nearly 30 subsidiaries and affiliates as well as a diversified range of investments. Headquartered in New York and operating in the US, Canada and Mexico, the company is involved in a wide variety of businesses.



The Company completes construction of a new Tokyo Branch Office building (at 2-chome, Nihonbashi Honcho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo).


The Company renames the Tokyo Branch Office the Tokyo Head Office, to join the Osaka Head Office in a dual head-office structure.


To mark the 100th anniversary of its founding, the Company opens the new C. Itoh Head Office building in Osaka.

Advisor Chubei Itoh II performs a celebratory song at the 100th anniversary ceremony

On April 25, 1969, the 100th anniversary ceremony of ITOCHU's founding was held at the conference room on the 13th floor. A corporate song, “Cover the World,” a corporate slogan, “C. Itoh covers the world,” and a corporate motto, “Idea and Challenge” were announced.



The Company assists in arranging a basic contract for cooperation between General Motors Corporation of the United States and Isuzu Motors, Ltd. of Japan.


The Chinese government welcomes C. Itoh as a friendly trading company, the first such recognition given to a Japanese sogo shosha.

ITOCHU Corporation entered a growth period in the 1970s. The Company's long-held vision of “Enhancing non-textile businesses - Diversification” was finally realized, and it rapidly expanded operations as a general trading company. ITOCHU Corporation was the first general trading company to establish a trading relationship with China. It publicly announced that it would comply with the “Four Japan-China trading conditions” on December 14, 1971, and then established a section within the company dedicated to China and began initiatives to actively promote trade. When a mission led by then President Mr. Echigo visited China in March 1972, ITOCHU was officially recognized as a friendly trading company by the Chinese government, and continued to play significant roles in promoting friendship and trade between Japan and China. Soon after this appointment, on September 29, 1972, Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka achieved a normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China.



ITOCHU Foundation is established to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Company's postwar rebirth.

ITOCHU Corporation established the ITOCHU Foundation to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its postwar rebirth, launching social action programs to encourage the healthy development of young people.



The Company acquires Ataka & Co., Ltd., a sogo shosha involved primarily in steel-related business.


The Company completes the construction of a new head office building in the Aoyama district of Tokyo.


Japan's first commercial communications satellite ‘JCSAT-1’ was successfully launched.


Implementation of ITOCHU's New CI program leads to a new expression of the official corporate ideals, the adoption of the current English-language name, and the creation of a new corporate logo.

The new English name for the Company and the new corporate philosophy were announced

ITOCHU Corporation's new English-language name and official corporate ideals were announced on June 1, 1992. Prior to this, with the participation of all employees, the New CI program was conducted over a period of one year to determine a corporate name and philosophy that were suitable for a diversified international company. As a result, ITOCHU Corporation was selected as the Company's English-language name, while the Japanese name was left unchanged. The Company also established “The ITOCHU Credo” and “The ITOCHU Way” as its corporate philosophy, focusing on “ITOCHU Committed to the global good.” New corporate symbols, including a new corporate logo, were also introduced on October 1.



The ITOCHU Group becomes the largest private shareholder of Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development.


Division Company system introduced.
ITOCHU becomes the first sogo shosha to receive environmental certificate ISO14001.

With ITOCHU's operations in Japan and overseas becoming more diversified and the management environment changing very quickly, the Company recognized that it needed to adopt a more autonomous management approach, enabling greater agility by delegating authority and responsibility to its divisions. The concept of developing a “Division Company” system was created. Consequently, an examination committee was set up in 1995 and the system was adopted in FY1997. The main purposes of the system were, first, to create an optimal management system with independent management by the Division Companies (to create a system geared to the characteristics of the Companies, enable prompt decision making through a bold decentralization of authority, and build a more sophisticated management system based on consolidated performance and balance sheets); second, to establish a small and efficient head office; and third, to achieve the minimum control required in line with the decentralization of authority. By adopting this new approach, ITOCHU sought to strengthen its performance and operations, while bolstering its earnings.



The ITOCHU Group acquires stock in FamilyMart Co., Ltd.


“Executive Officer” post introduced.


Marubeni-Itochu Steel Inc. established.


Chubei Itoh Memorial Museum opened.


The Company launches its new medium-term management plan “Frontier—2006: A Shift to Aggressive Business and Enhancement of Solid Management.”
The Company's consolidated net income exceeds 100 billion yen.
The Company forms a capital and business alliance with Orient Corporation.


The Company begins the ITOCHU DNA Project, a project for business process reengineering.


The Company launches its new medium-term management plan “Frontier+ 2008: Enhancing Corporate Value on the World Stage.”


The Company acquires a stake in a Brazilian iron ore mining business.
The Company announces the social contribution programs commemorating 150th anniversary.


The Company launches its new medium-term management plan “Frontiere 2010: Enhancing Corporate Value on the World Stage, Shaping the Future.”
The Company announces the ITOCHU Mission, Values & 5 self-tests.


The Company launches its new medium-term management plan “Brand-new Deal 2012: Earn, Cut, Prevent”
The Company Invests in Drummond Company Colombian Mines
The Company relocated its Osaka Head Office to Osaka Station City (Umeda)


The Company launches its new medium-term management plan “Brand-new Deal 2014: Aiming to be the number one trading company in non-resource sectors”


The Company formulated the Corporate Message, “I am One with Infinite Missions.”


Strategic alliance and capital participation with CITIC Limited (China) and Charoen Pokphand Group Company Limited (Thailand)
The Company launches its new medium-term management plan “Brand-new Deal 2017 : Challenge”