Volume 1: Japanese Companies
Learn a little about some important Japanese companies.
This is the first in a series of ‘kotoba zamurai’ articles which are written
to be ‘a non-systematic approach to learning unusual, but useful words.’
While these not-so-serious articles are written with the upper-beginner to
intermediate in mind, even beginners should be able to get something out of
them. If not, I may have wasted 15 minutes of your life… I will leave it
up to you to take the chance.
Volume 1: Kanji for a few familiar brands
ご機嫌いかがでござるか？ (go kigen ikaga de gozaru
ka – How are you? (in Samurai-ish))
The following is a list of Japanese companies with a look at
their kanji and some history. Most companies don’t use their kanji much even
in Japan, so the real-world usefulness of this article is negotiable. That
being said, you will be a big hit at your next kanji party.
The order of the list is purely random. I assure you I don’t
own any stock or have any affiliation with any listed company [however, if
you, the reader, work for any of these companies as an advertising consultant,
send me 5 bucks and I will move your company to the top.]
- More often it is written in katakana in Japan – トヨタ
- 豊 toyo means abundant and 田 ta means field
- The car company was started in 1937 by Toyoda (The Toyota website writes
this in romaji with a D) Kiichirou 豊田喜一郎; it was a spin-off from Toyoda
Automatic Loom Works, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of weaving
- For more on the history please go here
- In 1951, 豊田市 (Toyota City) in Aichi was founded. It houses the head office
of the Toyota Motor Corporation
- 日 ni(chi) means sun and 産 san means birth
- Company was established December 26th, 1933
- Renamed Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. on June 1, 1934
- Founded by 鮎川義介 (Aikawa Yoshisuke)
- 橋本増治郎 Hashimoto Masujiro’s company [the Kwaishinsha Co.,] which started
in 1911 was Nissan’s predecessor (before merging with another company and
a few name changes)
- The DAT in Datsun represents the first letters of the family names of Hashimoto’s
three principal backers: Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Aoyama and Meitaro
- Therefore, Datsun is written ダットサン in Japanese even though looking at the
romaji you would think it would be ダツン – one more reason why smoking romaji
- 三 means three and 菱 means diamond shape – hence the logo
- The famous samurai Sakamoto
Ryoma founded Japan’s first corporation 海援隊 Kaientai in 1867 which
according to Romulus
Hillsborough was the precursor to Mitsubishi. More on this after doing
Kanji: 松田 Matsuda
- 松 matsu means pine tree and 田 da (ta with sound change) means
- I have *heard* the name was changed to maZda thanks to a ‘psychic’ who used
her incredible powers to determine the Z sound would be easier for Westerners
to pronounce than the non-English sound, TSU.
- Company was founded in 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd in 広島 Hiroshima
- The original name was 東京通信工業株式会社 [Toukyou tsuushin kougyou kabushiki
gaisha] Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation or東通工 Toutsuukou
- 井深 大 Masaru Ibuka and 盛田 昭夫Akio Morita, founded Sony shortly after WWII
- They started by repairing damaged or censored-during-the-war shortwave radios
- From Sony’s extensive history
pages: The company name “Sony” was created by combining two
words. One is ‘sonus’ in Latin, which is the root of the such words as ‘sound’
and ‘sonic’. The other is ‘sonny’ meaning little son. The words were used
to show that “Sony” is a very small group of young people who have
the energy and passion toward unlimited creation.
- Began by 本田宗一郎 Honda Souichirou in October 1946
- Named 本田技研工業株式会社 [Honda giken kougyou kabushiki gaisha] Honda Motor
Co., Ltd.September 24, 1948
Katakana: ヤマハ [山葉 – but almost always written in katakana]
- From Yamaha
music history: 山葉寅楠 Yamaha Torakusu builds his first reed organ and begins
taking orders for more.
- In October 1897, 日本楽器製造株式会社 [nihon gakki seizou kabushiki gaisha] Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. is established
- In 1900 they begin producing pianos
- Motorcycle manufacturer founded on July 1, 1955
- For more on their Music focused corporation: http://www.global.yamaha.com/
- For more on their motor corporationa: http://www.yamaha-motor.co.jp/global/index.html
Kanji: 富士通 fujitsuu
- June 20, 1935 富士通信機製造株式会社 [fuji tsuushinki seizou kabushiki gaisha] is established as an offshoot of Fuji Electric
- 富士 is the same kanji as 富士山 Mount Fuji
- June 1967 changes name to 富士通株式会社 Fujitsu Kabushiki Kaisha (Fujitsu Limited).
- For more on Fujitsu history, please click
- 鈴 suzu means small bell and 木 ki means tree
- 鈴木式織機製作所 Suzuki Loom Works founded in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Pref., by Michio
SUZUKI. in 1909 （明治42年）
- 鈴木自動車工業株式会社 [Suzuki jidousha kougyou kabushiki gaisha] Suzuki Motor
Co.,Ltd. in June 1954 （昭和29年）
- Finally changed name to スズキ株式会社 [Suzuki kabushiki kaisha] in October
- For more on Suzuki history, please see
- 日 hi means sun/day and 立 tachi means stand up
- Founded in 1910 by Namihei Odaira as an electrical repair shop
- Developed Japan’s 新幹線 Shinkansen (bullet trains)
- They also developed the electric blanket I use in the winter while in Japan.
Cost me 10,000 yen, but was worth it…
11) Panasonic / National
- Started in March, 1918 by 松下幸之助 Matsushita Konosuke
- The company name is 松下電器産業株式会社 matsushita denki sangyou kabushiki gaisha
(Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.) and you do see that
on many of their products, but more often it is written Panasonic or National.
- Ok, here is the reason behind the 2 other names:
Here: The Panasonic brand name was first employed in 1955 for audio speakers.
The Panasonic brand name is used as the global brand for all product categories.
Here: The National brand name was first employed for square battery-powered
In 1925, the founder, Konosuke Matsushita, chose “National” as the
trademark focusing importance on the word’s meaning, i.e. “of or relating
to the people of a nation.”
The National brand name is used for home appliances in the Japanese market.
There you have it. There are of course many other brands that would be interesting
to look into. Should you find something or have something to add (or correct),
please feel free to leave comments at the bottom and I will try to add them
to this page.
さらば、友よ！ [saraba, tomo yo! Goodbye, my friend]*
* like さようなら, さらば is used when you won’t see someone again or for a long while.
Of course, I hope to see you again soon, but it just sounds a lot cooler than
Is this site helping your Japanese? Do you have a spare $1 to help Clay pay the bills?