Mikitani Hiroshi is a Japanese billionaire. Generally speaking, he is known for being the founder, the CEO, and the Chairman of Rakuten, which is an e-commerce company of considerable size. This can be seen in how its operations can be found in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about Mikitani Hiroshi.
1. Born and Raised in Kobe
Mikitani was born and raised in Kobe, which is one of the biggest cities in the whole of Japan. Said city has a number of claims to fame. However, there are a lot of people out there who will know it best because it is the namesake of Kobe beef, which is prized for its flavor, its texture, and its tenderness. There is something of a disagreement about whether beef produced in a similar manner elsewhere can be called Kobe beef or not. Countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom say “No.” In contrast, the United States says “Yes” because it doesn’t recognize the Kobe beef trademark.
2. His Family Has Experience with the United States
It is no exaggeration to say that Mikitani’s family has experience with the United States. His mother went to elementary school in New York City before returning to Kobe. Meanwhile, his father was the first Fulbright Scholar from the Japan, which is rather notable because said program selects its candidates through a competitive manner.
3. His Grandfather Was a Businessman
Speaking of which, it is interesting to note that Mikitani’s grandfather was also a businessman. To be exact, said individual was one of the co-founders of Minolta, which was a Japanese manufacturer of cameras, camera accessories, and other machines. Technically, Minolta no longer exists in the present time. This is because it merged with Konica to create Konica Minolta in 2003. Said company is no longer involved with either cameras or photos because it sold those units to Sony in 2006. However, Konica Minolta is still active in other markets such as printing machines and printing supplies.
4. Studied at Hitotsubashi University
Education-wise, Mikitani went to Hitotsubashi University, which is a Tokyo-based school that specializes in the social sciences. Subject-wise, he studied commerce, which is notable because said school is considered to be the best school in Japan when it comes to both economics and commerce. Hitotsubashi University was founded in 1875 for the purpose of training businessmen who could assist in the modernization of Japan after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. As such, its symbol was based on Mercury’s caduceus. Something that can seem strange until one remembers that commerce was one of the numerous responsibilities in said god’s wide-ranging portfolio.
5. Spent Some Time in Banking
Upon graduation, Mikitani spent some time in the banking sector. To be exact, he spent some time working at the Industrial Bank of Japan, took some time off to study at Harvard University, and then started up his own consulting group.
6. Convinced to Do Something Else By a Natural Disaster
In 1995, Kobe was struck by the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Said natural disaster wasn’t as bad as the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which killed more than 105,000 people. However, the Great Hanshin Earthquake was still quite horrific, seeing as how it killed up to 6,434 people and did about $200 billion USD in damage. This occurrence had a huge impact on Mikitani, who was convinced to leave the banking sector so that he could help revitalize Japan’s economy by starting up his own business.
7. Entered E-Commerce Quite Early
Mikitani entered e-commerce quite early. After all, he decided to start up an online shopping mall in 1996, which was well before the e-commerce boom of more recent decades. For context, when Mikitani got involved, Netscape was still a well-known name rather than a not particularly important bit of tech trivia. Similarly, Amazon.com had just been launched while Google was still in its embryonic stage as a research project.
8. Expanded Beyond E-Commerce
Even now, Mikitani’s company remains focused on e-commerce. However, it has gotten involved in some other things as well. For instance, there is a baseball team called the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, which tends to be called by the much shorter name of Rakuten Eagles for the sake of convenience. Interested individuals should know that baseball is extremely popular in Japan. Something that has made the country fairly competitive on the international level. Having said that, Hiroshi himself actually got involved with the baseball team because of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. He bought it in 1995 before it was bought by Rakuten in 2014.
9. Expanded Beyond Japan
In any case, Mikitani has long since expanded Rakuten beyond Japan. Much of the process has happened through buying out other companies in other countries. For example, the U.S.-based Buy.com is now Rakuten.com. Similarly, the Canada-based Kobo is now Rakuten Kobo. It is interesting to note that Mikitani started pushing for what he called a policy of Englishnization in 2010 to smoothen the expansion of his company beyond its homeland. He received a fair amount of criticism, both because of the inherent difficulty of such a process and because of the fact that he wanted to complete the process within two years’ time. However, as far as Mikitani was concerned, Englishnization wasn’t beneficial so much as necessary for his company.
10. Opposes Holding the Tokyo Olympics This Summer
Mikitani is one of the people who have spoken out against the idea of holding the Tokyo Olympics this summer. His line of reasoning is simple and straightforward. Yes, there are countries that have brought COVID-19 under control as well as countries that are clearly in the process of bringing COVID-19 under control. However, there are still countries such as Brazil and India that have not. As such, inviting the athletes could still cause serious issues, particularly since it wouldn’t be limited to just the athletes. Mikitani isn’t the only one who has spoken out, but he has been one of the most ardent individuals to do so.