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The Initial Period

The origin from a carpenter

Kajima's founder, Iwakichi Kajima, was born in 1816 in what is today Tokorozawa city, Saitama Prefecture. After undergoing training in carpentry in the Yotsuya district of Edo (contemporary Tokyo), Iwakichi obtained his master carpenter certificate and, in 1840, he established a shop in the Edo's Nakahashi Masaki-cho district (now Tokyo's Kyobashi district). Kajima named his shop Oh-Iwa. This name is written with two Chinese ideographs, one of which was borrowed from the Japanese word for "carpenter" and the other of which was taken from Kajima's first name. At that time, Edo suffered from many conflagrations that provided abundant reconstruction work for its leading carpenters. Kajima obtained considerable work from three large daimyo (feudal lords).

An artist's conception of Iwakichi Kajima at the time he set up his shop.

An artist's conception of Iwakichi Kajima at the time he set up his shop.

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Business in Yokohama

After Japan and the United States signed a treaty of amity in 1858, the Japanese shogunate hurried to create and establish Yokohama port within one year. This triggered an associated boom in construction of such structures as consulates, commercial offices, and residences. As Yokohama had previously been a fishing village with no firmly established carpenters, comprehensive building contracts were awarded based on the principle of free competition. Surging wage levels prompted many Tokyo-based craftsmen to come to Yokohama. In view of these circumstances, Iwakichi Kajima shuttered his Edo shop and established operations in Yokohama. Eventually, he was awarded contracts for the construction of the first offices of British and American trading firms within the Yokohama foreign concession as well as the offices of many other foreign trading firms. Kajima's dynamic corporate culture of today was initially evidenced in Yokohama.

The Eiichiban kan (English House No.1)

The Eiichiban kan (English House No.1):
Completed in 1860, this two-story structure was the first facility in Japan of the U.K.-based trading company Jardine Matheson Ltd.

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Renown for Western Construction Expertise

Reflecting Japan's rapid internationalization during the Meiji era as well as Iwakichi Kajima's trust-inspiring character and mastery of Western construction techniques, Kajima was given responsibility for the construction work of a prominent aristocratic family from the Choshu region (now Yamaguchi Prefecture). Iwakichi's elder son, Iwazo, began participating in his father's rapidly growing construction business, and the Kajimas undertook the construction of some of the most prominent Western-style structures in Japan, such as the house of a Mr. Mori in Tokyo's Gotenyama district, the Hourai sha office in Tokyo's Shinbashi district, and Japan's first modern paper mill for Syoshi Co., Ltd.

The Hourai sha

The Hourai sha:
The head office of the business of Shojiro Goto, this structure was constructed of wood and faced with stone. Opposite the Shinbashi railway station, it was one of Tokyo's most famous architectural monuments (1872-1873).

The paper mill of Syoshi Co., Ltd. (currently Oji Paper Co., Ltd.):

The paper mill of Syoshi Co., Ltd. (currently Oji Paper Co., Ltd.):
Japan's first modern paper mill, the plant was an unusual building at that time due to its full-scale brick construction (1874-1875).

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