An Enterprise Begun with the Invention of the "Tokubijo" Snap Buckle
September 15, 1912
On this day, a young man named Tokuji Hayakawa leased a house in the center of Tokyo and set himself up in business. At just 19 years of age, he started his own small metalworking shop; he went on to become the founder of Sharp Corporation -- one of the world's largest manufacturers of consumer electronics products, information equipment and electronic components.
At the age of nine, he became a live-in apprentice to a metalworker who specialized in the manufacturing of women's hair ornaments and precision metal products. As he mastered traditional metalworking skills, the boy began to display remarkable inventiveness.
In 1912, while still an apprentice, he invented a snap buckle for Western-style belts. He patented it and called it the "Tokubijo" snap buckle.
An Overwhelming Response
In Japan at that time, people dressed in the traditional kimono. Even in Tokyo it was unusual to see Western-style clothing. Tokuji Hayakawa could not have foreseen the huge response his new "Tokubijo" snap buckle would bring. The orders came pouring in -- wholesalers rushed to his master's small metalworking shop with orders for 33 gross (or 4,752 buckles). With the blessing of his master, he set out to establish himself in business at the age of 19.
Quick to Promote Mechanization
Three People Building a Business on 50 Yen
Tokuji Hayakawa began his business with just 50 yen -- equivalent to 150,000 yen in 1992 -- including a 40 yen loan. Every day he and two other people worked from four in the morning to nine or ten at night producing his "Tokubijo" snap buckle. By the end of the first month, he had repaid his load. By the end of the year, they were 120 yen in the black.
A New Patent for the Adjustable Flow Faucet
The enterprise expanded. In 1913, Tokuji Hayakawa moved to Honjo, where he began manufacturing patterned umbrella ferrules as well as the "Tokubijo" snap buckle. He invented an adjustable flow faucet, and at the age of 20, was given his second patent. Both the umbrella ferrules and the faucet were trend-setting products at the time.
The Power of a 1 hp Motor
In 1914, the business moved for the third time. Tokuji Hayakawa invested heavily in a new plant driven by 1 hp motors. In an age when manufacturing was done by hand, this was an exceptional facility. His skills reached a new level, and production efficiency increased rapidly.