In the very early years of the Meiji Restoration period, the Japanese government sent a mission to the United States and Europe to learn about the fundamental infrastructure of a democratic nation.
From the findings by the mission, the Japanese government decided to institute a “national bank system”, modeled after that of the United States, which would provide the financial foundation for the emerging modern economy of Japan. The Ministry of Finance official put in charge of forming the articles of the “national banking law” was Eiichi Shibusawa.
Prior to the official enactment of this law in November of 1872, Eiichi persuaded the House of Mitsui and the House of Ono to become lead investors of 1 million yen each in establishing the First National Bank of Japan in August of 1872. (Present day 1 yen = approximately 2250 yen based on increase in price of goods.)
In November, the bank became the first Japanese company to offer shares to the public, hoping to raise another 1 million yen. Eiichi himself invested 40,000 yen.
However, nobody was familiar with this new venture business, called a bank, and only about 40 investors participated in the public offer. Thus, 440,800 yen raised in the public offer fell short of the initial target.
With total of 71 investors and 2,440,800 yen of capital, the bank opened for business in August of 1873 in Kabutocho, only a block away from now what is the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Initially, the top management was shared by the House of Mitsui and the House of Ono. However, nobody knew how to run the operations of a bank, and potential for conflicts of interests emerged between the two equal parties.
In the meantime, Eiichi whose upbringing was from a well-to-do agricultural merchant class family, felt constrained within the confines of the bureaucracy and resigned from the government with the strong conviction and mission of nation-building from the private sector. Eiichi was named as general supervisory officer to provide oversight in the management of the new bank. A couple of years later in 1875, he became president, a position he held for over forty years, till 1916.