Kazuo Inamori

Born: January 30, 1932 | Kagoshima City, JP
Photograph of Kazuo Inamori

Kazuo Inamori was born in 1932 in Kagoshima, Japan, one of seven children. During elementary school, he was a very spirited child who loved science and also showed an interest in the machines that were in his father's printing shop. He enrolled at Kagoshima University, where he majored in organic chemistry. After graduating, he worked at at Shofu Industries, where he developed fosterite to serve as an insulator for high frequency radio waves and invented the electric tunnel kiln. In 1959, together with seven other colleagues, Inamori established Kyoto Ceramic, which later became known as Kyocera. Inamori quickly secured a contract from Matsushita Electronics Industries (now Panasonic), and then with Fairchild Semiconductor, which placed orders for silicon transistor headers. Kyocera greatly contributed to the development of the US semiconductor industry. To avoid dependence on the semiconductor market, Inamori diversified Kyocera, turning to the manufacture of photovoltaic cells, cutting tools, and bioceramics; later, he moved Kyocera into other areas-especially the manufacture of electronic information equipment, e. g. laptops, peripheral equipment, and telecommunications equipment. Inamori established DDI Corporation (Daini Denden) to compete against NTT (Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation). In 2000 DDI merged with KDD (Kokusai Denshin Denwa) and IDO (Nippn Idou Tsushin Corporation, which had been started by Toyota), to form KDDI, which today is the second largest comprehensive telecommunications company in Japan. In 1984 Inamori also established the Inamori Foundation, which awards the annual Kyoto Prize, honoring those who have made extraordinary contributions to science, civilization, and the spirituality of humankind.

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0664
No. of pages: 135
Minutes: 501

Interview Sessions

Thomas R. Tritton and Richard Ulrych
19 April and 13 November 2010
Kyocera International, Inc., San Diego, California and Hotel Nikko Princess, Kyoto, Japan

Abstract of Interview

Kazuo Inamori was born in 1932 in Kagoshima, Japan, which lies on the southern tip of Kyushu Island—the southernmost of Japan's four largest islands. He was one of seven children. During elementary school, he was a very spirited child who loved science and also showed an interest in the machines that were in his father's printing shop. When he was in the 6th grade, he contracted tuberculosis. During his illness he read a book by a Buddhist monk, and this sparked his interest in religion. During World War II, his family's home was destroyed by an air raid and the family afterward had to live very modestly. Though he had a scholarship, in order to afford high school and supplement his family's income, Inamori made and sold paper bags. Inamori had high grades in high school in both physics and mathematics. His mathematics teacher, who had previously been the principal of his junior high, was much impressed. This teacher not only persuaded Inamori to continue on with his studies beyond high school, but he also visited Inamori's parents and convinced them to allow Inamori to go to a university. Inamori enrolled at Kagoshima University, where he majored in organic chemistry. Graduating from Kagoshima University, Inamori's first job was in research and development at Shofu Industries in Kyoto, Japan, where he quickly demonstrated enormous skill. He developed fosterite, the first person in Japan to do so, to serve as an insulator for high frequency radio waves. He then designed the mass production of high frequency insulator components made of fosterite. This led him to invent the electric tunnel kiln, used in sintering, which was then widely adopted in the industry. Despite these successes at Shofu, after a strong difference of opinion with his superior, he decided to leave the company. Learning this, several of his co-workers joined him. In 1959, together with seven other colleagues, Inamori established Kyoto Ceramic, which later became known as Kyocera. Inamori quickly secured for his company a contract from Matsushita Electronics Industries (now Panasonic), which called for Kyoto Ceramic to manufacture U-shaped Kelcimas (high-frequency insulator components for TV picture tubes). However, worried that his company was too dependent on Matsushita, Inamori sought orders from established Japanese manufacturers. Unfortunately, at that time his efforts did not meet with success, largely due to the Keiretsu (company affiliation) business network system. This led him to seek opportunities in the open markets of the United States. His first US customer was Fairchild Semiconductor, which placed orders for silicon transistor headers. Then IBM placed large-volume orders for ceramic substrates. Inamori continued to develop and refine Cerdip packages and multilayer packages for the US market. Kyocera's fine ceramics business continued to grow and contributed greatly to the development of the US semiconductor industry. To avoid dependence on the semiconductor market, Inamori diversified Kyocera. Initially he turned Kyocera to the manufacture of photovoltaic cells, cutting tools, and bioceramics—all employing fine ceramics technologies. Later, however, through various mergers and acquisitions, he moved Kyocera into other areas—especially the manufacture of electronic information equipment, e. g. laptops, peripheral equipment, and telecommunications equipment. When Japan's telecommunications industry was deregulated in 1984, Inamori decided to establish DDI Corporation (Daini Denden) to compete against NTT (Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation), which up to then had monopolized the Japanese telecommunications market. Not having any infrastructure in place, DDI was forced to rely on microwave communications to establish long distance telecommunication networks. Several years later, the Japanese government opened mobile communications to competition, and Inamori decided that DDI should enter into the cell phone business. This further contributed to DDI's growth and evolution. In 2000 DDI merged with KDD (Kokusai Denshin Denwa) and IDO (Nippn Idou Tsushin Corporation, which had been started by Toyota), to form KDDI, which today is the second largest comprehensive telecommunications company in Japan. In 1984 Inamori also established the Inamori Foundation based on his rationale that we have no higher calling than to serve the greater good of humankind and society. One of the main functions of the foundation is awarding the annual Kyoto Prize, which honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to science, civilization, and the spirituality of humankind. Inamori has also established the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio), which awards the Inamori Ethics Prize to those who practice model ethical leadership and have contributed significantly to the betterment of global society and mankind. In 2010, the Japanese government asked Inamori to take the helm of JAL (Japan Airlines) and reconstruct this bankrupt firm. Responding to this special request, Inamori became chairman of JAL. In this capacity, he has focused considerable effort on educating JAL employees, changing their attitudes toward work and customers, as well as on instilling the ailing airline with his innovative management philosophy. By his actions he has been able to strengthen customer service and has quickly turned around and improved JAL's business performance. Inamori attributes his overall success to his philosophy of love and caring. His motto is “Respect the Divine and Love People.” In the end, he gives this advice to global leaders who face many challenges: “Disregard personal egos and act for the greater good and happiness of humanity based on your conscience.”

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1955 Kagoshima University Bachelor of Engineering Applied Chemistry

Professional Experience

Kyoto Ceramic Co. Ltd.

1959
Founder
1966
President

Kyocera International, Inc.

1969
Founder

Inamori Foundation

1984
President

DDI Corporation

1984
Appointed Chairman of the Board
1997
Non Representative Director, Founder, and Chairman Emeritus
2000
Chairman Emeritus

Kyocera Corporation

1985
Appointed Chairman of the Board
1997
Non Representative Director, Founder, and Chairman Emeritus

Kansai Cellular Telephone Company Ltd

1987
Founder and Chairman of the Board
1997
Non Representative Director and Chairman Emeritus

DDI Pocket Telephone Inc.

1994
Founder and Chairman of the Board

Hotel Kyocera Corporation

1994
Founder and Chairman of the Board

KDDI Corporation

2001
Adviser of KDDI Corporation

Seiwa Social Welfare Association

2001
President

Inamori Social Welfare Foundation

2003
President

Japan Airlines Corporation

2010
Chairman and special adviser to the cabinet
2011
Representative Director, Chairman

Honors

Year(s) Award
1972

The 18th Okochi Memorial Grand Production Prize

1974

The 16th Commendation by the Director of State for Scienceand Technology

1979

Honorary Citizen of San Diego County, California, U. S. A.

1984

National Medals of Honor with Purple Ribbon

1984

Foreign Member, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, Sweden

1988

The Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs, Babson College, USA

1988

Honorary Doctorate, Science, University of Denver, USA

1988

Honorary Doctorate, Humane Letters, Alfred University, USA

1990

Honorary Citizenship of Shilong Town, Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, China

1991

Jason Ammons Free Enterprise Award, Coastal Carolina College, USA

1995

T. Keith Glennan Lecturer, Case Western Reserve University, USA

1995

Henry Townley Heald Award, Illinois Institute of Technology, USA

1995

Honorary Doctorate, Science, Cranfield University, UK

1996

Honorary Citizen of Dongguan City, China

1996

Doctor of Humane Letters, University of San Diego, USA

1997

The 1997 Distinguished Leadership Award in Japan Society of Boston, USA

1998

Lifetime of Innovation Award of the International Union of Materials Research Societies, USA

1999

Honorary Citizen of Asuncion, Paraguay

1999

Frontiers of Science-Rustum Roy Lecture, The American Ceramic Society, USA

1999

John Francis McMahon Lecturer, Alfred University, USA

1999

Person of the Year, The US Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Japan

1999

Honorary Doctorate, Kagoshima University, Japan

1999

Visiting Professor, Nankai University, China

1999

Distinguished Lifetime Member, The American Ceramic Society, USA

2000

National Order of the Southern Cross, Brazil

2000

Honorary Professor, Xinjiang University, China

2000

Visiting Professor, Sun Yat-Sen University, China

2000

Foreign Associate, National Academy of Engineering, USA

2001

Honorary Citizenship of Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, China

2001

Honorary Doctorate, Science, The Pennsylvania State University, USA

2001

Honorary Professor, Northeast Normal University, China

2001

Honorary Chairman, the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry

2001

Senior Advisor, China Friendship Foundation for Peace and Development (Inamori-Kyocera Western Development Scholarship Fund), China

2001

Economic Advisor for the Tianjin Municipal Government, China

2002

Concurrent Professorship, Nanjin University, China

2002

Trustee Emeritus, Carnegie Institution of Washington, U. S. A. (Trustee, 1990-2002)

2004

Honorary Consul, Republic of Paraguay

2003

The 2003 Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, USA

2004

Honorary President, Honorary Professor, Jingdezhen CeramicInstitute, China

2004

Envoy of Sino-Japanese Friendship, China-Japan Friendship Association, China

2005

Honorary Citizenship of Jingdezhen, China

2006

Honorary Doctorate, Engineering, Kyushu University, Japan

2006

Honorary Doctorate, Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, USA

2007

Herb Klein Civic Leadership Award, USA

2009

The Entrepreneur for the World Award, France

2010

Honorary Doctorate, Kyoto Institute of Technology, Japan

2010

Chairman of the board of directors, Kyoto International Conference Center

2011

International Citizens Award, Japan America Society of Southern California, USA

2011

Othmer Gold Medal, Chemical Heritage Foundation, USA

2011

Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, San Diego State University, USA

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born in Kagoshima, on Kyushu Island, Japan, one of seven children. Father's printing business. End of Great Depression and devastation of World War II. Competitiveness emerges during career at Nishida Elementary School. Begins to study seriously while in junior high school. Enthusiasm for chemistry experiment. High school brings love of baseball. Bout of tuberculosis awakens spiritual longing; begins study of Buddhist thought. Excels in mathematics and physics at Gyokuryu High School. Wins scholarship for both high school and college. Sells paper bags to pay for schooling and supplement the family income.

College Years
13

Attends Kagoshima University on scholarship. Majors in organic chemistry, wanting to develop drugs to cure disease, so majors in chemistry. Burgeoning petrochemical industry could also provide job for organic chemist, so he could help impoverished family. Three influential professors. Writes thesis on ceramics, with guidance from Professor Shimada.

First Job Years
16

Accepts job with Shofu Industries in Kyoto, Japan. City prosperous, not damaged by war. Assigned to develop high-frequency insulators using ceramics. Invents tunnel kiln for sintering metal oxides. Develops kiln for Pakistani friend. Thinks of going to Pakistan when trouble with Shofu management surfaces. Instead leaves Shofu.

Beginning Kyoto Ceramics
26

Starts his own company, Kyoto Ceramics, with seven friends who also left Shofu. Persuades Panasonic to be first customer for U-shaped Kelcimas for cathode ray tubes. Competitors already members of keiretsu, so Inamori turns to American market. First customer is Fairchild Semiconductor. Kyoto Ceramics makes headers for silicon transistors. Integrated circuits replace transistors, so Kyoto Ceramics makes CerDIP. Makes ceramic substrates for International Business Machines. Business booms.

Diversification Brings Name Change
53

Solar battery research. Many merger and acquisitions. Begins laptop production, but stops. Company name changed to Kyocera to reflect different products. Twenty-five year anniversary trip for employees.

Expansion Years
70

Japan deregulates telecommunications industry. Kyocera establishes DDI Corporation to compete, using microwave technology. Leads into early entry into mobile telephone business. Competes with IDOfor mobile telephone permits. Inspired by ancient warrior code, Inamori gets regional electric companies to join. Merges DDI with Toyota's IDO and KDD to form KDDI. Unsuccessful foray into satellite telephones with Motorola.

Philanthropy and Philosophy
105

Motto: Respect the Divine and love people. " Inamori Foundation. The Kyoto Prize is an international award to honor those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind. Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University gives Inamori Ethics Prize. Final advice to world leaders is to act for the good of all the world's people.

Index
108

About the Interviewer

Thomas R. Tritton

Thomas R. Tritton was the second president and CEO of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Prior to CHF, Tritton served as the twelfth president of Haverford College. His academic field is cancer chemotherapy and his work is represented in over 150 publications. Before Haverford, he was a professor of pharmacology for twelve years each at Yale University and the University of Vermont. At the University of Vermont he also served as deputy director of the Vermont Comprehensive Cancer Center and as vice provost of the university. Tritton currently serves on the boards of the Fox Chase Cancer Center, Ohio Wesleyan University, and the Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences Congress. He is also a member of the Corporation of Haverford College. In 2007, before assuming the CHF presidency, Tritton was at Harvard University, where he held the title of “President in Residence” at the Graduate School of Education. He worked with graduate students in higher education, wrote and taught about leadership and the college presidency, and also designed a new course on social justice.

Richard Ulrych

Richard Ulrych was the director of institutional grants and strategic projects at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.