Inauguration of an Enterprise to the Early Days

Founder Kamataro Kobayashi

Founder Kamataro Kobayashi

Kamataro Kobayashi, the founder of the Toyo Ink Group, was born in Yokoyama in March 1875. Kamataro lost both of his parents and became an orphan when he was very young, and was adopted by his aunt. However, he was apprenticed to a tailor in Yokosuka when he was only eight. Even though Japan already had a compulsory education system at this time, Kamataro was not allowed to attend elementary school, so remained illiterate throughout his life.

Overcoming the opposition of people around him, Kamataro moved to Tokyo when he was 11. He began helping out at a sign maker's shop that his acquaintance had opened in the Ginza district. There were many newspaper companies and printing business operators in the neighborhood of Ginza and Kyobashi in those days. The area was a center for printing, publishing and mass media. Vivid color printing was also coming into vogue at that time in the fields of advertising and publishing thanks to advanced printing techniques introduced from Europe and North America and Japan's rapid economic development.

Observing those conditions, Kamataro began to believe that printing ink had great potential. With this thinking, in January 1896, Kamataro opened a shop for custom-mixing of inks in a room he rented in the Nihonbashi district with 50 yen (equivalent to about 200,000 yen today) he had borrowed from a relative as capital. He was 20 years old.

Kamataro's birthplace and neighborhood (Hanasaki-cho, Yokohama City; late 18th century)

The Kobayashi & Co. Days

In those days, printing business operators bought materials, such as pigments, varnishes and solvents, separately, and custom-mixed them on their own to produce original inks, as all quality printing inks were expensive imports. That was the traditional approach. Large printing business operators hired superior printers who were skilled in mixing inks. In the meantime, their small to medium counterparts relied on shops for custom-mixing of inks (ink mixing outsourcees).

As one such custom-mixed ink peddler, Kamataro made inks at customer sites he visited, pulling along a cart carrying the ink mixing equipment. Kobayashi worked hard. He packed mixed inks in cans, and carried them in a kerchief on his back, and would go out to visit customers when there was no order for custom-mixing of inks. With this drive, Kamataro was able to open a store in the Nihonbashi district just three years after starting his business.

Custom-mixed ink peddler (illustration)
Ink color sample in the days of Kobayashi & Co. (around 1905)

Now, Kamatoro was no longer just a peddler, but the proprietor of a store with a signboard that said, "Kobayashi & Co., seller of printing inks and related materials." Customers and wealthy individuals recognized the ability and potential of Kamataro Kobayashi as an entrepreneur, and offered him financial support. Kobayashi & Co. went on to expand the scale of its operations as a printing ink manufacturer, setting up an ink manufacturing plant near the store along the way.

Establishment of Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd.

The printing and publishing industries, too, expanded rapidly in 1905 thanks to an explosive business boom in the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War. Kamataro viewed this boom as a golden opportunity to expand his businesses. He wanted to boost the domestic production of inks to overtake imports in quality and meet demand in Japan and overseas. His plan needed three things: a superior ink engineer, a large-scale ink manufacturing facility and the capital to support business expansion.

To address those needs, Kamataro recruited an engineer who had worked at the Printing Bureau of the Ministry of Finance in charge of minting and printing securities, which at the time used Japan's most sophisticated printing technique. The engineer would serve as the manager of his ink manufacturing plant. At the same time, Kamataro secured land of more than 2,000 square meters in the Shinjuku district, where he built the Tomihisa-cho Plant, a privately operated ink plant equipped with cutting-edge facilities. This new plant also had functions for manufacturing varnishes and pigments used for producing inks. It was the origin of integrated production from ink materials, a practice the Toyo Ink Group continues to this day.

Appearance of the Tomihisa-cho Plant (around 1910)
Grinding department in the Tomihisa-cho Plant (around 1910)

In the meantime, Kamataro decided to convert Kobayashi & Co. into a joint-stock company as a way to raise capital. The prospectus, which Kobayashi published with the backing of the wealthy individuals and customers who had supported Kobayashi & Co. since its founding, stated that his intention as founder was to "fulfill one of his social responsibilities by supplying high-quality printing inks to the printing and publishing industries that are spreading learning and education, which are the sources of national strength."

And so Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd. was founded on January 15, 1907, the first joint-stock company in the Japanese ink industry.

Founding prospectus (1906)
Headquarters of Toyo Ink Manufacturing (around 1910)

From an Ink Manufacturer to a Chemicals Manufacturer

Challenge to integrated production ranging from pigments to inks

Starting from its launch as a joint-stock company, Toyo Ink Manufacturing rapidly stepped up efforts to increase the ratio of inks produced in-house. In the early days, it manufactured at the Tomihisa-cho Plant some of the inorganic pigments, production of which was relatively straightforward. However, Toyo Ink Manufacturing still had to rely on imports for other pigments and organic dyes used for coloring pigments.

Pigment department in the Tomihisa-cho Plant (around 1910)
Pigment department in the Aoto Plant (1940s)

Exports from Germany, which was responsible for approximately 80% of global production of dyes and pigments, stopped when World War I broke out in 1914, causing prices of dyes and pigments to skyrocket by anywhere from tens to hundreds of times. The materials became hard to obtain. As a result, studies on coloring became active worldwide. The Japanese government sought to promote industries associated with coloring in Japan, too.

Toyo Ink Manufacturing concentrated its resources on the in-house production of barium chloride, the scarcest of the raw materials, positioning the operation as the top-priority issue. It succeeded in mass-producing barium chloride in 1917. It subsequently expanded its lineup of materials produced in-house to include various organic dyes and inorganic pigments. In 1920, Toyo Ink Manufacturing succeeded in the in-house production of azo pigments, which excel in color development and durability, and finally launched their mass production.

In 1937, Toyo Ink Manufacturing succeeded in producing Phthalocyanine Blue, a blue organic pigment, in-house. Toyo Ink Manufacturing began mass-producing this pigment at the Aoto Plant shortly after the latter's completion. As a coloring matter extremely durable and vivid in color development, Phthalocyanine Blue was used not only in printing inks but also in many different coloring materials. Various electric characteristics found in Phthalocyanine Blue attracted attention half a century later. Those characteristics gave Toyo Ink SC Holdings Co., Ltd. (hereinafter the "Company"), the successor to Toyo Ink Manufacturing, one of the footholds in the field of electronic materials.

Phthalocyanine Blue pigment

From Inks to Polymer Chemicals

The history of polymer chemicals at the Company began with the manufacture of ink varnishes. Varnishes for inks made in Japan before World War II were produced by heating and polymerizing natural oils used as raw materials, such as linseed oil, tung oil and rosin oil. In the meantime, various synthetic resins have been invented in Europe and North America since the industrialization of phenolic resins in 1909. The use of synthetic resin varnishes in inks had already begun there.

Toyo Ink Manufacturing signed a technical tie-up agreement with Interchemical Corporation, then the largest chemical company in the United States, in 1951 when Japan was in the midst of reconstruction after World War II which devastated and impoverished the country. Concurrently, Toyo Ink Manufacturing advanced the practical application of latest technical knowhow from the United States, setting up a laboratory equipped with facilities that were then state-of-the-art in Tokyo's Honjo district. In this way, Toyo Ink Manufacturing finished its first synthetic resin-based ink in the following year.

Appearance of the Technology Research Laboratory (1950s)
Outer case of "Peace" tobacco→cigarettes painted with our synthetic resin-based inks

The techniques used for the ink were not the only ones Toyo Ink Manufacturing obtained from Interchemical Corporation. Techniques introduced from Interchemical Corporation exceeded the scope of printing inks and covered various polymer products that supported Japan's high-growth period, such as pigment textile printing agents (pigment pastes for printing cloths), metal coating agents (paints for decorating the outside and protecting the inside of food cans, beverage cans and the like), adhesives (pressure-sensitive adhesives) and double-faced tapes processed from the adhesives. Using these introduced techniques as the basis, Toyo Ink Manufacturing laid the foundations for its polymer and coating technologies through various improvements and original product development for satisfying market requirements.

"Double Face" double-faced tape
"Oribine" pressure-sensitive adhesive

Entries into Growth Markets and Global Business Expansion

Evolution into Specialty Chemicals

After the dissolution of the technical tie-up with Interchemical Corporation, Toyo Ink Manufacturing continued to evolve its core technologies, such as those for designing and synthesizing resins at the molecular level and others for forming films, and brought various polymer products to market in response to prevailing needs from the 1970s.

Resin coating agents that began with paints for cans merged with a broad range of technologies for adding functions. They are used as hard coating agents for just about everything found in our living space today. Laminating adhesives, which developed with changes in the Japanese dietary culture, evolved into sealing materials for solar cells and lithium-ion batteries, too.

Once introduced for on-site printing, adhesive tapes evolved into heat-resistant conductive materials for joining auto parts and electronic components, marking films with superior color development and weather resistance for outdoor use, and products for medical markets, such as medicated patches and surgical tapes incorporating healthcare material technologies.

Family of products for medical markets

In the meantime, Toyo Ink Manufacturing evolved technologies for synthesizing and dispersing special functional pigments and hyperfine particles in the fields of pigments and coloring materials. Photoreceptor materials for printers and recording materials for CD-Rs using phthalocyanine opened the way for Toyo Ink Manufacturing to enter the electronics field and rapidly evolve technologies for adding optical, thermal and electromagnetic characteristics.

Toyo Ink Manufacturing embarked on material research for coloring matters used for LCD color filters close to 20 years before liquid crystal televisions appeared in ordinary households. As a result of this research, the Company finished color resists that excel in durability, permeability and color density. The color resists grew into one of Toyo Ink Manufacturing's main businesses in the period that followed. The Company is continuing to evolve them today.

More recently, the Company established technologies for freely designing and mass-producing carbon nanotubes (CNTs) used as new black pigments. CNTs are valued as printing inks, coloring matters for paints and materials for highly conductive resins in many fields because of their characteristic jet-blackness and conductivity. The Company has put on growth markets electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries and functional dispersing elements that exhibit various characteristics, too.

Color filter for liquid crystal displays
"Lioaccum" functional dispersing elements for batteries

Business Globalization and Switchover to a Holding Company System

Before the end of World War II, Toyo Ink Manufacturing engaged in businesses overseas with operating bases in mainland China, South Korea and Taiwan and product exports to Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. However, Toyo Ink Manufacturing lost its overseas assets with the end of the war, and tried to make a restart amidst Japan's postwar reconstruction. Toyo Ink Manufacturing joined other companies in aggressively advancing exports to Hong Kong and South East Asia when private foreign trade resumed under an order issued in 1947 by the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ). In this way, the Company laid the foundations for reentering foreign markets.

In 1961, Toyo Ink Manufacturing set up its resident representative's office in Hong Kong. The office became the first step toward reentering foreign markets. Two years later, in 1963, Toyo Ink Manufacturing established Interchem-Toyo (South East Asia) Co., a joint venture with Interchemical Corporation, in Hong Kong. It went on to establish resident representative's offices and joint ventures in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and the United States in the subsequent period. Toyo Ink Manufacturing set up operations in Europe and North America in the 1970s and in Southeast Asian countries and China in the 1980s. In the period from 2000, Toyo Ink Manufacturing sought to expand its business in emerging markets, such as India, the Middle East, Turkey, Central America and South America.

Headquarters building of Toyo Ink Group (Tokyo)

Toyo Ink Manufacturing carried out its switch to a holding company system in 2011 in an environment of advancing operational globalization and corporate expansion. The switch was aimed at enhancing the value of the entire Toyo Ink Group, speeding up decision-making, increasing the flexibility of business execution, maximizing business synergy on a global scale and thereby changing the Toyo Ink Group into a corporate group able to sustain its growth in the future.

The Company, two other core operating companies and more than 60 subsidiaries established by region, business and function make up the Toyo Ink Group today. The Group continues to bring better products and services to customers around the world 120 years after its establishment, based on its firm stance of "contributing to sustainable social growth through businesses."