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Buaiso and Yanagisawaso APR.2024

There are many hidden spots that are close by but that I rarely have the opportunity to visit, and I recently visited the homes of two great men who were instrumental in Japan's reconstruction after the war.

Buaiso is the former home of Jiro and Masako Shirasu, who purchased a farmhouse in what is now Nogaya, Machida City in 1940, on the eve of the Pacific War, and lived there until their deaths.

The former residence, named after its location on the border between Musashi and Sagami, is open to the public as a memorial and museum, and although it is now surrounded by residential areas, it also has a garden where you can stroll around and enjoy the many personal belongings, as well as a restaurant, and you can recall the feelings of the man who retired to the countryside as a countryman, worried about the future of his nation.

There are many books about Jiro Shirasu on the market these days, but there is no doubt that he was one of the key players in leading Japan to a rapid recovery after the defeat, as seen in his heroic tales of confronting MacArthur and GHQ using his British English and his actions in the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Among the materials on display was a large scroll-like manuscript of a speech by Shigeru Yoshida written in Japanese (like toilet paper), and the important international treaty that declared the restoration of our country's national sovereignty and the end of the state of war was written in Japanese as well as in English, French, and Spanish. On the other hand, no peace treaties have been concluded with Russia and the Chinese Communist Party, which remains a chronic problem to this day.

I like his stories of how, even though he was over 70 years old, he drove to Karuizawa in a manual Porsche 911, and how, as chairman of the Karuizawa Golf Club, where only members are allowed to play on Sundays, he refused even then-Prime Ministers Kakuei Tanaka and Yasuhiro Nakasone. He seems to have valued the word "principle," which in Japanese would be something like "douri" or "setsu." It teaches us that in these fast-changing and uncertain times, it is difficult to assume leadership without principle.

Korinkaku (Yanagisawa Manor) was a villa that Yasuzaemon Matsunaga moved to this location (currently Sakanoshita, Tokorozawa City) after receiving it as a village headman's house in 1930. He was a leading figure in the power industry before the war, presiding over the largest company, Toho Electric Power, and advocating a private-sector-led reorganization of power companies, but during the war the power industry came under state control, and Japan Electric Power Transmission Company was established, leading to his retirement. Like Shirasu, he spent the war years holed up in the suburbs. Matsunaga was selected by Yoshida Shigeru and put in charge of the reorganization of the power industry.

After the Tohoku earthquake, there were calls for the introduction of renewable energy and the restructuring of the power industry, and even now there is a lot of trial and error and debate over the pros and cons. At the time, the development of a power supply system was the top priority in aiming for post-war reconstruction, and Japan's reconstruction would not have been possible without it. Even though a certain amount of hydroelectric power survived, there was a limit to its generating capacity, and huge amounts of funds and the credibility to procure them were essential to develop the power transmission and distribution infrastructure, including the thermal power plants that had been destroyed in the bombings. On the other hand, GHQ demanded the privatization of power generation and distribution companies as part of the occupation policy. I think that the Nine Electric Powers system and privatization that Matsunaga ultimately led was a realistic option chosen in such a situation, and he led the post-war reconstruction, including Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. (now J-Power), which was created to complement the power generation infrastructure.

The electric power industry will continue to play a key role in industrial development and the foundation of daily life, but it is difficult to rely solely on renewable energy (wind and solar power), which is difficult to adjust the load due to the nature of electricity, and thermal power generation will be necessary on a certain scale. In other words, in preparation for when clouds cover the sky and block the sun, or when the wind stops, it is necessary to keep a backup power source that can easily change the load running at all times, and the fact is that renewable energy is by no means zero-emission. In addition, water electrolysis is an extremely inefficient chemical reaction, and hydrogen is difficult to transport and store, so it is extremely difficult to introduce it on a large scale. I started my career as a salaryman by working in the supply of oil for thermal power generation, but in recent years I have also been involved in the development of decarbonized fuels. Unfortunately, while Japan is discussing the introduction of decarbonized energy, which consumes expensive hydrocarbons and could become even more expensive, the discussion based on science and economics is not mature, and there is no progress in understanding at the public level.

Although the assets of the electric power business (secondary energy) prepared by Jiro Shirazu and Yasuzaemon Matsunaga are still thriving, unfortunately, Japan is still in a weak position when it comes to securing and procuring primary energy. When issues of domestic gasoline prices, electricity rates, and exchange rates arise, the public suddenly becomes noisy, but unless we get to the root of why Japan has weak access to such natural resources (or future decarbonized fuels), no matter how much we create an artificial competitive situation within the country or provide subsidies as a stopgap measure, it will not be a fundamental solution.



Thank you for coming!

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