Section 3. Kiichiro Toyoda Invents the Automatic Loom
Item 1. Kiichiro Toyoda Starts Working for Toyoda Boshoku
Sakichi Toyoda's eldest son, Kiichiro Toyoda, was born on June 11, 1894, in the village of Yamaguchi (now part of the city of Kosai) in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Around this time, as Sakichi devoted his time to studying power loom and went back and forth between Toyohashi and Nagoya, Kiichiro lived at his grandparents' house in the village of Yoshizu. It was not until he was about three years old that he began living with his father.
Kiichiro spent his childhood in company housing located on the premises of the factories of the various companies his father operated, such as the Buhei-cho and Shimasaki-cho plants of Toyoda Shoten (Toyoda Shokai Office), or the Toyoda Jido Shokufu Plant (Sako-cho), so he grew up seeing people designing, creating and fixing machines all around him. Later in life, Kiichiro alluded to that time when speaking to engineers who were part of Toyota Motor Co., Ltd.:
I went to the United States with Okabe where we visited Crompton Corporation and Northrop Corporation, and tried our hands at assembling and test running looms. Although I had never done that before, I had constantly been around machines as a young child so I managed to succeed at the task without any problem at all. Engineers must think of the machines in their care as close friends and be forever giving them attention1
It would be fair to say that Kiichiro's close contact with machines as a young child allowed him to confirm for himself how things worked and ultimately gave rise to the genchi genbutsu (go to the source to find the facts) thinking that plays such an important role in Toyota's approach to operations today.
In 1908, Kiichiro graduated from an Aichi Prefecture prefectural elementary school and entered Meirin Middle School. One of the school's other students in the same year as Kiichiro was Kaoru Ban2, who later as a section manager in the Engineering Bureau of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry would be involved in the formulation of Automobile Manufacturing Industries Law.
In 1914, Kiichiro entered a high school in Sendai that had a specialty course in engineering, which is what Kiichiro studied. Many of the friends Kiichiro made at this school would later help him in his automobile business.3
After graduating from high school in 1917, Kiichiro entered Tokyo Imperial University (current University of Tokyo) along with several of his classmates: Takeo Akahira, Shogo Ito, Hideo Kobayashi, Kichizo Tanabe, Shiro Nukiyama, and Daizo Nukiyama. At university Kiichiro became acquainted with Kazuo Kumabe and Tokushichi Mishima, who would also play a part in Kiichiro's future automobile business. These university friends also introduced Kiichiro to a number of their friends, such as Ryonosuke Yamada, and Masao Naruse, and it was through this widening circle of friends that Kiichiro was able to receive the advice of well-known academics such as Dr. Kotaro Honda.