The history of Itotoku foundation

Welcome to Itotoku foundation which has helped businesses specialized in the educational environment. The history of Itotoku has started with "Shichi Obuchi".

The earliest woman's entrepreneur of dupion silk in Japan.

Shichi Obuchi has been an ancestor of Takashi Kobuchi, who established Itotoku foundation. She had been alive  Edo  to Showa period(1847-1929). 

Known as she started the fascinating business of the dupion silk.

Silk fact Okaya in Nagano has still researched her.

Who is "Obuchi shichi" ?

She is introduced in Japanese Karuta, as the historical achievement woman above all.

Her archivement

The technology to extract raw silk from “Kuzumayu”, which had no commercial value until then, had been achieved with constant efforts. In addition, she was one of a female businessperson who was said to be a “benefactress of Toyohashi City” who built a 1,000-factory-worker in the silk mill together with her husband (Isematsu Nakajima) in Toyohashi City, Aichi.

7 to 14 years old

In 1847 (Kohua 4th year), Shichi Obuchi was born as  the second daughter of Tokuemon, who was a peasant of Ishii Village in Ueno Kuniseta-gun (currently Ishii, Fujimi-cho, Maebashi). Shichi was an active and understandable child. The father had a very poor life with spending all money he earned from drinking heavily.


Her mother was poor and she put Shichi in the temple elementary school(called terakoya), but she couldn't go there after a day. She didn't like studying, and she thought it didn't help right now. She thought it was more important to help my mother.


When Shichi was 7 years old, she helped her mother take care of the silkworm and helped her get a thread from the cocoon and grew it. When she was ten years old, she learned to take a thread from the cocoon as my mother taught me. Shichi went to Maebashi's market with the thread she had made to be stringy, and substituted it with the gold and bought "Kuzumayu" . She was happy that she was useful in mother's life.

From 15 years old

Shichi, a 15-year-old, was hired as a workwoman in a silk factory  by Katsuraya Sanji, in Komagazawa-machi, Maebashi City, and became a living worker there. The salary was 2-ryo (as the currency in the Edo period; it's worth for about $2,500)for a year contract. Shichi made outstanding performance among dozens of working-women by taking advantage of her talent of hating losing and her experience of filature at home. Not only she became acquainted with the technique of silk reeling (making raw silk from silkworms) and became a model of a working-woman, but also learned how to buy the silkworms of the master and the tactics and what the basic of a business was while she were selling the threads.


After working for one year in Kuzuya, Shichi was sought by this factory owner for her excellent technic, but she wished to retire. The master was very sad and would made her stay if the salary was set to 4-ryo(it's worth for about $5,000 at that time) in the next contract, but she firmly decided to return home. Based on the money stored working for the factory, he bought cocoon and built a small factory in the garden of her house and began to start silk reeling. However, it  caused unexpected damage because she was an amateur for this business at that time.

Her married life

In 1864 (Bunkyu 4th), Shichi married Yonekichi Saito as he was  the adopted son-in-law when she was 17 years old. However, Yonekichi disliked the job of a peasant and preferred hunting, and his life continued to be poor as much as the money she earned with her reeling was used for his drinking sake and spent money to do gambling. Furthermore, Yonekichi often used violence as he was a bad drinker and she was constantly injured.


In 1867 (Keio 3 years), Shichi had miscarriages four times for three years and finally gives birth to a blind daughter at the fifth time.


In 1879 (Meiji 12), when Shichi was 32 years old, she was unable to endure life with Yonekichi and became acquainted with Isematsu Nakajima (41 years old) ,who was a merchant for the transaction of silkworms and cocoon, on the plea of  visiting Ise shrine. They went for Tokaido. Isematsu's house was quite a wealthy and had several wives and children. Shichi relied on Isematsu's knowledge, sincerity, and kindness, and Isematsu was sympathetic with Shichi's techniques and work styles and positive ways a life.


From this time, Nakajima Isematsu was changed to Isematsu and fhe decided to call myself Tokujiro from then. However, when they ran away from the village and became aware of the fact that they were hiding behind somewhere, there were rumors that they "elopment". Both the family of Obuchi and the family of Nakajima were badly hurted.

Living in Taharacho, Atsumi peninsula, in Aichi.

They went to Tokaido and spent 10 days helping the silkworm in Nakase, Kurotaki Village, Enshu (Shizuoka Prefecture). After that, I heard that there was a cocoon in Tahara-cho, Atsumi Peninsula, and when they went to this town, they stayed at an inn. When the inn owners heard that they were from Joshu (Gunma Prefecture) and asked questions about silk reeling, he was surprised because they knew it very much and decided to gather the people about the job of silkworm breeding and silk reeling processing.


One of them, Shusaku Yamamoto, led them to Owariya, and they decided to stay there. Shichi bought a cocoon nearby, hired four women, and showed them reeling silk. After a while, when cholera became popular in Tahara-cho, they were forced to evict and left this place because they were outsiders. When the trend of epidemic disease calmed down and when they were about to come back there, they were persuaded by people in Futagawa town as they offered them to stay.


Living in Futagawa-cho (Toyohashi, in Aichi) .

Hired 10 work-women invited by 3 people of Yamamoto's mediate about cocoon industry, and Shichi started the silk reeling industry while she teached them how to reel them. However, this region didn't have many experiences about it and it was the first time about filature, and there was not enough raw material to produce enough cocoons. There were also many cases of doing head-hunt for women who had learned the techniques of reeling silk. Even though these various difficulties occurred and people around her seemed enviable

had grudges and jealousies, Shichi has kept working hard and never gave up.


Arrested by the police as an unregistered person.

In 1880 (Meiji 13), she rented the tenement house of Kiichi Yamamoto and moved the factory. There were also 25 working-woman, and the scale gradually increased.


However, four years later, a cholera epidemic occurred in the Futagawa region and many people died. The government office strictly controlled people who did not have a family register, so Shichi and Tokujiro asked Nimura Toon of Oiwaji's chief priest to make a fake family register. However, when this was discovered, he was caught by the police and placed in Okazaki's prison.


Shichi was encouraged by Tokujiro conversely to meet him there , and it put her heart into reeling the string. Tokujiro worried that there would be a shortage of raw material cocoons in the future and he proposed whether she could draw a string from a cheap dupion. A dupion silk was made from two or more cocoons and it was drawn by reeling them. It was thick and had many knots. Also, it was cheap and it was used for cloth of knotted silks and meisen silk cloths.

The tenement house

Kimono made of meisen silk cloths

Reeling a dupion silk get on the right track.

However, it was very difficult to pull strings from the dupion, and no one had succeeded yet. However, Shichi patiently improved the reeling machine and she changed the way of boiling cocoons that's why she made various innovations.


However, Tokujiro died in a prison in Okazaki. Shichi was deeply saddened but she was recovered. Later, Shichi hired Jirouzou Goto as a manager, a counselor and a guardian. He did his best.


Yone  was the blinded woman of the daughter of Shichi. She became an apprentice of an massage(acupuncture) in Maebashi  to learn the ability of them, when she was 20 years old.  While Shichi was 41 years old, Yone was called by an inn and entered the room. The customer seemed to be a considerable person but Yone worked away. The customer didn't talk to her anymore. Then, She talked to himself, saying “You don’t know yet, what?”. Yone noticed that the woman was a nostalgic mother's voice that I had heard deeply in my heart when I was an infant. This meant what mother and child met again. Shichi gave her own kimono and money (1 ryo) as her souvenir.

Inheriting Tokujiro's will

Shichi gave the name of the factory "Itotoku silk factory" with a word of Tokujiro's "Toku" ( and "Ito" means "Ki-ito" coming from silk.) . In 1892 (Meiji 25), she switched the  industry of dupion and silk processing to the industry of  dupion processing only and succeeded in the business. Once a relative said to her, “Please give me some money.” She said “Give me money?  The money you received is what? Money is circling everywhere. If you want it, catch it.”

Adopted a child - Giichi

Shichi decided to adopt Giichi Goto who was the eldest son of Gihei who was married with the child of her sister when Shichi was at the age of 63.  Eventually, Giichi Kobuchi became a manager and took over her management policy. At the factory, female workers who just graduated elementary school entered to live the dormitory. They learned how to read and write, how to do abacus and sewing and ikebana. Also they work comfortably.


After the scale of the factory was growing, it modeled Tomioka Silk Mill. A kindergarten was opened in a part of the dormitory and an auditorium was built to allow female workers to learn. This was very unusual at that time.


Shichi worked very hard as she was getting older. She walked around the factory and she placed a large needle box near her in the sun and she struck the old needles one by one with a hammer on a round wooden table when she found her spare time. The way of life that took care of things and used everything was shown up.

Getting rewarded

In 1913 (Taisho 2nd year),  on November 15th,  A special large-scale party by the army was held in Nagoya and its surroundings.  The emperor were staying for a week and supervisor as the degree of "Daigenshi". People with a high social position attended it.  The audience of the meeting with emperor was held at the Imperial villa in Nagoya where the emperors were worshiped and it took place to praise the people involved in the big party by supervised an army. Shichi was invited there. This was the first time for a woman. It is said that the governor strongly recommended her. Shichi was in the commemorative photo sitting next to Sakichi Toyoda, who was the founder of Toyota Motor Corporation.

In the picture of  an audience with the Emperor,Shichi sat next to Sakichi Toyoda,

who he started the Toyoda family companies as the one of the largest company in the world now.

In 1923 (Taisho 12), when she became 76 years old, she fell ill and became physically disabled. But still she often looked around the factory and encouraged the workers. On the day when the factory was closed and the workers came around the brazier, she walked to them and chopped her words about various things. When one of the working women asked, “How old are grandma ?,” she smiled while she were waving and said, “I am 78 years old. I am still young. "All the working women were surprised by this energetic words.


March 16, 1929 (Showa 4) Shichi ended the life of 82 years old. The situation at that time was said to be "she reached nirvana as if she slept with a full smiling." The farewell ceremony was held in a relaxed and magnificent mood with a large number of citizens and the people who were concerned and followed Shichi on the Itotoku Factory playground Square.

Celebration for Shichi Obuchi

After that, Giichi Kobuchi served as the director and union chief  of the dupion manufacturing association in 1929 (Showa 4) in San-en area( at the part of Toyohashi and Hamamatsu mainly), and finally served as the director of National dupion Association, contributing to the development of this industry.


In 1930 (Showa 5), a bronze statue was built at the foot of mountain in Iwaya to preserve the achievements of Shichi from those who respected Shichi. During the Pacific War, bronze statues were provided to make bullets, but the pedestals were protected by residents.


In 1981 (Showa 61), a bronze statue with a height of 150 centimeters was reconstructed by many donations of citizens. The bronze statue has located at the foot of Iwaya. Tokujiro and Shichi has slept in the cemetery of Daiganji.

"Hitosujino-Ito" which is a play about Shichi's life as the origin of a dupion.

Announcement for "Hitosujino-ito".

Watch 8:30 to 9:30.

Acting "Hitosujino-ito"

In June 2009, “Hitosuji-no-Ito” depicing the life of Shichi obuchi was performed five times by citizens in the Aichi Prefectural Art Theater.


In January 2015, a citizen group “Hitosuji-no-Ito” was established. In February , A observation team of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Fujimi visitied 

this play together with the  mayor of Toyohshi, Aichi. In September,  a group of "Hitosuji-no-kai" visited Maebashi City, where were Shichi's hometown. Also they visited city hall, the Society of Commerce and

Industry,  and Tomioka silk factory. In this way, 

a citizen-level exchange has begun.

From silk mill to kindergarten

Shichi appreciated that all the achievements so far have been the result of the support and cooperation of the local people and she wanted to reward it purely.


In 1940 (Showa 15), Giichi Kobuchi, who succeeded the intention of Shichi, established a kindergarten which the demand of the townspeople was highest. Using a part of the Itotoku dormitory, it became an Itokoku kindergarten.



In 1947 (Showa 22), the name was changed to Futagawa Kindergarten.  In 1957 (Showa 32), after the death of Giichi Kobuchi, the silk factory that had been continued as "Itotoku" was closed, and "Itotoku" was decided to concentrate on the management of the kindergarten.  At the kindergarten, Tatsuhei(adopted child) succeeded to Giichi, and now Masuo Obuchi (the child of Tatsuhei and Shizu) works as the chairman.

Connected to the present:  Itokoku Public Utility Foundation

1949 (Showa 24) Tatsuhei founded Itokoku Public Utility Foundation

in order to form Shichi's longing for the reward of the local people.


The purpose was to run the Futagawa Kindergarten and establish a dormitory as an educational work to support students and support the rebuilding of education. It also wanted to support the resource of human who will lead the next future.


Thus, there was the current Itoku Foundation that succeeded the philosophy of Shichi Obuchi.

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コメント: 1
  • #1

    Agness (金曜日, 16 8月 2019 22:29)

    What an interesting story it’s good to learn some history of Japan.