Milestones:Birth and Growth of Primary and Secondary Battery Industries in Japan, 1893
Yai Dry Battery Limited Partnership Company received a patent for Yai's battery invention in 1893, giving birth to the Japanese dry battery industry, and contributing to its growth. Following this success, GS Yuasa Corporation and Panasonic Corporation pioneered a huge market of both primary and secondary batteries installed in industrial equipment and in home appliances. It advanced Japanese battery industries and consumer electronics.
Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the Milestone Plaque Sites
Intended plaque sites of GS Yuasa Corporation:
(1) GS Yuasa International Ltd., Kyoto Head Office, Address: 1, Inobanba-cho, Nishinosho, Kisshoin, Minami-ku, Kyoto, 601-8520 Japan, GPS coordinates: 34.981091N, 135.728056E,
(2) GS Yuasa International Ltd., Tokyo Head Office, Address: 1-7-13, Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku. Tokyo, 105-0011 Japan, GPS coordinates: 35.657403N, 139.752515E,
(3) GS Yuasa International Ltd., Kyoto Head Office, Global Technical Head Quarters, Address: 1, Inobanba-cho, Nishinosho, Kisshoin, Minami-ku, Kyoto, 601-8520 Japan, GPS coordinates: 34.977733N, 135.723327E,
Intended plaque sites of Panasonic Corporation:
(1) Panasonic Corporation, Automotive & Industrial Systems Company Head Office, Address: 1006 Kadoma, Kadoma City, Osaka, 571-8506 Japan, GPS coordinates: 34.739220N, 135.572667E,
(2) Panasonic Corporation, Energy Device Business Division Head Office, Address: 1-1 Matsushita-cho, Moriguchi City, Osaka, 570-8511 Japan, GPS coordinates: 34.727641N, 135.566782E,
(3) Panasonic Corporation, Portable Rechargeable Battery Business Group Head Office, Address: 222-1 Kaminaizen, Sumoto City, Hyogo, 656-8555 Japan, GPS coordinates: 34.343814N, 134.860671E
Details of the physical location of the plaque
All the plaques are planned to be placed in the entrance halls on the ground floor of the Head Offices of both GS Yuasa Corporation and Panasonic Corporation.
How the intended plaque site is protected/secured
All the plaques will be displayed within secure showcases at the intended sites of both GS Yuasa Corporation and Panasonic Corporation, which can be accessible to the public.
Historical significance of the work
The major historic significance concerning the birth and growth of Japanese primary and secondary battery industries is briefed item for item in what follows.
1. Historic Background before Birth of Japanese Battery Industry
Since the first electrochemical battery was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1799 in Italy , a variety of batteries were developed, such as Daniell battery in 1836, Poggendorff battery in 1842, Grove battery in 1844, etc., all of which were ‘wet batteries’. Up to that point, all existing batteries would be permanently drained when all their chemical reactions were spent .
In 1859 Gaston Planté invented a lead-acid battery, which could be recharged by passing a reverse current through it. This Planté battery was the first-ever rechargeable battery, which is regarded as the origin of the secondary battery industry .
On the other hand, in 1866 George Leclanche invented a battery which consisted of a zinc anode and a manganese dioxide cathode wrapped in a porous material. This Leclanche battery achieved very quick success in telegraphy, signalling and electric bell work, which laid the base of manufacturing the ‘dry battery’. In fact, on the basis of this battery, Carl Gassner invented in 1887 the world’s first commercially successful dry battery, which became the prototype for the primary battery industry [2,3].
2. Birth and Growth of Primary Battery Industry in Japan
2.1 Birth of Japanese Dry Battery Industry
It is written in the Yai’s brochure that in 1885 Sakizo Yai invented a dry battery and also established ‘Yai Dry Battery Limited Partnership Company’, where the documentary evidence for the year of either Yai’s battery invention or his company establishment can not be accurately identified . However, there is the historical evidence that in 1893 Yai acquired a Japanese patent (No. 2,086) for the dry battery invention, and that the Yai battery was installed in the seismograph (assembled by Imperial University of Science, presently University of Tokyo), which was exhibited in EXPO 1893 in Chicago, commanding strong attention from visitors .
Although Yai invented a battery-powered clock in 1885, for which he acquired a Japanese patent (No. 1205) in 1891, the battery used in this clock was a wet one with the disadvantage of being unusable when they froze in the winter. Hence he began his quest to manufacture a dry battery, when there was a great difficulty that chemicals were leaking out of the positive terminal, and the metal became corroded and unusable. Yai tried desperately to impregnate paraffin in a carbon rod, until he succeeded in the impregnation, resulting in the first dry battery invention in Japan, which was patented in 1893 .
At that time, however, ordinary households could not yet enjoy the benefit of electricity even in Tokyo, where candles and oil lamps were still used for light source, and accordingly battery-powered products were so few that the demand for batteries was very little. Under such circumstances, the Sino-Japanese War broke out in August 1894, when the Leclanche battery was the latest commercially available one in Japan, which was, however, in danger of freezing in the Manchuria’s harsh winter cold. Hence the Yai battery was boldly attempted to be used for telegraphy in the War, resulting in substantial success. Soon after, an extra edition of newspaper reported the success achieved by the Yai battery in the Manchuria’s cold, which revealed the existence of the Yai battery, and subsequently made Yai’s company grow steadily [4,5]. Specifically, Yai established in 1910 the sales division of his company in Kanda-ku, Tokyo, and then built a factory in Asakusa-ku, Tokyo, which grew to the largest in Japan with the annual production volume of more than 200,000 units as of 1921. Unfortunately, however, in September 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck the Kanto Plane, by which all facilities of his company were burnt to ashes. Nevertheless, Yai soon managed to rebuild a new factory in Kawasaki near Tokyo (see Fig. 1), where numbers of commercially successful batteries were produced, as shown in Fig. 2 .
Thus Yai paved the way for the dry battery business. In fact, the functional qualities of Yai batteries were evaluated officially as the best in terms of discharge and lifetime characteristics . Yai’s company beat out domestic and foreign competitors, and grew to reign supreme over the Japanese dry battery market. Eventually, he became known as the
Features that set this work apart from similar achievements
There are numbers of distinctive features of Japanese primary and secondary battery industries in the start-up and growth stages, which are summarized item for item in what follows.
1. Unique Birth of Japanese Battery Industry
The start-up stage of Japanese primary and secondary battery industries was distinctive in that there were two great figures, Sakizo Yai and Genzo Shimadzu, who contributed primarily to the birth as well as to the growth of Japanese primary and secondary battery industries, respectively, as briefed in what follows.
1.1 Sakizo Yai
Yai was born in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, Japan, in 1863. At the age of 13, he became an apprentice at a watch shop in Tokyo. As already stated, in 1885 he invented a battery-powered clock, for which he attained the Japan’s first patent related to electricity in 1891. Since the battery used in this clock was a wet one with the disadvantage of being unusable in the freeze-up, he began his quest to invent a dry battery. He worked diligently as a hand at a science university laboratory, where he consulted at length with academics on impregnating paraffin in a carbon rod, until he succeeded in devising the first dry battery by finding a sophisticated impregnation method [4,5]. Thus Yai gave birth to the Japanese dry battery industry. As already stated above, after numbers of troubles and difficulties, Yai’s company managed to release in quick succession numbers of commercially successful batteries of Fig. 2, and grew to reign supreme over the Japanese dry battery market . Thus Yai also contributed to the growth of the Japanese dry battery industry.
1.2 Genzo Shimadzu
Genzo Shimadzu was born in Kyoto in 1869. In 1895 he succeeded in manufacturing the first prototype lead-acid battery. In 1896, only a year after Dr. Roentgen discovered X-rays, he succeeded in producing X-ray images, and moreover, in 1909 he developed the Japan’s first medical X-ray device . Subsequently, in 1917 he established ‘Japan Storage Battery Co., Ltd.’
As already stated, this new company faced a great difficulty that the quality of any material used in anode plates was too unstable for practical use. After a great deal of trial and error Shimadzu invented in 1919 a revolutionary methodology, called ‘reactive lead oxide production method’, for which he acquired not only a Japanese patent but also 15 foreign countries’ patents .
Thus, it can be seen that Shimadzu contributed outstandingly to the birth and growth of the Japanese lead-acid battery industry.
2. Contribution to Postwar Reconstruction
As already stated, in 1949 GHQ implemented a new law of deregulating the automobile production in Japan so far restricted strictly to trucks, which served as an intense trigger to Japanese motorization, and therefore created a drastic demand for automotive lead-acid batteries. In parallel to this motorization, upon urgent request for the postwar reconstruction all over Japan, the demand for high-capacity lead-acid batteries grew dramatically for backup power supplies installed in factories, office buildings, power substations, telephone stations, etc. [7,9,10].
On the other hand, in the late 1940’s through the mid 1950’s, a great amount of nickel-iron batteries were also produced mainly for safety lamps used in coal mines, which contributed greatly to the postwar mining industry , as stated before. Thus it can be seen that the secondary battery industry, led primarily by ‘GS Yuasa Corporation’ and ‘Panasonic Corporation’, contributed enormously to the postwar reconstruction all over Japan as well as the motorization in Japan.
3. Contribution to Consumer Electronics
As already stated, ‘Matsushita Electric Industries’ together with ‘SANYO Electric’ released a tremendous amount of carbon-zinc, silver-oxide, alkaline-manganese, Ni-Cd, and lithium batteries in quick succession in the mid 1950’s through the early 1970’s, with which a huge market of consumer electronics was created in Japan, where it should be noticed that
- carbon-zinc batteries, represented by ‘Hyper’, ‘Hi-Top’, and ‘Neo Hi-Top’ of Fig. 4, expanded drastically their application fields in consumer electronics , with the greatest share of the total production volume of primary batteries in Japan ,
- alkaline-manganese batteries broadened their applications to newly introduced appliances, such as tape-recorders, 8-mm movie cameras, strobes, shavers, etc., due to strong load performance and low- temperature characteristics [6,12],
- Ni-Cd batteries contributed greatly to expanding their applications not only to new consumer products, such as portable electronics, cordless/wireless appliances, electric power tools, etc., but also to miniature button cells installed in photographic equipment, flashlight/torch lamps, computer memory, toys, novelties, etc.[6,10,12],
- lithium batteries released first in 1971 contributed extensively to the widespread diffusion of today’s digital appliances, such as digital watches, personal computers, digital cameras, mobile terminal devices, etc. [6,12,13], and
- ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd.’ together with all of its subsidiaries and ‘SANYO Electric’ have been merged into ‘Panasonic Corporation’, as already stated.
Thus it can be seen that ‘Panasonic Corporation’ contributed distinctively to creating a huge market of primary and secondary batteries for use in consumer electronics.
4. Overseas Expansion
After World War II, Japan resumed the international trade, firstly working on the export of automotive lead-acid batteries to South East Asia, Middle East, Africa, South America, and USA, among which South East Asia became the largest market in the 1950’s . Accordingly the Japanese auto industry started car exports to South East Asia in the early 1960’s, where on-site car assemblies were also undertaken. In step with this business trend, the big three battery companies, ‘Japan Storage Battery’, ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial’, and ‘Yuasa Storage Battery’ established joint business ventures for manufacturing automotive batteries in the late 1960’s through the mid 1970’s in South East Asian countries, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, etc. [7,9,10]
On the other hand, as for the dry battery business, ‘Matsushita Electric Industries’ established joint business ventures for manufacturing dry batteries in the early 1960’s through the early 1970’s, not only in Asian countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, and Philippines, but also in South American countries, such as Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil .
Thus it can be seen that ‘Panasonic Corporation’ and ‘GS Yuasa Corporation’ contributed extensively to the progress of both primary and secondary battery industries in Asia and South America in the early 1960’s through the mid 1970’s [6,7,9,10].
- IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing: “Volta's Electrical Battery Invention, 1799”; see Alessandro Volta
- History Editorial Board of Japan Battery and Appliance Industries Association (JBAA), ed., “History of Japan Dry Battery Industry”, JBAA, Tokyo, 1960 (in Japanese).
- History Editorial Board of Matsushita Battery Industry Co., Ltd., ed., “50 Years’ Visual History of Dry Battery Production”, Matsushita Battery Industry Co., Ltd., Osaka, 1981 (in Japanese).
- History Editorial Board of Japan Storage Battery, Co., Ltd., ed., “100 Years’ History of Japan Storage Battery”, Japan Storage Battery Co., Ltd., Kyoto, 1995 (in Japanese).
- Editorial Board of 75 Years’ Company History, ed., “75 Years’ History of Yuasa”, Yuasa Storage Battery Co., Ltd., Osaka, 1993 (in Japanese).
- History Editorial Board of National Storage Battery Co., Ltd., ed., “50 Years of National Storage Battery”, National Storage Battery Co., Ltd., Osaka, 1985 (in Japanese).
- H. Ogawa, “Recent trend of battery technology”, National Technological Report, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 780-798, Dec. 1981 (in Japanese).
Appendix References , , , , , and  were written in Japanese, for which English summaries are added to this Appendix in what follows. Appendix 1. Reference : History Editorial Board of Japan Battery and Appliance Industries Association (JBAA), ed., “History of Japan Dry Battery Industry”, JBAA, Tokyo, 1960 (in Japanese). This book describes the details of history of the dry battery industry in Japan, from its birth to 1960, containing 640 pages. A part of the table of those contents which are related to this proposal, is as follows: Preliminaries: Outline of Progress of Primary Batteries, Part I: Historical Overview, Chapter 1: Introduction of Batteries into Japan and Shozan Sakuma, Chapter 2: Meiji Era, Chapter 3: Taisho Era, Chapter 4: Showa Era; Prior Period (till the end of World War II), Chapter 5: Showa Era; Latter Period (after the end of World War II) Appendix 2. Reference : History Editorial Board of Matsushita Battery Industry Co., Ltd., ed., “50 Years’ Visual History of Dry Battery Production”, Matsushita Battery Industry Co., Ltd., Osaka, 1981 (in Japanese). This book represents a summary of 50 years’ visual history of dry battery production of Matsushita Battery Industry Co., Ltd., containing 177 pages. The table of contents is as follows: Chapter 1: Taisho12-Showa20 (1923-1945), -Release of cannon-ball shaped battery-powered shell lamps, -Company’s own production of dry batteries, Chapter 2: Showa20-Showa29 (1945-1954), -Postwar wrenching time and construction, Chapter 3: Showa29-Showa38 (1954-1963), -Release of ‘Hyper’ dry battery, Chapter 4: Showa38-Showa44 (1963-1969), -Release of ‘Hi-Top’ dry battery, Chapter 5: Showa44-Showa54 (1969-1979), -Release of ‘Neo Hi-Top’ dry battery, Chapter 6: Showa54-Showa56 (1979-1981), -Establishment of Matsushita Battery Industry Co., Ltd., Appendix: -Progress of battery technologies, -Advance of developing products, -Overseas business: History and present status, -Awards, -Chronology Appendix 3. Reference : History Editorial Board of Japan Storage Battery, Co., Ltd., ed., “100 Years’ History of Japan Storage Battery”, Japan Storage Battery Co., Ltd., Kyoto, 1995 (in Japanese). This book describes the details of 100 years’ history in 1895-1995 of Japan Storage Battery, Co., Ltd., containing 392 pages. The table of contents is as follows: Part 1: Birth Stage (1895-1917), 1. History before foundation, 2. Start of producing storage batteries, Part 2: Start-Up Stage (1917-1931), 1. Foundation of storage battery business, 2. Invention of epoch-making manufacturing methodology, 3. Expansion of civil demand, Part 3: Expansion of Military Demand (1931-1945), 1. Enlargement of Production System, 2. Management under war footing, Part 4: Postwar Reconstruction (1945-1960), 1. Business reconstruction and economic recovery, 2. Strategy for market transition and innovation, Part 5: High-Growth Period (1969-1973), 1. Motorization, 2. New product development, 3. Overseas expansion, 4. Strategy for environmental variation, Part 6: Business Innovation, 1. Aggressive management against oil crisis, 2. Change of automobile market, 3. Challenge for advanced technologies, 4. Strategy for information society, 5. Development of lighting business, 6. Rapid growth of miniature batteries, 7. Development of new business fields, 8. Improvement of management culture, 9. Enhancement of globalization, 10. Toward the 21st Century, Part 7: Information Materials, Part 8: Chronology Appendix 4. Reference : Editorial Board of 75 Years’ Company History, ed., “75 Years’ History of Yuasa”, Yuasa Storage Battery Co., Ltd., Osaka, 1993 (in Japanese). This book describes the details of 75 years’ history in 1918-1993 of Yuasa Storage Battery, Co., Ltd., containing 315 pages. The table of contents is as follows: Chapter 1: From company foundation to the end of War., Chapter 2: Postwar devastation and reconstruction, Chapter 3: Motorization and its induced rapid growth, Chapter 4: Strategy for international era, Chapter 5: From high growth to low growth, Chapter 6: Stepping stone to electronics era, Chapter 7: Challenge for the 21st Century, Episodes and Information Materials, Documents and Chronology Appendix 5. Reference : History Editorial Board of National Storage Battery Co., Ltd., ed., “50 Years of National Storage Battery”, National Storage Battery Co., Ltd., Osaka, 1985 (in Japanese). This book summarizes 50 years’ history in 1935-1985 of National Storage Battery, Co., Ltd., containing 134 pages. The table of contents is as follows: Part 1: Preliminaries, Part 2: 50 Years’ History of National Storage Battery, -Era of Foundation and Start-Up; The Showa10’s, -Era of Hardship and Reconstruction; The Showa20’s, -Era of Construction and Expansion; The Showa30’s, -Era of Growth and Jump; The Showa40’s, -Era of Creation and Reversion; The Showa50’s, Part 3: Changes of Factory Layouts, Part 4: Development of New Products and Technological Activities, -Start from Zero; The Showa10’s, -Development of Products toward Versatility; The Showa20’s, -Birth of Alkaline Batteries and Enhancement of Mass Production; The Showa30’s, -Rush of New Technologies and New Products; The Showa40’s, -Demand Expansion and Applied Equipment; The Showa50’s, -Representative Products at Present, -Series of New Products, Part 5: 50 Years’ Marketing Activities, -Pre- and Post-War Marketing; The Showa10’s, -Marketing for Untapped Niche; The Showa20’s, -Improvement of Marketing System; The Showa30’s, -Enhancement of Marketing Strategy; The Showa40’s, -Leap for Tomorrow; The Showa50’s, Part 6: Toward New Future, Chronology Appendix 6. Reference : H. Ogawa, “Recent trend of battery technology”, National Technological Report, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 780-798, Dec. 1981 (in Japanese). This report surveys the trends in primary and secondary battery technologies which were developed to solve electronics and energy issues arising in the practice. The table of contents is as follows. 1. Preface, 2. Primary Batteries, 2.1 Carbon-Zinc Dry Battery, 2.2 Alkaline Manganese Battery, 2.3 Silver Oxide Battery, 2.4 Mercury Battery, 2.5 Nickel-Zinc Battery, 2.6 Zinc-Air Battery, 2.7 Lithium Battery, 3. Secondary Batteries, 3.1 Normal Temperature Operation Type, 3.1.1 Lead-Acid Battery, 3.1.2 Nickel-Cadmium Battery, 3.1.3 Nickel-Iron Battery, 3.1.4 Nickel-Zinc Battery, 3.1.5 Zinc-Chlorine Battery, 3.1.6 Zinc-Bromine Battery, 3.1.7 Redox Flow Battery, 3.2 High Temperature Operation Type, 3.2.1 Sodium-Sulfur Battery, 3.2.2 Lithium-Iron Sulfide Battery, 4. Fuel Cells, 4.1 Normal Temperature Operation Type, 4.1.1 Hydrogen-Oxygen Fuel Cell, 4.1.2 Liquid Fuel Cell, 4.2 Moderate High Temperature Operation Type, 4.2.1 Phosphoric Acid Electrolyte Fuel Cell, 4.2.2 Molten Salt Electrolyte Fuel Cell, 4.2.3 Solid Electrolyte Fuel Cell, 5. Conclusion, References