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Oral-History:Kenji Kazato and Kazuo Ito

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About Kenji Kazato & Kazuo Ito

Kenji Kazato
Kenji Kazato

Kazuo Ito
Kazuo Ito

Kazato and Ito are the founders of JEOL, a firm specializing in the design and manufacture of electron microscopes. After studying electrical engineering in the Navy Kazato became interested in electron microscopes, which were then little known in Japan. After the war, he formed JEOL with Ito and struggled to manufacture the company's first products. Eventually, JEOL became a highly respected firm in the field. The two discuss both engineering and management issues and focus on the problems of international business in the electron microscope field.

The two interview subjects discuss the founding of the company in post-World War II Japan, the development of new products, and early sales to Japanese universities and research institutes. Particular emphasis is given to such issues as the difficulties of establishing overseas markets and competition from foreign firms such as Siemens, RCA, and Philips. A second important theme is the nature of small-scale, precision manufacture of electron microscopes customized to meet particular buyer's needs.

About the Interview

KENJI KAZATO & KAZUO ITO: An Interview Conducted by William Aspray, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, May 16, 1994

Interview #199 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Kenji Kazato and Kazuo Ito, an oral history conducted in 1994 by William Aspray, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEW: Kenji Kazato and Kazuo Ito

INTERVIEWER: William Aspray

DATE: May 16th, 1994

PLACE: JEOL Headquarters, Alkishima, Tokyo

[Note: Ito translates for Kazato as well as giving his own answers. Yuzo Takahashi was also present.]

Backgrounds, Educations and WWII

Aspray:

Can I ask each of you in turn to tell about your early careers up to the time that you started working on the microscope? Then I'll ask you both to comment on questions as we go from there. Mr. Kazato, would you be willing to go first? Would you tell me about your early life and your schooling? What kind of family you came from? Did you have a science and engineering background in your family?

Kazato:

I graduated from the Navy's engine school: There were several Navy Schools. Normal Officers School, engine school, and accounting school. I was one of the engineering officers on many battleships. By the way, my mother's uncle lived in the USA. He emigrated to the USA in the 1870s, and died at the age of one hundred and two around 1950, in the era of President Eisenhower.

Aspray:

I see.

Kazato:

My elder sister has two nationalities, American and Japanese. My father went to the USA around 1899, and he came back here in 1915. I was born in Japan.

Aspray:

Yes.

Kazato:

I never went to the USA before the war. However, I understand more or less what the U.S. culture is. I think this is very important for JEOL start-up and the development.

Aspray:

Yes.

Kazato:

When I was in the Navy, I was a battle officer, but I realized how different the levels of technology were in Japan versus the US. We were very inferior, and I believed that without this technology, we would never be able to win. In fact, we couldn't. Anyhow, that was my conviction. So I asked to transfer from the battleship to the laboratories. This was very exceptional because this kind of officer was normally on ships.

Aspray:

They want to be out in the action.

Kazato:

Research job is for a completely different type of officer. But I wanted to transfer to a laboratory. First I was sent to the fuel depot. There was a special factory, which tried to deal with artificial fuel. I was transferred there. Then later, I requested another transfer, so I went to the Naval Central Institute. It was in Tokyo. This institute was really the key of the basic Naval research centers dealing with torpedoes, sonar, radar, guided missiles and so forth.

Aspray:

Were the people who worked in this laboratory all in the military, or were there civilians as well as military?

Kazato:

Civilians. Many civilians.

Ito:

And I am one of them.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

That is the reason we met in this central laboratory.

Aspray:

I wanted to go back and ask a question about the Navy engineering institute. What kind of education, what courses of study did you get, and how good was the education?

Kazato:

The education was specialized in the engine. Certainly we had the best training of engineers. We had other military drills, running, English, and mathematics, etc.

Aspray:

I interrupted you from telling the story.

Ito:

Oh no. At the final time before the war, or during the war, Kazato was at the Naval Central Institute. I also joined this Institute.

Aspray:

Do you want to bring me up to date what your career was like when you met?

Ito:

My case was very simple. I was born in Kyoto. I graduated from high school, and then Tokyo University — in the science department, in physics. Normally, my career would have been in research, just like a professor, or in some research institute. This would have been a normal career. But since this was during the war, I was induced to join the Navy institute, and my title was engineering officer. A special title. After two years, I would be a civilian researcher in the Navy. Kazato was related so much to the US, but in my case, no. I had no such background.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

My father and grandfather were medical professors. My grandfather was educated in Germany. When he returned from Germany, he became the first professor of Kyoto University's surgical department.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

So we met at the Naval Research Institute.

Aspray:

When the two of you met, what were you working on?

Ito:

To shoot down the B-29.

Aspray:

I see. Missiles.

Ito:

It never flew. We had information from Germany about their two missiles at the end of the war. We had all the documents about these missiles, so we started to experiment.

Aspray:

I see. This was mainly the missile part, or the fire control part, or both of those?

Ito:

Both. Fire control and also the guided side. He came from the guided side. I am a physicist, but I got into the missile engine side.

Aspray:

So this is what you were doing throughout the end of the war, is that right?

Ito:

Yes, that's right.

Early Interest in Electron Microscopes

Aspray:

What happened when the war ended?

Kazato:

There were many people and lots of activity in wireless and electronic engineering at the research institute. These people all joined many places. Some to Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, or International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, but I didn't follow this kind of course. Instead, I wondered what I could do at the time. I wanted to do something for Japan’s future. During the war, actually a little bit back, when I was in the Navy at Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture, I found a small book on the electron microscope. I didn't know what the electron microscope was, so I bought the book.

Aspray:

I see.

Kazato:

I hoped that it could be suggestions for the improvement of weapons, but it had no relation to weapons. So, I kept just it.

Aspray:

You kept it anyway?

Kazato:

Yes, and forgot about it since it did not relate to weapon technology. After the war ended, I had to leave the Navy. I found the book again. I read it, God suggested, "This is the work I should do." Inspiration, that's the word.

Aspray:

Was there a feeling that there was a possible economic value to the country, or was it for the research applications?

Kazato:

At the time we had all possible problems, including not enough food to eat. We were in the middle of disaster, so the electron microscope, at that time in Japan, seemed no help at all. I believed, however, that this kind of instrument would be necessary and useful for the future of Japan. Japan is certainly a very small island, and a hundred million people lived on this one small island. How could we live, how could we survive? We didn't have any resources. We could import all the resources, oil and minerals. Then we needed to get some materials and work on them with machines and then export. This was the only way. Industry was the way of the future for Japan. Without good materials we could not make good products. I believed the electron microscope would be very important for improving the material.

Aspray:

I see.

Kazato:

This was the start.

First Company in Chiba, Japan

Aspray:

I see from your personal history that it was very quickly that the business was established. By April of 1946. How did you have the resources to do this?

Kazato:

Until we built the first microscope, it was a very, very hard time because we had nothing to sell. After one instrument was completed, the only way to survive was to sell it.

Aspray:

I see.

Kazato:

So we tried and we sold. Selling was the only way to keep our living. We didn't have any big resources or money given from elsewhere. We just earned it and spent it by investing and making more. This had a spiral effect.

Aspray:

It spiraled on, yes. How large was the operation at first. How many people?

Ito:

Starting from several. Kazato had this initiative, and I joined. Another two or three people joined together. I am a physicist, and we had electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and a chemist. The key members were all there at the beginning. I think we had a total of twenty people.

Aspray:

Where was your plant, your offices?

Ito:

The Chiba area.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

It is Kazato’s native place. I joined, after receiving his letter, saying that he wanted to start this company. I was on my way living with my parents. After the war I had nothing to do. I wanted to leave my parent’s home by any means.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

If his letter had arrived a little bit later, I'd have joined another research laboratory, the National Institute of Machining. Actually, I had two offers. His offer was first, so I joined him.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

I think he had some private money to begin with.

Aspray:

Some personal money, or some money from a backer for the business?

Ito:

A backer for the business. We were living in a building that belonged to the Navy. It was a clubhouse for Navy sub-officers.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

It had big rooms. The ground floor became the factory and the first floor the living quarters.

Aspray:

So, you not only worked there, you lived there.

Ito:

Exactly. The electricity was not dependable. It was down quite often. If it was cut, we slept there. If it came back on at midnight, you came down and worked.

Kazato:

I owned the factory. My family still has a stationery shop in Chiba Mobara city. I got some support from this, but certainly I also got a backers' money. I had the Navy contacts, and in Navy circles I could find backers. So money came from that source. However, this money was not free.

Aspray:

Yes.

Kazato:

That is why I left the first company in Chiba. We founded the company in Tokyo, in 1949. This was the actual start of JEOL.

Aspray:

I see. This was a new company when you came here.

Kazato:

That's right.

Aspray:

It was because of the commitments you had to your backers in the other case?

Kazato:

Right. I didn’t agree with the backers about the operation of the company.

Aspray:

What happened to the old company?

Kazato:

It lasted several years, but it didn't have any key technical people.

Aspray:

Did a lot of people move to this new company from the old one?

Kazato:

Only about six or seven.

Value of Navy Contacts

Aspray:

In the old company, did contacts with the Navy help in other ways? Was it Navy people that you hired as the technical staff for this?

Ito:

I don't think he did that. He just tried to survive.

Aspray:

But you said that he brought together some twenty people or so to work in the company, of all kinds of different backgrounds.

Ito:

Yes.

Aspray:

Were those people that you met in the Navy, or had known through Navy contacts, or were they just recruited from all over the place?

Kazato:

I said Navy, but not purely Navy.

Aspray:

So some Navy and some others.

Kazato:

We believe that the majority was from the Navy, and several Navy people played a key role.

Founding JEOL, Tokyo

Aspray:

I see. What were the difficulties in establishing your factory?

Kazato:

We didn't want to use the other people's money. So money should come only from our work.

Aspray:

I see, yes.

Kazato:

So we got the purchase order of the electron microscope, then got a loan from the bank. You know, with this new company, no one believed we could build a new kind of microscope. Several people left the old company, then we were just barehanded, nothing. I concentrated to make the first electron microscope here so that they could understand how I could do that. I got a loan from my mother. This was a race against time, to see how quickly we could make the microscope, and how quickly we could get the purchase order. Fortunately we succeeded. The first parts orders came from Yamanashi University, and we are very much indebted for this.

Aspray:

I see.

Kazato:

They were not at all academic organization. The purchase orders always came with some special requests. We tried our best to satisfy the customers and get the money. I think in some way this is the best kind of achievement we made. We didn't think we could do anything very remarkable in scientific or other technical achievements. We completed the electron microscope, yes, but this was not only basic research. We were asked, for example, whether the resolution should be thirty angstroms, ten angstroms, five angstroms, three angstroms, or one angstrom. We had to try our best to satisfy the customers.

Aspray:

So evolutionary improvement of resolution —

Kazato:

Continued.

Aspray:

Yes. Was all the work in the early days toward products, or did you also do development contracts for other organizations, or did you make parts for somebody else, or anything of that sort?

Ito:

Actually, no. We didn't have any research contracts. We didn't have that kind of capability. His conviction to start the electron microscope was difficult to understand for me as a physicist. But I admired his conviction, and through all his career, he kept this conviction. This was not so easy.

Wartime Development of Electron Microscopes

Aspray:

After the war, the occupying forces had certain restrictions on the kind of research and development that you could do. Were there restrictions on your company?

Ito:

No, we were too small.

Aspray:

You were too small.

Ito:

Besides, the electron microscope was not restricted. I’ll tell you another story. This was not directly related to the success of the company, but indirectly, yes. The interest of the electron microscope could already be seen here during the war. During the war I read a little history. Of course, I didn't know they would start a company. But our scientific community received a report from Dr. Ruska and Borries, the inventor of the electron microscope. They said it had obtained a higher resolution than the optical microscope. This created a lot of enthusiasm in Japan. I don't know how it did, really. Then Japan created a special task force, but the important thing was the budget. The budget was about eighty thousand yen; it would be about a million dollars today. During the war, money was very scarce, but I appreciate the money that was given to the electron microscope.

Aspray:

This money came from where?

Ito:

The Government money was distributed to all the universities, Toshiba, Hitachi, and all of these companies. Surprisingly, when the war ended, it was said that twenty microscopes were working in Japan. This is an unbelievable number. This is a very important fact: it was not a very useful microscope, but the basic training, basic understanding, research, and basic physical background, was already done during the war.

Aspray:

Did some of the people who worked in these centers come to your company?

Ito:

No. They were very prestigious people from big institutions. They had no interest in working with us. Of course, we didn't know that and did not know this task force existed.

Aspray:

Oh, you didn't know anything about this factor?

Ito:

No. After the war interest in the electron microscope continued, and the educational ministry spent money every year to equip the university. So at least the market was there.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

This helped us.

Aspray:

Who were these people who were interested in the microscope during the war? Were they the users, the biologists and medical people, or were they equipment designers, or —

Ito:

All.

Aspray:

All kinds. I see.

Ito:

Yes. Bacteriologists of Kyoto University, an electrical engineering professor from Osaka University, all the Tokyo University physicists, Toshiba and Hitachi, these companies constructed electron microscopes. This was really a group of all types of people.

Electron Microscope Applications

Aspray:

You say that you brought together this group of people that had all kinds of different specialties. Can you tell me about the different tasks that are involved in getting a good working electron microscope? What different sets of skills do you need?

Ito:

Well, first we need the physicists to calculate electron optics. This was my area. I designed the focal length, etc. to set the magnification, we also needed those in mechanical design and electrical engineers. It was not so easy at that time. The application was unknown, not only to us, but in general. We didn't know how to use them. We could see bacteria, viruses, yes. But bacteria just looked like black peas. We could see nothing inside. In the case of metals, we could only see their shadows. The replica technique and the cutting of medical or biological specimens came later. We needed the right people to work on applications for the electron microscope, so we could use higher resolution.

Aspray:

Who did you go to talk about this?

Ito:

For sales talk or applications?

Aspray:

For the applications.

Kazato:

We wanted to target research institutes for the industry. Even though they didn't know exactly what applications were needed, they bought the electron microscope and then tried to find out what applications to use them on.

Aspray:

I see.

Kazato:

This is one part. The other was certainly the universities.

Aspray:

Was it a particular group of people who first recognized their needs? Was it the medical people, the pharmacological people? One special group that drove the entrance?

Kazato:

Well, certainly the bacteriology, or virus people needed electron microscopes. I remember the particular application for Carbonblack (name of a German company) for the chemical industry. They wanted to see the particle itself.

Aspray:

Yes.

Kazato:

In these applications we didn't focus on a particular area of application, but approached the big organizations, anticipating that they would have something for which they needed an electron microscope.

Early Challenges

Aspray:

Was there much product differentiation at all? Did different buyers want different things from you? Did you customize your equipment?

Kazato:

Certainly, customer customization was the key to our success. Our competitors in Japan were, Hitachi; and from the beginning Toshiba, and then Shimudzu, all the big companies. Worldwide, there was RCA, General Electric, and Philips, AEI, and this type of first-class company. These companies had some interest in the electron microscope. Not only how they are used, but also in sales. To compete against all these companies, customization was our concentration, our key. But this came later.

Aspray:

I can see all sorts of challenges you might have had in the early years. I imagine there wasn't very good test equipment to use.

Ito:

No.

Aspray:

And the materials probably were difficult to get?

Ito:

That's right, yes.

Aspray:

What other things of that sort?

Kazato:

Have you seen the first electron microscope downstairs? This was the early stage of the electron microscope. In Japan, all were prototypes, so the prototype was accepted. Certainly we didn't buy any special material. Just only available material.

Ito:

For example, with high voltage, we needed fifty KV, but the insulator was difficult to get for this kind of voltage at the beginning. Kazato remembers that there were still very many financial problems. Not technical problems. The technical problems were ours, not his.

Aspray:

Yes. And on the technical side, what were the biggest challenges?

Ito:

The first thing was to get a stable power supply. We needed to produce the power supply, to have the stability of one ten thousandths. This kind of power supply, and also high voltage, was not available then. So we started at the beginning with other electron microscopes, the static type and then switched to the magnetic type. In the magnetic type, the lens is run by a magnet. In the static type, lens is also the electrostatic. So the acceleration of the electron and lens can be supplied by the same power supplies. If the power supply for acceleration changes, the lens changes at the same time, so stability is not critical. We started with the electrostatic type, but it didn't work. Worldwide, the electrostatic type was very difficult. The magnetic type becomes a mainstream current. We did try first electrostatic, but it didn't work. So we switched to the magnetic type. Actually, the power supply was a very difficult problem. The electrical engineer came from the Navy. He devised a very special power supply, which was stable enough. We didn't need so much power, just stable high voltage.

Aspray:

Were there kinds of naval problems during the war that were similar to this in nature?

Ito:

No, not at all.

Aspray:

They just were good engineers.

Ito:

The easiest way to have high voltage is to have transformers with big condensers. This has a good stable power supply, though feedback is very difficult. Small ripple fluctuations can be smoothed out, but long-term fluctuations cannot. Actually we made, instead, high-frequency power supplies to overcome this problem.

Early Sources of Technical Information

Aspray:

When you were first getting going, in the first couple of years, who else was trying to build electron microscopes?

Ito:

Frankly, we didn’t know. But thanks to the occupied forces, we had access to the libraries containing whole new literatures. At that time we lived in Chiba. I went to Tokyo, there were no copy machines then, so I had a notebook and copied out everything by hand. This was from the Journal of Applied Physics. I also read from the book written by the RCA people about electron microscopy. I wrote everything out by hand, I don't know how many times I did this. This was our source of information about the world.

Aspray:

What kind of things did you find useful in that literature for your purposes?

Ito:

Everything, because we didn't have the best training for the electron microscope. I read and used a bit of everything: optics, mechanical structures, electrical devices, and applications. Of course there was no information about production, but for general information general texts gave us this kind of basic education. Then it was up to us.

Growth and International Competition

Aspray:

Who were the other groups in the 1940s who were trying to get started with an electron microscope project?

Ito:

For example, Siemens in Germany had nearly completely built one. They are inventors, and at the end of the war their resolution already hit ten angstroms. Commercially, RCA also had a very workable product.

Aspray:

This was the group that was working with Hillier?

Ito:

That's right. I think that RCA and Siemens were the two groups that were really good with the electron microscope. Philips came later.

Aspray:

Once you had your first few orders and you started production, how did your business grow, and how did the technology improve? Can you tell me about these things?

Kazato:

We completed several units, but the prototype had a lot of defects, therefore, we had complaints from the customers. They found many things that needed improvement. Some things were easy, some difficult. We didn't know how to do all of them. So we continued improvement, continued to accept requests from the customers, not only new customers but old customers. Just improve, improve, improve.

Aspray:

Yes.

Kazato:

We only had two or three units of one type. After two or three units we would have a new type, then sell two or three, and then we had a new order. This type of continuum. Certainly we had some things we wanted to improve by ourselves, but our customers demanded improvements. Especially when we started to get orders worldwide, they requested much bigger changes, much more difficult ones, we did our best to fulfill these orders.

Aspray:

Was the intention at first to sell worldwide, or just in this country?

Kazato:

Simple question. First of all, we didn't think about exports. When General McArthur came to Japan he said that Japan was a fourth-grade people, and we didn’t feel very big, just twelve years old. I didn't think we would be able to export, ever. Then I started to hope that the best level of Japanese industry would get better. This was a first.

Aspray:

So, as Japanese industry grows, so grows your market?

Kazato:

Ten years after the war ended, in 1955, the USA had five hundred electron microscopes, Japan had two hundred and fifty. Astonishingly. England, Germany, and France each had around fifty.

Aspray:

I see.

Kazato:

Electron microscopes were widely used in Japan before we ever were able to export. However, to achieve the company's continual growth, a Japanese-only market was not sufficient. Certainly we had to think about worldwide sales. So this was the start of our worldwide operation.

Ito:

Actually he sent me to London in 1954. This was the third international conference of electron microscopy. I didn't know about anything the outside of Japan. I brought my own text for the speech and our catalog. A professor of Yamanashi University helped us. He bought the first electron microscope. He went to France and studied there. He introduced our microscope to the French community, serving as an agent in France.

Aspray:

What was his name?

Ito:

Dr. Takahashi. He is always our friend.

Aspray:

Yes.

Kazato:

We met him regularly. So I went to France with the first electron microscope. Some Belgians, Germans, and French, went to this conference and bought our electron microscope. This was our first approach to the worldwide market.

Ito:

At that time I met Professor Borries, one of the inventors. Unfortunately he died early, so he couldn't be awarded the Nobel Prize. His partner Ruska received the Nobel Prize. After the war Borries left Siemens and created his own research laboratory. I think there was some support from Siemens. He wanted to design the electron microscope, make it, and then sell it. He said that the JEOL was the ideal of his ambition, because we had a technical group, a factory, and a sales plan. Unfortunately he couldn't do that because he died so early.

Aspray:

I see. You would have been interested in having him as a technical advisor?

Ito:

No. He was too big for that.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

I learned a lot, because I stayed at his laboratory for two months. I talked to his assistant, I talked to him, and his impression was very interesting. But his way was much too academic.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

His research laboratory was too big to be self-supporting. I would do that, but with fewer people and much less organization.

Aspray:

Of those two hundred and fifty electron microscopes that were in Japan at the time, were they all built in Japan, or were some of them imported?

Ito:

They were all built in Japan. Except for two.

Aspray:

Except two.

Ito:

Actually, Japan imported two RCA’s, but they didn't work. The reason was very simple. Japan has high humidity and high temperatures. Our universities and research institutes do not have air conditioning.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

An electron microscope here must work at thirty five degrees centigrade and almost one hundred percent humidity. It didn't work. It worked in winter, but it didn't work in summer. It was educational for us, but it was not usable.

Aspray:

Although you hadn't participated in the world market up until that time, did you know what the other manufacturers were doing?

Ito:

From the literature, yes. When I first visited Europe, in 1954, all the laboratories there welcomed me, so I could visit AEI of England, or Philips of Netherlands. I could visit OPL of France. Their organizations were much bigger than ours. I envied them. I didn't know how we could compete with them.

Aspray:

You said you knew their products from the literature?

Ito:

Yes.

Aspray:

But, is it one thing to have studied the literature, and another thing to have one of their machines on hand and be able to work with it, and take it apart, and try it out?

Ito:

We couldn't do that, because at first our resources were limited. Also the country's resources were very limited, so we couldn't do that.

Aspray:

But at some later date, you were able to get copies of your competitors' machines, weren't you?

Ito:

We didn't do this.

Aspray:

You have never done that in your history? Well, that's very unusual.

Higher Resolution & Analytical Microscopes

Ito:

You think so? Why did the Japanese electron microscope become number one in the world? Manufacturing, research, the number of the researchers, the application, and the manufacturing numbers, all of which were effective and sound. Furthermore, we liked the electron microscope. We Japanese like the microscope. We followed the research of Siemens, which already had the highest resolution at the end of the war. Ten angstroms.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

I once asked the Siemens people, "You already have the highest resolution, why didn't you continue?" He said, and it was very interesting, "We already reached ten angstroms, we didn't think higher resolution was necessary because there were no applications." I think that we have two reasons for success. One is the continuing effort. The theoretical limit is one angstrom. This is a good example. [Getting a paper] Do you have a copy of that?

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

Now, this is at ten angstroms. [Showing photo pictures to Aspray] Sorry, this is not good. We should really have the original of this. This is how Siemens could get it. This material is this.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

Siemens could get the outline, but not the details. Now, going further, a little bit more, this is the further view. And then this one. This one is a individual atom. Japan continue to try to get high resolution. Another thing is analytical electron microscope images. This is one example. This image is something, but here's the diffraction. We heat the sample, and so the image changes, the diffraction changes. Of course the diffraction and the electron microscope are both sides of the image. Fortunately in Japan, we had a strong group working on electron diffraction, so when the electron microscope came in, the electron diffraction people joined the group. When we started the work in 1954, theoretically this was known. Real applications with the electron microscope and the diffraction didn't exist outside of Japan. It is analytical, you see, good for the material. Not good for biology. We should continue to improve on the material. By the way, the term "analytical electron microscopes" was invented here. Of course, we didn't invent the electron diffraction microscope. It is one instrument just sitting, and we can get diffraction also. But this was not our invention. That was by some European. We just put it in the microscope. The real application started here, in Japan.

We are not just copying, you see? I hope that this is our own contribution to the electron microscope. At first we didn't succeed, but then we found that it was a very useful method to examine materials. A replica was not necessary. We made the reflection electron microscope. We wanted the image of this. But, of course it didn't work, because electrons don't bound this way, just like this. So it was not useful. Later however, it was found that this kind of diffraction can be very, very useful for silicone surfaces which are very flat. For this you need an example. I don't know, you may have seen this. These are two catalogs from 1954. They are by far the highest resolution. They don't need any other advertising. This is for the Siemens microscope. Our catalog of that time says that we can get diffraction and reflection. We want to be a bit different. I think that this kind of uniqueness certainly was accepted by the materials people. And then by the biology people also. But I don't think our way was the shortest way to reach the highest resolution, because adding all this complicates the microscope.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

Obtaining high resolution is much more difficult. To get the same resolution as the Siemens microscope, we needed more than twenty years.

Aspray:

Yes, I see.

Ito:

This is a scientific point. This is, I feel, our contribution.

Japanese Competitors

Aspray:

Up until 1954, did you have any Japanese competitors?

Ito:

Why, yes, of course.

Aspray:

Who were your Japanese competitors?

Ito:

Hitachi, Toshiba, and Shimadzu.

Kazato:

Hitachi has always been a very strong, tough competitor. Right at the beginning certainly Toshiba and Shimadzu were also among them, but they dropped out very quickly.

Aspray:

Why do you think that they dropped out?

Ito:

Economic reasons.

Aspray:

The market for this was not big enough for them?

Ito:

No.

Aspray:

They're a big company, and they have to make a lot of money off whatever products they make?

Ito:

It seems that they didn't think this was worth spending their resources.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Small Co.

Aspray:

Yes. Was your approach to products different from theirs while you were both in the business?

Ito:

I think that we were small enough so we were flexible, and we could improve and respond faster to questions. We lived on the electron microscope we were more responsible.

Aspray:

Were the organizations that bought your microscopes nervous about buying from such a small company?

Ito:

Oh, yes, of course.

Kazato:

Customers are wary of buying from a very small company, especially at the beginning. But in this case, fortunately, we had strong supporters. They were the highest people in Japanese society, related to the Navy, but not the director of the Navy. Top people in financial society circles were the advisors to our company, official advisors, and these people also believed in me and the boss in the Navy, the other Ito: Dr. Yoji Ito.

Ito:

Under Prince Takamatsu after the war they wanted to make Japan survive. They believed that even this small company, that this kind of thing, technology-oriented, was the only way for Japan's future. Kazato had good strong support, good interaction, but it didn't eliminate all the fear, all the wariness of the customers. I think these are very important. After some time, the difference between the small company and the big companies was that the customers felt they couldn't always pick up the phone to reach them. Kazato is always available.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

And they reached me. The same people were service staff, and I think this is the same today. This is one of the main reasons for our success. In big companies, the sales staff are not always the same. But in our company, they are. A medium-sized scale, neither small, nor big. This kind of company's advantage is continuity. Our customers' complaints were always important. In many cases we couldn't meet them, but they knew that we would try to do so. Sometime later these changes would become reality. There was this kind of accumulation of trust worldwide. I think we have good relations with top professors worldwide in the electron microscope field. This is substantial because they know we care about the electron microscope.

Developing the International Market

Aspray:

Yes. I see. Did you decide right away in 1954 or 1955 to try to market your products internationally?

Ito:

Yes, we did. After two years the first purchase order came from France between 1955 and 1957.

Kazato:

In 1956 two more came from France I think.

Aspray:

As your international market grew, did you have to have people overseas to sell and to solve problems and such? How do you manage that?

Ito:

Very difficult. The language was one of them. At the first stage we couldn't hire any local people. Of course, we could have, but we didn't know who was good; we could have made a lot of mistakes doing that. So in the first years we had to rely on the Japanese. Now we have a lot of very experienced Americans, British, and French, and people from every area in the world. We don't have any trouble now. But at the beginning, for example in 1954-1955, I was constantly visiting worldwide. I stayed in France, and also in the USA. We sent out Japanese, but their English was not at all good.

Aspray:

When you worked with your customers, did you have to often send your employees on site to maintain things? Did that mean that you also had to have personnel that were technically trained?

Ito:

Yes. We were sending a lot of technical people. In the early days more maintenance was needed. Now, not so much maintenance is needed, but in earlier times it was very essential. Giving good maintenance was costly. Not only cost, but also how to supply the good engineers who could communicate with the customers. This was a big problem. We had a lot of cultural differences. Kazato maintained good service to customers. This really awarded us the trust of the customers. Not only did they know we had good technical engineers, local technical engineers, American, British, and French. We didn't have any problems with giving good service to the customers. Our tradition is giving good service.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

We have so many customers now worldwide and our service network was arranged worldwide. We don't need to invest more money, we have so many customers.

Aspray:

Did you have success with particular countries or particular application areas at first?

Ito:

First we started in France.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

Then we enlarged to the other European countries. The US was very difficult. Our office in the Boston area is on the famous Route 128.

Aspray:

Yes. Is your market in the United States a specialized market? Does General Electric have a particular part of the market and you have another part of it?

Ito:

No. Actually, you see, at the beginning we were dealing with transmission electron microscope.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

There's a scanning electron microscope. In the United States, there is no manufacturer of the transmission electron microscope, so the transmission electron microscopes are imported from Japan and the Netherlands. The scanning microscope, the US has a supplier. It's called Amray. Internationally, for the transmission electron microscope, there are only three suppliers. JEOL, Hitachi and Philips. The scanning microscope has a few more. In the United States, it is Amray. For the scanning microscope, the other big players are JEOL, Hitachi and Toshiba subsidiary. In Europe there are Cambridge Zeiss and Leica. This kind of company. But the big players are, JEOL, Hitachi, and Philips.

Diversification and Product Development

Aspray:

When I went on the tour I saw half a dozen different types of products today, whereas you started with just one product. Can you tell me about that history of broadening your product line?

Kazato:

You have seen NMR. NMR is an analytical direction. NMR is a different type of analytical device.

Ito:

We were at a very happy age at that time. Everything was new. NMR was very new to the market, and the mass spectrograph was very new to the market. Of course, the mass spectrograph was known for isotope work, but for analytical, this was very new. We tried every possible way. We did so many things even computer ones. We tried everything related to analytical.

Aspray:

Let me try to restate what I think I've heard from you here, to see if I'm correct.

Ito:

Yes.

Aspray:

The company's philosophy is not to do basic research to develop these technologies, but as soon as they become available then you want to try them in your product line, evolving your product in some way, and be one of the first ones to do that. Is that correct?

Ito:

Yes, but just I want to add one thing. We do that even without knowing the application.

Aspray:

I see. So the technology side is driving rather than the demand side.

Ito:

Exactly. I think we are now too much technology-oriented. I personally feel that. When we started the NMR, we didn't know if it was really good for in organic analytical chemistry. For the mass specs, we knew it was good for inorganic analysis, but we didn't know it was good for the organic chemistry. So we started on it even though we didn't know, we were lucky. We didn't know the real application where we started, so we could be the early starters. It was a risk, but it was not so big a risk because we didn't spend big money on that.

Aspray:

I'll come back to that question in a moment, but were there examples of any products you developed with new technologies but without the application area known that never found an application?

Kazato:

Don't misunderstand that we have always been successful. As you mentioned, we made a lot of mistakes, but not so much in the analytical field. In the analytical field, all our technologists are studying wavelengths. The electron, light, ultraviolet, or supersonic, all of which have their applications. Each has an application. So there were no risks. Even in an unsuccessful environment, we are not unsuccessful with gas chromatograph. We are not successful with infrared. Another company does that business. But it doesn't mean we couldn't find any application. All wavelengths could find some applications. Our error was not in the analytical area. We did want to go to other things, but there were a lot of examples where we couldn’t succeed.

Aspray:

Let me come back to your comment about not having to spend too much money in developing any one of these. Can you tell me about the development process, and the kind of costs that were associated with it when you developed a new product?

Kazato:

When we started the spectrum analyzer, we didn't produce several prototypes, just one prototype, we sold it. So again, we were fortunate in the prototype area. No one could take it apart. In the normal case, we have a prototype, then a second prototype, and the prototype for mass production, and again another prototype before the final mass production. Then we have the mass production. However, our instrument is not at all this kind of category.

Ito:

When I was in the presidency it was a lot different from now. To sell a hundred units per year of one type of instrument is very rare. So this is a very small scale, and a lot of variety of products. Kazato created such a company. We still gave enough quality. This is very difficult. For one famous British professor, we installed the first equipment there. He was very satisfied. He asked me, "Dr. Ito, I am very satisfied with your instrument, but I don't think you can supply the same instrument to our other colleagues." I said, "Sorry, I thought that we could supply the same instrument to your other colleagues." This is small-scale sales and production.

Aspray:

For example, when a new technology, NMR say, comes in, how much manpower was required to build your prototypes and get scaled up?

Ito:

Mr. Seki, an electrical engineer, was the leader: he was in part-time. Under him were three or four assistants. All production was made in the common factories he designed.

Aspray:

How long would these people work before they had the prototypes done?

Kazato:

Not more than one year.

Aspray:

When you went to a new technology did you often have to hire new employees who knew this?

Kazato:

No.

Aspray:

No. Not in the case of NMR, even?

Ito:

No. You see, at that time in Japan there was a specialist for the NMR applications, from the academy, but no one was good enough for the NMR electrical stability. NMR needs a lot of high stability power supplies, and a lot of data handling. We had the academic people, but we didn't have the specialists. It was good for the stability of the electron microscope at the NMR level. We had to do everything by ourselves. With the hardware, we needed a lot of help from the software and, the applications side; we had to rely on the academic people.

Software and Computing

Aspray:

What constitutes software in one of your products?

Ito:

Now? Or at that time?

Aspray:

Either. I don't know enough about the products to know what you have other than just a big machine there.

Ito:

At that time it was just a big machine, that's all. Actually the software was on how to use the data of the NMR, how to analyze it, and how to change the real molecular structures. Now, it is different, of course.

Aspray:

Is this a kind of added value that you have to provide with your products?

Ito:

Now, yes.

Aspray:

To sell them today?

Ito:

Yes, because NMR is like this. No one else can satisfy this. We should have the computer, and so this kind of service is needed. We have to supply everything.

Aspray:

Does that mean that you also have to do training sessions?

Ito:

Yes, we do. Constantly.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

We have worldwide cooperation with the software for the mass spectrograph. No one is satisfied with this. They want to analyze the data by computer handling, and this is why we have to rely so much on outside researchers.

Aspray:

So computers are now part of the system also?

Ito:

Yes, that's right.

Aspray:

And those are just purchased outside, is that right?

Ito:

Yes, we do. But right at the beginning we wanted to make our own computers. You see, this was just as DEC started their computer work, just a coincidence. What we needed was a data addition. With NMR there are noises and signals. Signals come from the same place, and noises are random. So we had the memories in storage. Then some parts of the signals were going up. After fifty or a hundred of this kind of data were put in the accumulator, the signal was enhanced. We didn't need any sophisticated computer, just only the kind of accumulators. This was not available, so we made our first accumulators in this factory. This was successful. But later minicomputers came, and these are good for this kind of work. We couldn't go to the personal computers. We tried, but we just stopped.

Aspray:

What percentage of the cost of the system is computers now running?

Ito:

It depends. The electron microscope does not require so much, because it is a still image, but with NMR, it was nearly half. With the mass spectograph these costs are the same, the majority. If you want, we can give you the figures, I think.

Aspray:

I just wanted a sense; that's good enough. Did you have to hire people who were specialists in computers to be part of your staff?

Ito:

Yes. Certainly.

Costs of Creating New Lines

Aspray:

What about some of the other costs associated with getting into new product lines? For example, when we were walking through the buildings today we were told that one kind of product needed a much cleaner environment and less vibration, so the plant costs are higher than they used to be.

Ito:

Yes.

Aspray:

Is there also capital equipment that you had to buy to do the machining, for example? What are the barriers to entry into new product lines for you?

Ito:

Yes. We bought various used machines and tools regardless of make. But, we had to modify them often by ourselves or by maker so as to manufacture high precision parts to our specifications.

Aspray:

Do you anticipate having to go to very clean rooms, for example, with some of your next generation of products?

Ito:

For the IC industry it's required, so to the extent we are deep in the IC industry, certainly we should have. But our involvement in IC industry is just the electron microscope. This not the main thing in the IC production line. Certainly we will build more clean rooms when our involvement in the IC industry grows, but we are not IC factories. We don't think of this as IC factories, a limiting factor.

Role of Government

Aspray:

Has the Japanese government played a role in your later history?

Ito:

They only give money to the universities, and the government institution, but these two groups buy products from us.

Aspray:

You've not had development grants of any sort from them?

Ito:

Yes, we have had them occasionally, but they are not a main source of income. You see, despite what is generally believed elsewhere, the government doesn't do so much!

Aspray:

Yes. Americans want to attribute all success of Japanese companies to this kind of factor.

Ito:

I know. It's a successful method. There is a research institute. This is the only one that is, very successful. It is only good for the basic research and general, total education, but benefits no particular industry.

Customers and Customization

Aspray:

Are there special relationships with the universities?

Ito:

I think the meaning is a bit different, you see. We are friends with all the universities who use our electron microscope. They're more than just customers.

Aspray:

So it's a network of research users.

Ito:

Yes, research users group. If the users group needs some new equipment, or there is new technological development required, this will be given immediately. We have this kind of network with Cambridge University, Oxford University, MIT and others. But this is not for the production area. Our production technology is so advanced that we could not rely on any others.

Kazato:

All customers wanted products made with special things. This is the reason for our strong ties with customers.

Aspray:

I get the very distinct impression that your products are really one-of-a-kind things, like Jaguar automobiles.

Ito:

I agree!

Aspray:

Have there been some economies of scale, and ideas of mass production? Can certain units or elements of your systems now be mass produced?

Ito:

This is a good question. Sometimes I wish we could have mass production equipment. Then we could automatically sell larger numbers per year. But we don't have this kind of production. It is very expensive, and here a hundred thousand dollars is not an expensive instrument in this factory. This is rather low cost. Million dollar equipment is very routine. So our customized factory, this company, is very expensive, the Jaguar type.

Aspray:

Yes.

Ito:

We would like to be like Ford or Volkswagen. But the Jaguar type is what we are. This has advantages and disadvantages.

Aspray:

Is there even enough of a market demand that it would make sense to try to automate? You can't sell as many electron microscopes as you do televisions sets.

Ito:

Well, I think for automobiles automation is necessary, not only for mass production but also for cost cutting. In our case, the latter is applicable.

Aspray:

I see.

Ito:

So our market approach is not a mass production approach. Sales are based on one-to-one customer relations. Inevitably we tend to be the very expensive, Jaguar type ones.

Aspray:

How do you handle research and development for down-the-line product development? What is your policy, your philosophy about that?

Ito:

Well, I think I can't answer that. We don't have any sophisticated system. We accept the customer's demand because the customer's demand is next year's sales. Or the year after next. In our system, customer demand determines the budget. It's worldwide, where all sorts of professors want a new product. They have to apply the money. When they apply the money, they have to have the specification. If it's a standard equipment, it's easy for us, but in many cases that is not the case. If it is standard, then there’s a set price. But in many cases it's more than that. So this also assures us of next year's and the year after that's sales.

Aspray:

But is there a research department within the company that is responsible for developing those things that the Oxford professor wants that aren't part of this standard equipment now?

Ito:

Yes, because this is only a modification. It's not completely new. We wish that there was a completely new instrument. Hopefully we will have one in the future. He will keep this company away from sophisticated research. He is technology oriented, yes. Truly. It is not market-oriented, but new technology-oriented; the real work is done only after the request.

Advantages of Starting Co. in Late 1940s

Aspray:

Are there some topics that we haven't talked about in the history of your company that we should talk about on tape?

Ito:

Well, I think that you already know more or less what it's like. I think that we can run this company because it started before the war. But if we were, for example, young and new today, could we do the same thing? We wonder very often if we could do the same thing now. It would be very difficult.

Aspray:

Why do you think there is a difference between then and now?

Ito:

We are specialists in the field. I meet a lot of venture companies because I am a director of the semiconductor material institute (SEMI) in the USA. The members are eighty percent from venture industries, entrepreneurs. We were also entrepreneurs but the difference between them and us is that, when they started their companies they had a clear idea, the clear knowledge of what to do. Before starting their entrepreneurial companies, they were either in academia or in a research institute in the big companies. So they had a clear idea when they started the ventures. In our case were fortunate that this doesn't apply to us.

Proudest Achievements

Aspray:

As a way to close the interview, if each of you want to answer this question I would be grateful. The question is, if you want to be remembered for something you have done in this company, how would you like best to be remembered? What do you feel best about? What are the things that you are most proud of in the way that you have helped your company?

Kazato:

Well, that's simple. Starting from zero and creating this success. This is not a big company, but still in this analytical field this is one of the biggest companies.

Aspray:

Very good. Anything else you would like to add today?

Kazato:

The thousand KV electron microscope isn't here today, sorry, so you can't see that. The one angstrom unit also isn't here. It is at the customer’s site already in Stuttgart.

Aspray:

Right.

Ito:

We exhibited our first microscope in 1947.

Kazato:

This microscope on the wooden table.

Ito:

Actually, this is the second type. This is the first electrostatic type. It doesn’t exist any more.

Takahashi:

How high is the voltage?

Ito:

50 KV. The resolution, I think is thirty angstroms, at best and it was manufactured at Mobara.

Kazato:

In 1948 our factory was still in Chiba and at that time the Crown Prince (the present emperor) visited our factory, and he saw this electron microscope. We were very proud because he was there. The Crown Prince was at that time a middle-school student. He was around fifteen at that time. A few boys including one of Yoji Ito’s sons explained our electron microscope to the Crown Prince. They were all the same age. The students trained him to operate the electron microscope. Later, there was an international conference, and the Crown Prince made a speech. He remembered our electron microscope, and he said it was very impressive. He was very pleased with it.

Aspray:

That's very nice.

Ito:

You know that this company is different. Normally I could be the same as you, some professor somewhere. But I was very pleased to join this company. This was a unique opportunity for me to be able to be worldwide, to be able to meet many people internationally. And finally to sit together and have a good retired life.

Company Philosophy

Aspray:

Well, very good, thank you both for the interview. But before we leave could you read the company philosophy to me, so it's on tape for us?

Ito:

"On the basis of creativity, and research and development, JEOL [the name of the company] positively challenges the world’s highest technology thus forever contributing to the progress in both science and human society through its products."

Aspray:

Thank you.