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The Mitsubishi Group (三菱グループ, Mitsubishi Gurūpu) (also known as the Mitsubishi Group of Companies orMitsubishi Companies, and informally as the Mitsubishi Keiretsu) is a group of autonomous Japanese multinational companies in a variety of industries.
It is historically descended from the Mitsubishi zaibatsu, a unified company which existed from 1870 to 1947 and was disbanded during the occupation of Japan following World War II. The former constituents of the company continue to share the Mitsubishi brand, trademark, and legacy. Although the group companies participate in limited business cooperation, most famously through monthly “Friday Conference” executive meetings, they are formally independent and are not under common control. The three main companies in the group are The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (the largest bank in Japan), Mitsubishi Corporation (a general trading company) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (a diversified manufacturing company).
In 1881, the company bought into coal mining by acquiring the Takashima Mine, followed by Hashima Island in 1890, using the production to fuel their extensive steamship fleet. They also diversified into shipbuilding, banking, insurance, warehousing, and trade. Later diversification carried the organization into such sectors as paper, steel, glass, electrical equipment, aircraft, oil, and real estate. As Mitsubishi built a broadly based conglomerate, it played a central role in the modernization of Japanese industry.
In February 1921, the Mitsubishi Internal Combustion Engine Manufacturing Company in Nagoya invited British Sopwith Camel designer Herbert Smith, along with several other former Sopwith engineers to assist in creating an aircraft manufacturing division. After moving to Japan, they designed the Mitsubishi 1MT, Mitsubishi B1M, Mitsubishi 1MF, and Mitsubishi 2MR.
The merchant fleet entered into a period of diversification that would eventually result in the creation of three entities:
- Mitsubishi Bank (now a part of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group) was founded in 1919. After its mergers with the Bank of Tokyo in 1996, and UFJ Holdings in 2004, this became Japan’s largest bank.
- Mitsubishi Corporation, founded in 1950, Japan’s largest general trading company
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which includes these industrial companies:
The firm’s prime real estate holdings in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo, acquired in 1890, were spun off in 1937 to form Mitsubishi Estate, now one of the largest real estate development companies in Japan.