Today in Transportation History – 1843: The Father of the Japanese Railways in Born

Inoue Masaru, who became known as the Father of the Japanese Railways for his contributions to transit services, was born in the city of Hagi on Japan’s main island of Honshu. In 1863, Inoue – along with four other students from the region of Honshu that was then known as the Chōshū Domain (a feudal jurisdiction) – went to England to further his education and technical expertise. The young men collectively achieved fame as the Chōsū Five, the first of many groups of Japanese students who made their way to universities abroad over the next half-century. (In 2013, various events were held in both Japan and England to commemorate the 150th anniversary of when Inoue and the other pioneering students arrived at University College London.)

The Choshu Five, c. 1863 (Inoue Masaru center)

Inoue studied civil engineering and mining at University College London. He returned to Japan in 1868 and, three years later, was appointed the first director of the nation’s Railway Board. While serving in this position, Inoue played a key role in the planning and construction of a more extensive and modern railway network within Japan. His accomplishments included developing the Nakasendō Railway on Honshu. Inoue also strongly emphasized the importance of long-term and comprehensive plans for building other mainline railway systems in Japan. In addition, he staunchly advocated for the issuance of public bonds to help finance the construction of these railways.

After retiring from government service, Inoue continued to pursue various railway priorities. He founded Kisha Seizo Kaisha, the first locomotive manufacturer in Japan, and served as its first president starting in 1896. In 1909, he became president of the Imperial Railway Association. Inoue died in London the following year during an official visit on behalf of Japan’s Ministry of Railways.

For more information about Inoue Masaru, please check out

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