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Hakata Culture vol.159


Yasuzaemon Matsunaga: A Businessman with Close Ties to Fukuoka

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Yasuzaemon Matsunaga (1875 - 1971) was a businessman who contributed to the development of the electric power industry in Japan, earning him the nicknames of “god of electricity” and “electric power fiend.” He was born on Iki island in Nagasaki Prefecture, but he first got his feet wet in the electric power industry in Fukuoka. He was involved in the founding of the Fukuhaku Electric Streetcar Line, Fukuoka’s first electric railway, and this company would later become Nishi-Nippon Railroad Company.


Back then, electric railways and electric power development were closely linked, so the Fukuhaku Electric Streetcar Company would later merge with several power companies. Before World War II, the company became the Toho Electric Company, one of the five biggest power companies in Japan, and it supplied electricity to a wide area including Chubu, Kansai, Shikoku and Kyushu. After the war, this company was divided up into Chubu Electric Power, Kansai Electric Power, Shikoku Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power.


The base of operations for the streetcar and electric power company was the then-undeveloped neighborhood of Tenjin, which, as a result, would later grow into the bustling area that we now know today. The land owned by the company became the site of the long-standing department store Iwataya. Yasuzaemon also served as the first president of Saibu Godo Gas, the predecessor to Saibu Gas.


In addition to his work as a businessman, Yasuzaemon was also a renowned antique art collector and a tea ceremony master who went by the name of Jian. He did not begin learning tea ceremony until he was 60, but by his nature, he tackled the traditional art with passion and became a master. Likewise, his dedication to antique art led to him amassing a formidable collection. He donated many of his pieces, including important cultural assets, to the Fukuoka Art Museum which are on display in the Yasuzaemon Matsunaga Room. Pieces are rotated in for themed exhibits every one or two months.




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福岡とゆかりの深い実業家・松永安左エ門

松永安左エ門(1875~1971年)は電力業界で活躍したことから、「電力王」や「電力の鬼」とも呼ばれる実業家です。長崎県壱岐に生まれましたが、電力事業に踏み出す第一歩となったのは福岡の地です。福岡で初めての電気鉄道事業者である「福博電気軌道」の開業に関わりました。福岡市内で路面電車を運用していたこの会社は、後に西日本鉄道となる前身のひとつです。


当時の電気鉄道事業は電力開発と深く結びついていました。そのため福博電気軌道はその後にいくつかの電力会社と合併・統合されていきます。第二次世界大戦前には全国の5大電力のひとつ「東邦電力」となり、中部、関西、四国、九州にまたがる広範囲に電力を供給していました。この会社は戦後の電力再編で分割され、それぞれ中部電力・関西電力・四国電力・九州電力になります。


電気・電鉄事業の本拠地には、当時まだまだ開発されていなかった天神を選び、その後の繁華街としての発展に大きな役割を果たしました。会社の所有地を提供して生まれたのが、天神の百貨店として長年親しまれてきた岩田屋です。このほか北部九州を中心にガスを供給する西部ガスも、九州のガス事業者を集めて安左エ門が初代社長を務めた「西部合同瓦斯(がす)」が前身となっています。


安左エ門は実業家として活躍する一方で、松永耳庵(じあん)と号する茶人・古美術収集家としても有名でした。茶道を始めたのは60歳のときでしたが、何事にも情熱を注ぐ性格から深く茶の湯に傾倒し、収集品も膨大な数にのぼります。重要文化財を含む多くの品が福岡市美術館に寄贈され、館内の展示室「松永記念館室」で1~2ヵ月ごとにテーマを変えて展示されています。