Akio Morita (1921-1999)

Akio Morita

1921 On the 26th of January, in an industrial city, Nagoya, the third largest city in Japan, Akio Morita was born. He founded a global corporation, Sony Corporation, so becoming a billionaire and a symbol of modern management; he also joked saying that his greatest achievement was the invention of a new English word – walkman. Since childhood he was ready to take over the family’s business, a sake factory, founded 14 generations before. Morita succeeded by his own.

1944 He graduated Physics at Imperial University in Osaka. Very good at Physics, he was employed for a short time within Military Research Committee of Japanese Navy, so having the chance to meet Masaru Ibuka, his future business partner.

1946 On May, he opened a business in a bombed building, where a radio repairing centre had been before. They started having shares less than 500 dollar, money which they had borrowed. Ibuka, who was 38 years old, focused on new products’ researching and development. Morita, 21 years old, took care of finances, human resources and marketing. Their first task, which corresponded to that of the entire Japan, was to clean the image that their country had, namely that of a producer of shoddy goods and imitations and to create a wonderful image characterized by excellence and innovation. They established Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo KK (Tokyo Corporation of Telecommunications Engineering).

1950 The both produced the first Japanese magnetic tape and the first recorder for that tape.

1957 They launched the first miniature radio, with transistors, a series product. The device was a bit too big to fit the pockets of usual shirts, but salesmen, who promoted it, had special pockets, a little bit bigger than the usual ones.

The pocket radio, essential for Morita’s strategy, overturned the normal business logic. Instead of trying to find what the audience needed and to manufacture that device, Morita made things nobody was thinking about, like the recorder without the recording function.

1958 He turned the company’s name into Sony Corporation. Morita’s global ambitions made him change the name of the company - which was well posited and respected within Japanese market – into a more understandable and easier to pronounce for foreigners. Sony behalf – a combination of Latin “sonum” (sound) and the jargon “sonny” (lad) – was meant to inspire youth and noncompliance. In order to sublimate his global intentions internally, too, Morita ordered Sony name be written in katakana Japanese letters which are usually used to write foreign names and words. Giving up to “Kogyo” (Engineering) from company’s name, Morita prepared the way to diversify company’s offer – music, entertainment and finance.

1960 Sony Corporation of America was based in USA and Morita moved here to build his own sales network. This year Sony also launched on the market the first TV entirely built with transistors.

1961 Morita became the first Japanese entrepreneur who turned to foreign owned at the expense of the banks from his country.

1966 The book that launched it, "Never Mind School Records ", he questioned Japanese trust they had in conventional education achievements, focusing on flexible thinking.

1971 Sony became the first Japanese company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1979 He launched walkman. Morita saw people trying to carry big and solid radios and he intuited that there was a niche  for a device to listen to music to and which could have offered to the listener the possibility to do something else in the same time – so walkman appeared.

Sony’s innovative chain of products continued with the radio self removable, mini TV, the first VCR for household consumer, triniton system for colur TV and 3.5-inch diskette. There were also fails. Betamax system was ouclassed by VHS enen if it was totatly superior.

1989 He launched 3.5-inch diskette. The purchasing of Pictures Columbia company was not what everybody expected. Morita’s co-author for the volume “The Japanese Who Coul Not Say No” did not put him into an emarassing situation when American companies, criticized for indolence, foyght back hardly.

1992 He took part in Tri Lateral Commission in order to reduce trade frictions.

1993 When he was on he point to be appointed as President of Keidanren (Federation of Japanese Trade Organisations) he suffered a stroke that stopped his career as a businessman remaining for the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

1999 On the 3rd of October Akio Morita died at Tokyo because of pneumonia.


“There are to many in Japan” – so Morita characterized the sensational trade return after the war, a complinet sustainet also by his autobiography called “Made in Japan” (1986). But Morita was not a common Japanese worker. Japanese directors are cautious, consensual and known for the difficulty the discuss to foreigners. Morita was not like that enen if he was “addicted” to work. He said one day: “We do not trust market research for products that are unknown to the audience. So we do not make this kind of researches [1]. 




1 - Akio Morita (1921-1999), ro.biography.name - accesed on 28.07.2014

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