The Mitsubishi Group, Mitsubishi Group of Companies, or Mitsubishi Companies, all refer to a large grouping of independently operated Japanese companies which share the Mitsubishi brand name. While the companies are autonomous, they share the brand name and trademark, as well as a common legacy.
The Mitsubishi group of companies form a loose entity, the Mitsubishi Keiretsu, which is often referenced in US and Japanese media and official reports; in general these companies all descend from the zaibatsu of the same name. A keiretsu is a common feature of Japanese corporate governance and refers to a collaborative group of integrated companies with extensive share crossholdings, personnel swaps and strategic co-operation.
The first Mitsubishi company was a shipping firm that Yataro Iwasaki established in 1870. In 1873 it took the name Mitsubishi Shokai. The name Mitsubishi has two parts: “mitsu” means “three” and “bishi” means “water chestnut”, and hence “rhombus”, which is reflected in the company’s logo. Another translation is “three diamonds”.
The company bought into coal mining in 1881 acquiring the Takashima mine, using the produce 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.