Niitsu Tsunekichi (1870-1939), the Oil baron in Japan: To dedicate his wealth to society.
Located near the center of Niigata city, on a hill in Asahimachi, the revered old Mr. Niitsu built a magnificent three-storied Western-style house. Why he built it? How was the life of Niitsu Tsunekichi?
In 1870, the revered old Mr. Niitsu was born in Izummozaki in Niigata prefecture, has a major port and Japanese oldest oil well. He lost his father at the age of 9 and became an apprentice of merchandiser in the following year. At the age of 18, he succeeded to his family business, worked as a haberdashery peddling and then started the petroleum refining industry at the age of 22. At one point his business was back to square one by flood damage when he was 38 years old, but his business had greatly improved by obtaining a favor with Nakano Hirokazu, an oil excavating contractor of Niitsu city. He became known nationwide for selling un-washing-gasoline at the age of 45.
Niitsu Tsunekichi had adopted Niitsu Yoshio as a successor, told his philosophy “I will give the best education for you, and will not leave any extra wealth for you”, and started two new enterprises in 1935. One enterprise was to donate and build a public hall for the public of Niigata city by his private property. The other was to build a guesthouse for such as foreign guests in one corner of his home.Thus the public hall and the guesthouse were established in 1938 and the statue of Niitsu Tsunekichi was erected in front of the public hall. The following year he passed away at the age of 69 and foreign guests were not meet at this guesthouse.
Niitsu Tsunekichi devoted himself to promote petroleum refining in Niigata prefecture, the center of oil in Japan and had cherished his own entrepreneurship and contribution to the regional community throughout his life. The public hall changed into the Niigata Citizens Art and Culture Center, and the guest house was renovated and opened to the public as the Niitsu Memorial Museum to inherit the philosophy of the revered old Mr. Niitsu. There are the statue of the revered old Mr. Niitsu in front of the Niigata Citizens Art and Culture Center and the exhibition room on the ground floor.