Zaibatsu (Japanese: 財閥, lit.: property) is a Japanese term meaning "money clique" or conglomerate.

It was used in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century to refer to large family-controlled banking and industrial combines. The four major zaibatsus have a history that goes back to the Edo period. The four major zaibatsus (四大財閥) are Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo and Yasuda. Business conglomerates, second-tier zaibatsus, that emerged after the Russo-Japanese War until the Pacific War are Okura, Koga, Nakajima, and Ayukawa.

The term gained popularity in the United States in the 1980s to refer to any large corporation, in large part from its usage in a few cyberpunk stories, but it is not used in Japan for anything other than historical discussions (meaning property).

The zaibatsu were technically dissolved by reformers during the Allied occupation of Japan. Their controlling families' assets were seized; holding companies, the previous "heads" of the zaibatsu conglomorates, eliminated; and interlocking directorships, essential to the old system of inter-company coordination, were outlawed. The ten zaibatsu that were targeted by the SCAP for dissolution in 1946 are Asano, Furukawa, Nakajima, Nissan, Nomura, and Okura. Matsushita, while not a zaibatsu, was originally targeted for breakup, but was saved by a petition organized by the union, which was signed by 15,000 of its workers and their families (Morck & Nakamura, p. 33 (

Complete dissolution of the zaibatsu was never achieved by Allied reformers or SCAP, in part because the zeitgeist supported such conglomerates. They were widely considered beneficial, and the opinions of the Japanese public, of zaibatsu workers and management and of the entrenched bureaucracy regarding plans for zaibatsu breakup ranged from unenthusiastic to disapproving. Additionally, the changing politics of the Occupation during the reverse course served as a crippling, if not terminal, roadblock to zaibatsu elimination.

Keiretsu, the subsequent inheritors of the corporate legacy of zaibatsu, remained fundamentally correlative, but the old "mechanisms of financial and administrative control" were destroyed (Allinson p. 75). Despite the absence of an actualized sweeping change to the existence of large industrial conglomerates in Japan, the zaibatsu's previous vertical chain of command, ending with a single family, was displaced by the horizontal relationships of association and coordination now characteristic of keiretsu—an important difference. The Japanese term keiretsu (系列), meaning "series" or "subsidiary", could be interpreted as being suggestive of this difference.


List of zaibatsu

The Big Four

Second-tier zaibatsu


See also

External links

fr:Zaibatsu it:Zaibatsu ja:財閥 zh:財閥


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools