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Japanese Sunshine

In 1946, as Japan rose from the rubble of a devastating world war, Masaru Ibuka and his partner opened a repair shop among the broken fragments that once were Tokyo. They called their shop “Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo” and said its purpose would be “To do what others have not done.” In the years to come, repairman Masaru Ibuka would become widely known for his books on the education of young children. In an interview shortly before his death, he said, “I was blessed by Taeko, and she was the sunshine of my life.” 

Taeko was Ibuka’s mentally retarded daughter. 

Of Ibuka’s many books, some of the most controversial were:
The Missing Half of Education-Japanese Who Left Behind Their Humanity
Thirty-minute Briefings for Mothers - What You Should Do Now
The Pleasure of Parenting
A Fetus is a Genius

In his bestselling book, Kindergarten is Too Late, Ibuka expressed his philosophy of life: “Courage is not absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair. If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Everyone should develop fully his or her potential abilities and grow courageous in thought and straightforward in character.”

Upon its release, Kindergarten is Too Late sold so rapidly that the printer had to print five editions in the first thirty days and sales didn’t slow until after the eighty-seventh edition. Obviously, Ibuka left his mark on the world. But what became of his business in Tokyo? 

During the early years after World War II, “Made in Japan” meant “Low Quality Product,” so in between repairs, instead of making copies of inventions from other nations, Ibuka and his partner worked to create things that didn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Their first product, an electric rice cooker, failed, but the little company hung on. During these years, when Ibuka would drop in to visit his cousin Tachikawa, the family would silently fly around the house, whispering “Masaru is here,” hiding their clocks and other items to prevent Ibuka from tinkering with them.

In the early 1950s, Ibuka heard about Bell's invention of the transistor. While American companies were researching the transistor for military applications, Ibuka envisioned using it for communications. He convinced Bell to license the technology to his little Japanese company. 

A Harris Poll conducted in 1998 confirmed that Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, the little repair shop created by Masaru Ibuka and his partner, had overtaken GM and General Electric to become the best known brand in the world. But you’ve probably never heard of Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo because in 1958, since the initials “TTK” were already taken by another company, Ibuka’s partner suggested they take the name “Sonus,” referring to the mythic god of sound, while Ibuka was drawn to the warmer “Sonny-boy,” an American phrase used to describe a bright young child. 

So like true partners, they compromised. 

Taeko was Ibuka’s daughter and the sunshine of his life. But Sony was his “sonny-boy,” the bright light that sprang from his mind.

~ Roy H. Williams

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Invisible Heroes is a collection of more than 100 biographical stories written by Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads. You can read a few of these stories in the archives of this web page, but most of them are inaccessible because they're soon to be published in a book.

We create our heroes from our hopes and dreams. And then they create us in their own image. Heroes raise the bar we jump and hold high the standards we live by. They're the embodiment of all we're striving to be.

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