Yasuzaemon Matsunaga (1875 – 1971) was a businessman who contributed to the development of the electric power industry in Japan, earning him the nicknames of “god of electricity” and “electric power fiend.” He was born on Iki island in Nagasaki Prefecture, but he first got his feet wet in the electric power industry in Fukuoka. He was involved in the founding of the Fukuhaku Electric Streetcar Line, Fukuoka’s first electric railway, and this company would later become Nishi-Nippon Railroad Company.
Back then, electric railways and electric power development were closely linked, so the Fukuhaku Electric Streetcar Company would later merge with several power companies. Before World War II, the company became the Toho Electric Company, one of the five biggest power companies in Japan, and it supplied electricity to a wide area including Chubu, Kansai, Shikoku and Kyushu. After the war, this company was divided up into Chubu Electric Power, Kansai Electric Power, Shikoku Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power.
The base of operations for the streetcar and electric power company was the then-undeveloped neighborhood of Tenjin, which, as a result, would later grow into the bustling area that we now know today. The land owned by the company became the site of the long-standing department store Iwataya. Yasuzaemon also served as the first president of Saibu Godo Gas, the predecessor to Saibu Gas.
In addition to his work as a businessman, Yasuzaemon was also a renowned antique art collector and a tea ceremony master who went by the name of Jian. He did not begin learning tea ceremony until he was 60, but by his nature, he tackled the traditional art with passion and became a master. Likewise, his dedication to antique art led to him amassing a formidable collection. He donated many of his pieces, including important cultural assets, to the Fukuoka Art Museum which are on display in the Yasuzaemon Matsunaga Room. Pieces are rotated in for themed exhibits every one or two months.