jewelry, first cultured pearl
(1858 – 1954)
Born: Toba, Mie Prefecture, Japan
To learn more: mikimotoamerica.com
“ If you were the moon of the world of inventors, I would simply be one of the many tiny stars. ”
— Mikimoto Kokichi
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Kokichi Mikimoto was born on January 25, 1858 in the town of Toba on Japan’s Shima Peninsula. Dedicated to protecting and propagating stocks of native akoya oysters depleted by over-harvesting of natural pearls, Kokichi Mikimoto became fascinated with the possibility of producing cultured pearls. After severe financial hardships and innumerable setbacks including devastating red algae blooms, Kokichi Mikimoto became the first in the world to successfully culture a semi-spherical pearl on July 11, 1893. The site of his success was the island of Ojima near Toba, now known as Mikimoto Pearl Island.
Japan’s first pearl specialty boutique, the Mikimoto Pearl Store was opened in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district in 1899, laying the groundwork for the modern jewelry industry in Japan. Turning his attention overseas at an early stage, Kokichi Mikimoto exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and subsequently showed his pearls at numerous international fairs and expos. In 1913, the first overseas Mikimoto Pearl Store opened in London, soon to be followed by Mikimoto locations in New York, Paris, and other major cities. Synonymous with cultured pearls, the Mikimoto name also became a symbol of Japanese culture around the world.