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This year, Japan is celebrating the 130th anniversary of the birth of Toyohiko Kagawa, who is considered the father of Japan's thriving cooperative movement. Kagawa was born Junichi Kagawa in Kobe, Japan, on July 10, 1888. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by missionaries and spent time studying in the U.S.

Japan's cooperative sector, one of the largest in the world, traces its roots to Kagawa's early work. He founded several consumer, agricultural, and fishing cooperatives — starting with Co-op Kobe, the oldest consumer cooperative in Japan, in 1921. His legacy is preserved by the nonprofit Kagawa Resource Center and Archives, the hub for historical information about Japan's cooperative sector.

Explore the timeline below to learn how Japan's cooperative movement grew from its humble start in Kobeto to become an economic powerhouse with over 65 million members and over $135 billion in yearly turnover. The information was gathered from the Kagawa Resource Center, the Japan Consumer Cooperative Union and the Japan Cooperative Alliance.


Want to learn more about the sharing economy in Japan? Check out this in-depth feature story.

Header image provided by the Japanese Consumer's Co-operative Union

Nithin Coca


Nithin Coca

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on pressing social and environment issues, particularly in developing countries.