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Sony founder and Waseda alumnus Masaru Ibuka

Waseda University Archives
Shigeharu Takagi

Japanese electronics industrialist and co-founder of Sony Masaru Ibuka was an alumnus of Waseda University’s former School of Science and Engineering. Ibuka enjoyed tinkering with devices as a child and prioritized experimentation over classwork at university. He created a giant speaker for Meiji Jingu Stadium with a fellow classmate upon request from electrician, inventor, and educator Tadaoki Yamamoto. In 1933 he garnered significant attention after newspapers covered his graduate research on light-wave communication.

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Ibuka receiving an honorary doctorate at Waseda
on October, 1979 (Courtesy of Waseda University
Archives)

Ibuka’s reputation as an inventor is strong, but he was also active in selling his devices overseas.

Creator of Japan’s first tape recorder, Ibuka traveled to the US for the first time in 1952. The purpose of his trip was to learn about US technology and sell his own company’s products. “Even if we create new devices, they may not be welcomed by Japanese consumers. However, they will surely catch the interest of US consumers,” said Ibuka with high expectations. Although the trip was not successful in terms of sales, it laid the groundwork for the huge success of Sony’s future transistors.

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Ibuka’s graduation thesis (courtesy of Waseda
University Archives)

Sony products such as pocketables, the Trinitron, and the Walkman, were given English inspired names for international marketing purposes. Sony was established to succeed overseas and developed international marketing strategies. However, Ibuka did not simply want to advance into the international market. “It would be great for Sony to be recognized as a global entity, but it is because I love Japan, the country that raised me, that I believe we must look to the rest of the world.” Ibuka believed in the importance of staying true to one’s self and served as a trustee and counselor at Waseda University where he made several donations towards the development of the university. Ibuka, who advanced overseas while staying true to himself is a prime example of a Waseda global citizen.

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