2007 / Japanese American National Museum “Special display commemorating the life of late Akio Morita, co-founder of the Sony Corporation” July 13 – September 9, 2007

Akio Morita (foreground) standing in front of the first Sony showroom in the United States. The Sony showroom opened on Fifth Avenue in New York City in October of 1962. (Courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum)

A special display commemorating the life of the late Akio Morita, co-founder of the Sony Corporation, will be on view at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles beginning Friday, July 13, 2007 and running through September 9, 2007.

Developed by members of the Morita family, this exhibition highlights many of the achievements of Akio Morita (1921-1999), who is widely known as an electronics innovator. But he also spent much of his professional life enhancing relations between Japan and the rest of the world.

Morita’s fledgling post-World War II electronics firm began making in-roads in America with innovations such as transistor radios, Trinitron color televisions and portable personal entertainment devices such as the Walkman and Watchman.

Committed to creating quality products, Morita was determined to change the world’s perception of Japan as a country only able to manufacture “paper umbrellas, kimonos, toys, and cheap trinkets.”

Morita was also interested in building better relations between Japan and other countries, like America. He was the recipient of an Honorary KBE (Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his work in this area.

He also was among the first Japanese businessmen to acknowledge the contributions of Japanese Americans in helping Japanese corporations to establish themselves in the United States.

He credits advice from a Japanese American lawyer named Yoshinobu Kagawa for moving his family to New York City in the 1960s. Morita acknowledged that Japanese Americans “played a significant and historic role in teaching Japan and the Japanese about things America. There are many in Japan, people like myself, who owe a tremendous debt to Americans of Japanese ancestry.”

That motivated Morita to organize a fundraising campaign by the Keidanren (Japanese Federation of Economic Organizations) for the Japanese American National Museum to help construct the institution’s Pavilion.

The Akio Morita exhibition is comprised of photographs, videos, and artifacts that provide insight into this singular individual who was a devoted husband, father, internationalist ands visionary genius.

The Los Angeles presentation was made possible, in part, by the generous support of the Sig & Betsy Kagawa Foundation, Bill & Carol Ouchi, Sony Electronics Inc., American Airlines, and Hiroko Onoyama Sugawara.

The exhibition is free to the museum members or with admission. The museum is closed on Mondays and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday and open until 8 p.m. on Thursday.

For more information, call the Japanese American National Museum at (213) 625-0414.

This article appeared in Cultural News 2007 June Issue