Japanese business conglomerates. The zaibatsu (literally ‘financial clique’) were large business concerns, with ownership concentrated in the hands of a single family, which grew up in the industrialization of late 19th-century Japan. They had their origins in the activities of the seisho (‘political merchants’), who made their fortunes by exploiting business links with the newly restored Meiji government. The five major zaibatsu (Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Okura, Sumitomo, Yasuda) controlled much of Japanese industry and trade up to World War II. In 1948 a decree limited the influence of the traditional zaibatsu families, and prevented members of these families from continuing to hold official positions in zaibatsu companies. The influence of the zaibatsu therefore declined. They are now more usually known in Japan as keiretsu.
Subjects: Economics — History.