Hiroshi Mikitani 101: The Visionary Behind Rakuten
Zatrun Published at April 28, 2024

Hiroshi Mikitani, the renowned Japanese billionaire, has left an indelible mark in the world of business and beyond. His visionary leadership has not only reshaped e-commerce but also extended to sports and philanthropy. At, we’ve explored the remarkable journey of this business magnate and writer.

Early Life and Educational Pursuits

Born in 1965 in Kobe, Japan, Hiroshi Mikitani hails from a family with deep roots in academia and business. His father, Ryōichi Mikitani, served as the Chairman of the Japan Society Of Monetary Economics and was a professor at Kobe University. His mother, Setsuko, was a graduate of Kobe University and worked for a trading company. Mikitani’s multicultural exposure began early, with his mother having attended elementary school in New York.

Mikitani pursued his higher education at Hitotsubashi University, where he graduated in 1988 with a degree in commerce. This educational background laid the foundation for his future endeavors, blending commerce and innovation.

Venturing into Banking and Beyond

Hiroshi Mikitani commenced his career in the financial sector, joining the Industrial Bank of Japan in 1988. However, a pivotal moment came when he took a break from banking to attend Harvard Business School from 1991 to 1993. This break led him to question his career path, and he returned with a renewed vision.

The devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake profoundly impacted Mikitani, inspiring him to contribute to Japan’s economic revitalization. This pivotal moment marked his transition from banking to entrepreneurship. He decided to start his own consulting group, the Crimson Group.

Hiroshi Mikitani: A Vision Realized

In 1996, Hiroshi Mikitani embarked on a journey that would redefine e-commerce. He founded the e-commerce company MDM, Inc. in 1997, with a mere US$250,000 of their own money. The launch of Rakuten Ichiba in Japan in May 1997 marked the beginning of a revolution in online shopping. The company soon rebranded as Rakuten, Inc. in 1999 and went public on the JASDAQ in 2000.

Mikitani’s vision for Rakuten was to create a unique online marketplace, combining elements of eBay and What started as a small marketplace with just 13 shops and 6 employees grew into an e-commerce giant, encompassing various business units such as travel, e-books, credit cards, and online shopping.

In 2010, Mikitani initiated a game-changing strategy known as “Englishnization,” making English the primary language of Rakuten within two years. This bold move aimed to enhance the company’s global competitiveness, emphasizing the importance of English fluency in a Japanese company. The success of this initiative was later featured in a Harvard Business Review case study.

Under Mikitani’s leadership, Rakuten expanded beyond Japan, acquiring various overseas e-commerce sites and venturing into diverse business sectors. As of 2017, Rakuten had over 14,000 employees, more than 42,000 shops on its e-commerce sites, and boasted sales of nearly US$6 billion.

Sports Enthusiast and Philanthropist

Hiroshi Mikitani’s influence extends beyond the corporate world. He is the chairman of the football club Vissel Kobe, demonstrating his passion for sports. Additionally, his involvement in the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles baseball team helped rebuild the team and the stadium in Sendai, bringing a sense of hope and unity to the region after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In 2017, Mikitani co-founded Kosmos Holding with FC Barcelona player Gerard Piqué. This investment group focuses on companies in the sports, media, and entertainment industries. Their acquisition of the Davis Cup and FC Andorra showcased their commitment to sports and their global influence.

Mikitani’s philanthropic endeavors further highlight his commitment to positive change. In a notable gesture, he announced a substantial donation of ¥1 billion ($8.7 million) to the Ukrainian government to support it during the Russian invasion.

Hiroshi Mikitani’s exceptional contributions have earned him numerous honors and awards. In 2012, he received the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award, a testament to his business acumen and leadership. He was also appointed to Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s Industrial Competitiveness Council.

The French government recognized his achievements by awarding him the rank of Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2014. In the same year, he received the Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Spain-Japan Business Contribution Award.

Mikitani’s personal life is equally enriching. He and his wife, Haruko, have been married since 1993 and are proud parents of two children. Hiroshi Mikitani’s journey from a young graduate to a business magnate, visionary leader, and philanthropist is a testament to his commitment to positive change and innovation.’s exploration of his life and career offers insights into the mind of a true visionary.

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