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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nikon and the sponsorship of Japan’s optical industry by the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1923-1945 Alexander, Jeffrey William Scott


This thesis examines the development of Japan's optical industry during the 1920s, 1930s, and through the immediate post-World War Two era, placing particular emphasis upon the support given to emergent optical firms by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). The author seeks to trace IJN support for optical munitions development back to the Washington Naval Limitation Treaty of 1922 and the subsequent London Naval Treaty of 1930 - arguing that the root of Japan's early optical research and development initiatives is to be found in Japan's compensatory Naval Supplementary Bill of 1930. Faced with the limitation of both the number and size of its capital and auxiliary warships after 1930, the I JN sought to divert the remainder of its ship construction budget toward the fullest development of experimental weapons and related systems. This changing attitude toward maximizing auxiliary technologies in lieu of additional vessels gave a significant boost to such companies as Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha — which came to be known in the post-war era as Nikon. Through an investigation of Nikon's own company histories and the U.S. Navy Technical Mission to Japan. 1945. the operational and technical growth of companies such as Nikon , Fuji, Canon, and Minolta are examined. Critical technical advances made in the furtherance of IJN projects such as optical glass manufacturing, aerial camera design, infrared imaging, rangefinder production and periscope lens coating techniques are shown to be at the heart of Japan's optical design and manufacturing successes in the post-war occupation period. In building upon its significant wartime technical breakthroughs and mass-production processes, Nikon was able to capture post-war consumer optical markets both at home and abroad by the late 1950s. That chain of events is herein demonstrated to have originated with the emphasis placed by the IJN upon developing auxiliary and experimental weapons technologies following the London Naval Treaty o f 1930.

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