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The Nissho Maru Incident: Challenging the Dominance of the Major Oil Firms

In March 1953, Idemitsu secretly sent the second-generation Nissho Maru to Iran, which was involved in a dispute with Great Britain after nationalizing its oil industry. Loaded with about 22,000 kiloliters of gasoline and diesel oil, the Nissho Maru returned to the Port of Kawasaki in May, greeted by welcoming crowds.
In response, the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (the predecessor of BP) sued Idemitsu in Tokyo District Court, claiming ownership of the Nissho Maru's cargo. This “Nissho Maru Incident” would be fought out in the courts. The judicial process was reported on in detail in the newspapers day after day, and in the end Idemitsu was victorious, as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company dropped its case.
Imports of Iranian oil ended in 1956, after the unity of the major oil firms (international oil capital) again strengthened in Iran.
However, this incident was a predecessor of direct trades with oil-producing states and served as an impetus in turning the eyes of Japanese people to the Middle East. History also shows that the incident was seen in the Japan of that time, which had lost its confidence as a result of its loss in World War II, as a heroic deed that helped the nation regain its stature in international society.
The first oral arguments in the Tokyo District Court (May 1953)
The first oral arguments in the Tokyo District Court (May 1953)
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