Kokichi Mikimoto’s Unforgettable Dream
I once read that every single pearl evolves from a central core- a fragment of a shell or fishbone, a grain of sand. To protect itself from that irritant, the oyster secretes multiple layers of nacre, which form a beautiful pearl.
I think of this process when I think of my grandmother, whose name was Bya-ok (Korean for “White Pearl”). She survived the 1937 forceful deportation by Stalin, World War II, and some very significant events in her life. Despite it all, she became one of the rarest and most beautiful of pearls.
I am grateful to her, my greatest inspiration, for her love and wisdom. She would always remind me to pursue impossible dreams. One of her teachings that I learned is that anything is possible if you pursue your dreams.
I think that it is appropriate to share an inspiring story of Kokichi Mikimoto, who is known as “The Pearl King.”
Kokichi was the oldest of five children. His father was an owner of udon (noodle) shop in Toba Shima Province. At the age of 13, he left the one-room school to support his family working in the noodle shop. He was fascinated as he was watching pearl divers who were often forced to descend to depths of over 100 feet on a single breath. Most of the time, divers had to go 40 feet (12 meters) or over 125 feet (40 meters) deep to find pearl oysters. As you can imagine, these dives were extremely dangerous due to wild ocean creatures, drowning, or effects of cold water of the ocean.
In 1893, after many failures and near bankruptcy, Kokichi was able to create his first cultured pearl. It would take him until 1909 before he could create spherical pearls that were highest quality. Kokichi would go on to overcome many obstacles. But he had to overcome his greatest setback, the loss of his beloved wife and greatest supporter, Ume. She was 32, leaving him with five little children. He would never remarry. He dedicated all his time to cultivate a perfect pearl just like Ume.
In 1899, he opened his first shop in Tokyo and fourteen years later in London.
After World War II, Mikimoto opened up shops in Paris, New York, Los Angels, Bombay, and Shanghai.
In 1926, Mikomoto met Thomas Edison at the Philadelphia World Exposition. During a meeting, Edison said to Kokichi, “It is one of the wonders of the world that you were able to culture pearls.” Mikimoto humbly responded, “If you were the moon of the world of inventors, I would simply be one of the many tiny stars.”
Kokichi Mikomoto died on September 21, 1954, at the age of 96. He was awarded by the Grand Gordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a Japanese order established by Emperor of Japan.
Kokichi Mikimoto devoted his entire life to the cultured pearls and set his unforgettable dreams upon them.
His dream “to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls” continues to inspire the world!