Born on January 25, 1858, in the town of Toba on Japan's Shima peninsula, Kokichi Mikimoto was the eldest son of a noodle-shop owner, a generations-old family business. As the family grew, Mikimoto's father worked hard to feed his children, selling charcoal and vegetables in addition to noodles. When Mikimoto was only 11, his father fell ill, propelling the young boy into an early adulthood and prompting him to to seek his fortune in a changing, modernizing world.
Mikimoto was born at the end of the Edo period, a time when Japan was almost totally closed to foreign influence. With the arrival of Commodore Perry in the early 1850s, the doors of international trade began to open and an era of social change started. Highly intelligent and ahead of his time, Mikimoto was bold in his willingness to interact with other cultures and explore new opportunities beyond his family circumstances.
As a young man, he developed a keen interest in his port town's most famous local product: Ise Pearls.
Because these natural pearls fetched such high prices, they were gathered without
restraint, becoming scarcer with each passing year. Concerned about extinction of the pearl-producing oysters, Mikimoto embarked on his life-defining mission to grow pearls within his own, protected oyster beds.