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Kokichi Mikimoto

Kokichi Mikimoto (御木本 幸吉) (January 25, 1858 - September 21, 1954) is the Japanese inventor of the cultured pearl.

Born as the first son of a noodle shop owner in Toba, Mie prefecture he left school at the age of 13 selling vegetables to support the family. Seeing the pearl divers of Ise unloading their treisures at the shore in his childhood started the fascination with pearls. In 1888 he obtained a loan to start his first pearl farm at the Shinmei inlet in Shima province (now Mie prefecture) together with his wife and partner Ume. On July 11, 1893, after many failures and near bankruptcy, the first cultivated pearl was obtained. It took another 12 years to create completly spherical pearls that were indistinguishable from natural ones. In 1899 the first Mikimoto pearl shop was opened in the fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo. The Mikimoto empire expanded internationally soon thereafter. In September 1954, Kokichi Mikimoto died at the age of 96. Posthumously he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of Sacred Treasure.