Olympus Chronology

From the Founding of Olympus to the End of World War II

Takeshi Yamashita founded the company that would become Olympus and built foundations for manufacturing microscopes, during the tumultuous times of this period that included social and economic events such as the Great Kanto Earthquake and World War II.

Yamashita's company worked relentlessly to accumulate technology and expand sales channels with the aim of manufacturing Japanese-made microscopes that could compete with imports. The challenges of this time are described in booklet "Kusetsu 13-nen" (13 years of unswerving efforts) which was written by founder Yamashita. With the development of the Showa GK microscope, the company finally broke through into the market for high-magnification oil-immersion microscopes, which was previously dominated by imported products.

The company achieved rapid growth, in part because of government policies designed to encourage the development of Japanese-made products. For example, in just one year it succeeded in creating the prototype for the MC metal microscope, which was comparable in quality to products manufactured by Reinhart, then considered to be the best in the world. It also succeeded in developing the Zuiko range of photographic lenses and began to diversify into other areas, including the manufacture of the first Olympus camera, the Semi-Olympus.


Takeshi Yamashita

  • Olympus is founded as Takachiho Seisakusho in the Hatagaya District of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. The founder of the company, Takeshi Yamashita, establishes the company with a view to achieving domestic production of microscopes. (Oct. 12)
  • Kenzaburo Kawakami is appointed as the first President. (Oct. 12)


The Asahi 600x microscope

  • The Asahi 600x microscope goes on sale. (Mar. 1920)
  • The name "Olympus" is registered as a trademark. (Feb. 1921)
  • The Takachiho-Inari Shrine is built in the grounds of the head office to commemorate the company's seventh anniversary. (Oct. 1926)
  • The Showa GK immersion microscope is launched. (1927)
  • The Seika microscope is dedicated to Emperor Hirohito. (May 1928)


The first Olympus camera, the Semi-Olympus I

  • The MC metal microscope is perfected. (Feb. 1930)
  • Booklet "Kusetsu 13-nen" (13 years of unswerving efforts) is published. (1932)
  • The founder, Takeshi Yamashita, becomes President. (Mar. 1934)
  • A factory is opened in the Tagoto district of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Apr. 1936)
  • The company achieves its cherished goal of expansion into the camera business with the development of the Zuiko photographic lenses. The first Olympus camera, the Semi-Olympus I, is launched. (Sep. 1936)
  • Yasusaburo Chatani is appointed President. (Apr. 1939)


  • Takachiho Seisakusho is renamed Takachiho Optical Industries. (May 1942)
  • A factory is opened in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture. (Dec. 1943)
  • A factory is opened in Ina, Nagano Prefecture. (Feb. 1944)
  • Shokichi Kanda becomes President. (Jun. 1944)