This paper discusses the career decision made by Sazo Idemitsu （1885─1981）, the founder of Idemitsu Kosan, Co., Ltd.（ 1940─）, upon his graduation from college, and the reason for his selecting Sakai Shokai, a private firm. According to Idemitsu, when he became an apprentice to Sakai Shokai immediately after his graduation, his former classmates insulted him for being “a disgrace to the college.” Through verification of this poor reputation of his career decision, we researched the preferences of graduates from Kobe Higher Commercial School concerning their career decisions over the period from the late 1900s to the mid-1910s. At that time, graduates had the option either to become a white collar worker at a modern company or to serve a premodern private firm as an apprentice.
Our research found that every year a few graduates from the college planned to join private firms and that it was not only Idemitsu who planned to undergo training in practical business at such a firm in order to prepare themselves for starting up their own businesses in the future. A few such graduates were determined to serve at private firms as an apprentice, although their number was limited. However, Idemitsu, who graduated from the college at the end of 1900s, belonged to the last generation who considered an apprenticeship as an effective means to learn about practical business.
In the mid-1910s, more than 10 graduates annually began to join Mitsui & Co., Ltd., one of Japan’s major trading companies. At the same time, the number of graduates who joined Suzuki & Co.（ 1874─1927）, which grew its business dramatically during World War I, also began increasing rapidly. The transition from the late 1900s to the mid-1910s was a turning point for both types of graduates : those who aspired to join modern companies and those who planned to serve at traditional private firms.