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The history of the battery

1) The Yai dry-battery

The first Japanese to create a battery is said to have been Shozan Sakuma (1811-1864). The battery he created is thought to have been a "Daniel battery" (wet battery).

The world's first dry-battery was invented in Japan during the Meiji Era. The inventor was Sakizou Yai. Unfortunately, the company Yai founded no longer exists.

Sakizou Yai was born in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture in 1863. In 1875 at the age of 13 he became an apprentice at a watch shop in Tokyo.

In 1885 at the age of 23, he invented a battery-powered clock that kept accurate time, which was called the "continuous electric clock" and was patented in 1891. This was Japan's first patent related to electricity.

However, the batteries used were wet batteries, such as the Daniel battery, and these batteries had the disadvantage of requiring maintenance and being unusable when they froze during the winter. Thus, he began his quest to invent the "dry-battery."

During the day, he worked for the company, and at night, he worked on developing a battery, and for three years he got an average of three hours of sleep a night. He became a hand at a science university laboratory, where he worked diligently. It appears that Sakizou Yai consulted at length with academics, and he was probably the first pioneer of cooperation between industry and academia.

There were difficult problems to overcome—chemicals were leaking out of the positive terminal, the metal became corroded and unusable—but by impregnating paraffin in a carbon rod, he invented the "dry-battery" in 1887.

However, the first patent holder of a battery in Japan was not Sakizou Yai, but Ichisaburo Takahashi. In overseas, Carl Gassner (Germany) and Hellsens (Denmark) invented dry-batteries in 1888.

The Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1894, and an extra edition of the newspaper one day reported the great success of the military dry-battery used in Manchuria. In those days, a liquid-based battery was used, but only the dry-battery could stand up to Manchuria’s harsh winter cold, and the extra edition newspaper said that "our victory in Manchuria relies in no small measure upon the dry-battery." Reporters of the newspaper learned that this dry-battery was the very one invented by Sakizou Yai, and the next day they ran a story about Yai.

In 1910, Sakizou Yai established the sales division of his company in Nishiki-cho 1-chome, Kanda-ku, Tokyo and at the same time he built a factory in Kamiyoshi-cho, Asakusa-ku, Tokyo. He beat out the foreign competitors and grew to reign supreme over the domestic dry-battery market, and became known as the "king of the dry-battery."

In 1927, possibly as a result of his arduous efforts since he was young, he developed stomach cancer complicated by acute pneumonia, and he passed away at the age of 66. The "Yai Dry Battery" company was not inherited by his successors, and the name of Yai Dry-Battery disappeared from the registry of the Dry Battery Industries Association (predecessor of the BAJ) in 1950.