Thomas Blake Glover, Order of the Rising Sun (6 June 1838 – 16 December 1911) was a Scottish merchant in Bakumatsu and Meiji period Japan.
Thomas Blake Glover was born at 15 Commerce Street, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire in north east Scotland on 6 June 1838, the fifth of eight children to Thomas Berry Glover and Mary Findlay. His father was a coastguard officer. Six years later the family moved to Bridge of Don, near Aberdeen, his father having been promoted to Chief Coastguard Officer. Upon leaving school, Glover entered into employment with the trading company Jardine Matheson
In 1859, Glover crossed from Shanghai to Nagasaki and worked initially buying Japanese green tea. Two years later, he founded his own firm, Glover and Co. (Guraba-Shokai).
His business was based in Nagasaki, and it was here that he had his home constructed, the first Western-style building in Japan
In 1868, Glover made a contract with the Nabeshima clan of Saga Domain in Hizen Province and began to develop Japan’s first coal mine at Takashima. He also brought the first dry dock to Japan.
Thomas Glover went bankrupt in 1870, but he stayed in Japan to manage the Takashima coal mine after the Restoration for the mine’s Dutch owners until it was taken over by the Meiji government. In 1881, the mine was acquired by Iwasaki Yatarō.
Glover was a key figure in the industrialisation of Japan, helping to found the shipbuilding company, which was later to become the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan. Negotiating the sale of William Copeland’s Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama, Glover also helped establish the Japan Brewery Company, which later became the major Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. An urban myth has it that the moustache of the mythical creature featured on Kirin beer labels is in fact a tribute to Glover (who sported a similar moustache).
In recognition of these achievements, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (second class).
Thomas Glover died at his home in Tokyo, but was buried at the Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.
Glover’s former residences in Nagasaki and Aberdeen have both since been turned into museums, with the beautifully situated Glover Garden house in Nagasaki attracting two million visitors each year. He also had a residence in the Shiba Park area of Tokyo.
Glover’s family home in Scotland, Glover House, 79 Balgownie Road, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen is now open to the public as a restored Victorian house, telling the Glover story. The home where he was born in Fraserburgh was destroyed by World War II bombing although a blue plaque marks the site of his birth. Glover’s link to his birthplace is commemorated at Fraserburgh Heritage Centre.