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Business

What became of the zaibatsu

The trials and triumphs of being a family business in Japan

Akio Toyoda, center, attends a 2009 handover ceremony in Nagoya in which he took over the presidency of Toyota Motor from Katsuaki Watanabe, left.

TOKYO While the bulk of Asia's corporate behemoths emerged after World War II, many Japanese companies can trace their roots back to family-owned conglomerates that existed before the war.

The breakup of the prewar zaibatsu in Japan by the Allied occupiers, along with an increase in the maximum inheritance tax rate soon after the war, reshaped the family-owned giants. Today, Japan no longer has any equivalents of India's Tata group or Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Group, both family-run. Most of the companies in the Mitsubishi group, for example, are not controlled by the founding Iwasaki family, despite bearing the Mitsubishi name so closely associated with the family.

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