Inoue was one of five Choshu samurai
sentsmuggled to England in the mid-1860s to figure out how to modernize Japan. He studied railway technology at the University College London, and following his return to Japan served as head of the Japanese national railway program, in some form or another, from 1869 to 1893. During this time he supervised the building of Japan’s first railway line from Tokyo to Yokohama (the first Tokyo station has been reconstructed and can now be seen in Shiodome), and the eventual completion of the Tokaido Main Line between Tokyo and Kobe in 1889.
In his later years he was made a Viscount and served in the House of Peers (sort of the old Japanese equivalent of Britain’s House of Lords). He is also the last “i” in the Koiwai food company, which he co-founded in 1891.
So next time you pass through Tokyo Station, tip your hat to a fellow who helped pave the way for the most awesome railway system in the world. (Or, if you don’t have a hat, do what I do and just take pictures.)