“Japanese imperialism, in its early-1900s advance into Manchuria, chose to assume the form of a railroad company.
“The South Manchurian Railway Company (Mantetsu) held its inaugural meeting on 26 November 1905. It had authorized capital to the order of ¥200MM, at the time the largest joint-stock company ever in Japan.
“Half the initial capital was invested by the Japanese government in the form of capital-in-kind, namely existing railways that were turned over to Japan from the Chinese Eastern Railway. The property of the existing railways given the SMR by the government had been destroyed by the ravages of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), with the railway shut down or demolished at many sites.
“The SMR quickly prove itself profitable: ¥3.6MM in 1907 profits, upwards of ¥14MM by 1912, a double-digit return on investment. Initially, however, the Japanese presence in Manchuria was of peripheral concern to the empire’s wider considerations in Korea, Formosa, and Sakhalin. But, that changed in 1931 as Manchuria became the new focus for military conquest, economic development, and mass migration.”
– Life Along the South Manchurian Railroad, by Ito Takeo & Joshua A. Fogel, 2016