Trained as a physicist, Morita was an officer in the Japanese navy during World War II. His family was involved in sake production. He met Masaru Ibuka in the Wartime Research Committee; on May 7, 1946, they founded Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K. (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, later Sony) with approximately 20 employees and initial capital of 190,000 yen. Ibuka was 38 years old at the time and Morita was 25.
In 1949 the company developed magnetic recording tape and in 1950 sold the first tape recorder in Japan. In 1957 it produced a pocket-sized radio and a year later renamed itself Sony (sonus is Latin for sound, and Sonny-boys is Japanese slang for "whiz kids"). In 1960 it produced the first transistor television in the world.
In the early 1990's, he was famous for co-authoring an essay The Japan that Can Say No with politician Shintaro Ishihara, which was critical of United States business practices, and encouraged Japanese to take a more independent role in business and foreign affairs.
On November 25, 1994, Morita announced his resignation as Sony chairman, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while playing tennis. His successor, Norio Ohga, had joined the company after sending Morita a letter denouncing the poor quality of the company's tape recorders.
Morita also wrote a book called Never Mind School Records in the '60s, which stressed that school records are not important in one's success or ability to do business. He was also Vice Chairman of the Keidanren (Japan Federation of Economic Organizations) and was a member of the Japan-U.S. Economic Relations Group, (also known as the "Wise Men's Group").
He was awarded the Albert Medal from the United Kingdom's Royal Society of Arts in 1982; he was the first Japanese to receive the honour. Two years later, he received the prestigious National Order of the Legion of Honor and in 1991, he was awarded the First Class Order of the Sacred Treasure from H. M. the Emperor of Japan.
He died of pneumonia at the age of 78.
- Morita, Akio. Made in Japan (New York: Dutton, 1986)
- Morita, Akio. Never Mind School Records (??, 1966)
- Morita, Akio (Co-Author) and Shintaro Ishihara. The Japan That Can Say No (Simon & Schuster, 1991)