September 27, 2007,08:50 +0900(JST) View from the President’s Office (1)
My main office is located in the Head Office building in Osaka. I want to tell you today about the view from the window of my office.
I have another office in the Tokyo Head Office. I spend a lot of time there, too, so I may be able to tell you some other time about the view I get there.
Now, the Head Office in Osaka is in Yodoyabashi, in the Sumitomo Building, which was built in 1962. The building is adjacent to the Tosabori River, which means that I can enjoy quite a beautiful landscape by glancing out of my window every now and then when I pause from my work.
The Yodoyabashi area is named after “Yodoya,” the business concern that was built up in the early 17th century by Jo-an Okamoto, who became Japan’s most successful merchant by trading in timber and rice at the time. His successor, Gento built a bridge, which came to be known as Yodoya-bashi (“bashi” means a bridge in Japanese), for the convenience of those who came to the rice market.
If you think about it, it’s wonderful that such a bridge still remains in Osaka, a 400-year old heritage for posterity, a structure that was created out of a concept of harmony with the local community, a concept known today as CSR.
The Yodoya business was liquidated by the Tokugawa government in the early 18th century because of the dissipate lifestyle of the fifth proprietor. Later, Yodoya’s former top manager started up the business again but at the end of the Edo Period (the middle of 19th century), he sold everything and disappeared. There is an unproven theory that this was what provided the financial backing for the anti-government movement that brought about the Meiji Restoration. Whatever the truth may be, Sumitomo bought the land around this area after the Meiji Emperor came on the throne.
I can look out my window and cast my thoughts on the wealthy merchant who left his name on the bridge and the small street called Yodoya-koji positioned south from there. This is quite a special experience.
To the right stands Osaka City Hall. Behind it spreads Nakanoshima Park. Although I can’t see them from here, the Central Public Hall, the Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library and the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka are within a stone’s throw. I told you before that the Ataka Collection at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka was donated by the Sumitomo Group. The Nakanoshima Library was also built around 1910 with donations received from the Sumitomo family.
There is a large copper plaque hung in the Central Hall of the Library. It bears a message of congratulations at the opening of the building, written by Kichizaemon Sumitomo (the 15th head of the family business.)
It quotes, “…Those who enter this building should look up and think of the prosperity of the nation, look down and study carefully the wealth of the prefecture, culture themselves, nurture themselves, encounter different theories and make ever-increasing achievements in the future…”
I would like all those who work for Sumitomo to bow their heads and solemnly engrave these words in their mind.