January 28, 2008,09:42 +0900(JST) In Kurashiki-city

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to visit Kurashiki-city in Oakayama prefecture with my wife, for personal reasons. Kurashiki being not far from my home, it didn’t involve much travel, but on this first visit in 25 years I was impressed by the way the city of Kurashiki remained almost unchanged. I felt a strong sense of familiarity with Kurashiki, as I was able to identify what I saw there with fragments of my memory.

We enjoyed leisurely walks on Kurashiki Ivy Square tourist complex, in the city’s scenic historic area, and along the Kurashiki River. As we walked along the River, admiring old houses and storehouses with traditional white-plastered or square tile-covered walls, we felt as if – although this is a rather commonplace expression - we had been transported to the Edo period, hundreds of years ago. I truly admire those who are making constant efforts to preserve such a scenic traditional townscape.

Jean-d’Aaire,What I definitely wanted to do in Kurashiki was visit the Ohara Museum of Art. This museum, opened in 1930 as Japan’s first museum of Western Art, was named after its founder, a unique business leader, Magosaburo OHARA (second president of Kurashiki Cotton Spinning Company that is now Kurabo Industries Ltd.).

Upon walking through the front gate, visitors are greeted with Rodin’s impressive statue of Jean d’Aire from “The Burghers of Calais,” on the right in front of the main building. Upon entering the building, you’ll find El Greco’s “Annunciation,” so famous that it requires no further comments; other tableaux by Impressionists such as Cezanne, Monet and Renoir, and even some works by modern artists such as Gauguin, Matisse and Pollock. Most of the works of art in the museum’s superb collection were chosen by the discerning eyes of Torajiro KOJIMA, painter and friend of Mr. Ohara.

As I walked slowly through the museum appreciating the paintings one by one, it was as though I could sense, through those works of art, the strong, almost intense commitment that the late Mr. Ohara must have had to this place. He is known to have boasted of his insight, saying that his eyes could see ten years into the future. Yet, he had a strong sense of service to society, loved his employees like his own family and devoted himself to various cultural projects, including the Ohara Museum, and community activities. I felt that the museum visit enabled me to come into contact with the spirit of this great businessman.

By the way, after visiting the museum, you can nurse your tired feet in the adjacent café El Greco, savoring its delightful coffee and cake.

Kurashiki seems to me one of the few cities in the world that enjoy truly significant corporate community contribution. There are many words that express how corporations can serve society, such as CSR, philanthropy and mecenat, and it seems as if these words are used every day in every place of the world. In Kurashiki, corporate contribution is not just words, but it is authentic and can be seen in action and felt in spirit.

January 21, 2008,13:53 +0900(JST) From my New Year Speeches

I had the opportunity to give several speeches at various New Year functions. When I speak in pubic, I always try to pick a topic that is suitable for the respective occasion, which is not that easy. Today I’d like to share with you three of the topics I included in my New Year speeches.

- Kanji of the year 2007
Scene from a New Year celebration partyThe kanji of the year 2007 - that is, one Chinese character that symbolizes the year - is reported to be “gi,” meaning “false.” Perhaps many of you saw in newspaper photos and TV news the large calligraphy that Great Priest Mori of Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto made of this kanji, which was chosen by an overwhelming majority vote. Indeed, the year 2007 saw a succession of scandals involving the meat, confectionary, building material and many other industrial sectors falsifying data or selling faulty products, as well as events that deepened people’s distrust in politics and their uncertainty in general, starting with the collapse of Prime Minister Abe’s government. In this sense, the kanji “gi” symbolically describes the year.
However, if I may speak like a social commentator, in any part of the world, human actions have often been faulty in part. Moreover, from a Machiavellian standpoint, the year 2007 was not such a bad year after all.
Let me explain what I mean by that. From the viewpoint of Sumitomo Business Spirit, nurtured through over 400 years of Sumitomo history and emphasizing total focus on all matters, the importance of winning society’s trust and the abhorrence of easy profit, 2007 saw a shameless display of evil deeds by people with no scruples. At the same time, the fact that their falsehood was finally brought to light and promptly penalized and socially banished by the Japanese can be viewed as a piece of good news, a source of relief. In more general, moral and spiritual terms, however, 2007 can be called a low-quality year.

- Sexagenary cycle of Chinese astrology in Yasuoka’s neo-Confucianism Studies
In the sexagenary cycle of Chinese astrology as interpreted by the late great scholar of Oriental philosophy Masahiro YASUOKA (1898 – 1983) based on the neo-Confucianist teachings of Wang Yangming, the year 2007 was “hinoto-i,” which can be expressed as “year of daily renewal and correction from the core,” as I said last year.
The year 2008 is “tsuchinoe-ne,” which signifies growth and increase. It would be appropriate to interpret it as “year in which everything prospers and develops”; however, it should be noted that both growth and increase imply the possibility of difficulties emerging from excessive prosperity.
This year should rather be viewed as a “year of prosperity, resolute decision-making and execution of actions.” In other words, in 2008, for business management it is particularly important to quickly detect seeds of destruction in the process of prosperity and development, decide impartially and resolutely what to do about them, and promptly take action.
(I based my speech on Masahiro Yasuoka’s book “Eto Shingo” and information provided by Kansai Shiyu Kyokai.)

- Sumitomo Electric Group in 2008
In 2008, economic expansion is expected to continue on a worldwide scale, led by China and India. At the same time, with numerous factors meriting concern, such as the declining American market, higher raw material prices and the decrease in new construction projects starting in Japan, prospects for the Japanese economy remain difficult to predict.
At the Sumitomo Electric Group, we view this year as Stage II of the move toward our goal of becoming a “Glorious Excellent Company”led by our new mid-term business plan “Vision 2012,” which has finally started full-scale. This new plan, “Vision 2012,” which aims at building on our strategic strengths, includes as its targets 3 trillion yen in consolidated sales, 210 billion yen in consolidated operating profit and 10% in ROE in FY 2012. Toward these targets, we are determined to continue making our utmost Group-wide effort in 2008 to further improve the efficiency of our existing business activities, increase our competitiveness and conceive and develop new business activities that will lead our future growth.
Moreover, as to our new R&D centers, we are building a WinD Lab at Osaka Works and a Technical Training Center - which will be the Sumitomo Electric Group’s manufacturing training center - at Itami Works. Through these efforts and many others, we are determined to continue strengthening our business foundation so as to better respond to our customers’ needs.

January 17, 2008,09:23 +0900(JST) Requests for the Sumitomo Electric Group People in Connection with the Group’s Annual Policy

As already publicly announced, the Sumitomo Electric Group is planning to carry out a variety of measures to realize the new mid-term business plan “Vision 2012.” So I have summarized in three requests what I would like to see the Sumitomo Electric Group people work on with particular emphasis this year.

I have already published these requests in a short text in this year’s first press release and gave a detailed version in the in-house newsletter. On the year’s first day of work many of the Sumitomo Electric people heard me speak of these requests in my own voice, although as a recording. However, I’d like to repeat here the requests and the principles on which “Vision 2012” is based, because I’m determined to take every opportunity to impress on the Sumitomo Electric Group people the requests and the principles as they’re really important, and because I’d like other people related to the Group to know about them. So I might appear a bit too persistent, but for confirmation’s sake, here goes …

1. Vitalize SEQCDD’ activities
The first request is that you vitalize your SEQCDD’ activities. SEQCDD’ stands for Safety, Environment, Quality, Cost, Delivery and (Research and) Development. Various activities are already under way at different levels, some Group-wide and some workplace-based. Such activities have already begun to produce steady positive results.
Still I’d like to ask you to remind yourselves of the origin of the SEQCDD’ activities, and continue making conscious efforts to vitalize them. This is because as time passes and the situation changes, such activities often end up becoming part of the daily routine, and their objectives and originally envisaged results can be easily forgotten.
I’d also like to ask you to set and observe clear deadlines and time frames in pursuing your activities. This means that you must first clarify your objectives and goals, make careful preparations to overcome obstacles and resolve problems, then take action, always keeping in mind your overall schedule for achieving objectives and goals.
I’d like to ask all of you to vitalize your respective activities, while maintaining the sense of crisis and the motivation for improvement felt at the outset of the activities, taking creative steps toward attaining tangible results and remaining strongly determined to fulfill your respective objectives.

2. Stay focused
Secondly, I’d like to request that you stay focused. In the beginning of Monju-in Shii-gaki (the Aphorisms Monju-in), which was written by Masatomo SUMITOMO (1585 – 1652), the first-generation head of the House of Sumitomo, and which serves still as the source of Sumitomo Business Spirit, there is a passage about an ideal man, who stays focused on all matters in life and does his best in all sincerity and integrity.
Obviously, I can’t ask you to stay focused on all matters in life, but staying focused at work, maintaining an appropriate degree of constructive tension in your workplace, is effective in improving the quality of work and thereby enhancing your sense of fulfillment and achievement. I know that workplaces that are particularly highly regarded by other companies have a bracing atmosphere of creative tension. I hope that all of you will try to create such an atmosphere in your respective workplaces.
For many years, we’ve been carrying out safety and quality improvement activities that involve everyone. All these boil down to individual members’ attitude toward their work: whether or not they are well focused. Staying focused is the most effective measure for improvement; I hope all of you engrave this in your mind.
I therefore ask you to stay focused in your day-to-day work, never allowing idleness to take over, always remaining alert, mastering the basics and executing in all sincerity.

3. Cultivate a deeper sense of compassion
Thirdly, I’d like to ask you to cultivate a deeper sense of compassion. “Compassion” can also be “love” and “respect.” They all come from the same root, and a corporation with global business development should nurture them, no matter what.
Toward the Group’s great common goal of realizing a “Glorious Excellent Company” and the “Vision 2012,” we are pursuing a variety of concrete measures in our respective organizations, forging common vectors and building on strategic strengths.
The Sumitomo Electric Group is a gigantic corporate entity comprising over 130,000 employees and some 400 affiliated companies. When such a huge group takes vigorous action toward ambitious goals, chances are that severity reign over the group, with a harsh and often self-righteous ambiance overshadowing it.
To avoid such a situation, each one of us must always have a sense of compassion and be willing to listen to others and try to understand the others’ position and constructively exchange opinions, so as to optimize overall results. I believe that in this way we can positively invigorate our group while further motivating ourselves, moving the fastest way toward our goals.
Staying focused and having a deep sense of compassion are never mutually exclusive. I can reformulate my requests as follows: do your best at work, with your mind focused at all times and with compassion in your heart.

January 11, 2008,09:05 +0900(JST) Work rather than Golf?

On January 7, the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (the Business & Technology Daily News) carried an article introducing an episode from my interview with this business newspaper. The article was titled “Work rather than Golf,” but I never meant to say that you have to choose one over the other. Nevertheless, the article accurately reports what I said, and my intention was to ring a little alarm bell for business leaders who don’t do their homework.

As you go higher in your position, you have less and less free time. I’m myself often confronted with a minute-by-minute schedule. Still, if you are a business leader it is important and necessary to keep abreast of the best and latest information in the domain that concerns you and regularly set time aside for self-improvement. Finding a considerable chunk of time wouldn’t be a problem during the New Year holidays, for example. On a day-to-day basis, however, you’d only have the weekend to do that, unless you decide to find time very early in the morning or very late at night.

As I wrote in the past entry about the trip to Hokkaido, I play golf, and I particularly love golfing with my close friends in a relaxed, animated atmosphere. Some weeks I play golf on both Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes I even play golf for more than two days in a row, on remotely located courses!

However, I always tell myself that I should never let such a leisure-centered schedule take hold of me, since I wish to secure as much free time as possible to pursue more intellectual activities, such as reading classics, looking at paintings - which I really enjoy - and learning new languages.

As I have said already, it is true that Western business leaders take a keen interest in various fields and spend much time on personal development. As globalization advances and a single world market begins to emerge, Japanese managers must also continue working on themselves so that they can truly stand on a par with their Western counterparts. Otherwise, we’d fall behind in the world. This is also what I told myself early in this New Year.

January 9, 2008,16:45 +0900(JST) Welcoming in the New Year

Happy New Year to you all!
Dear blog readers, I hope you all had very nice New Year holidays.

As for me, I went to China on business toward the end of last year. There, I had the opportunity to enjoy a little bit of Mao-tai wine, said to cost 160,000 yen (about 1,550 US dollars) per bottle. A drink of this grade has a distinctive character of its own. Enchanted by the sublime taste of the liquor, I was asking for another “Ganbei” (the Chinese for “Cheers,” literally meaning “Dry the cup”) before I knew it.

On the first three days of the New Year, Kansai (western Japan) was blessed with relatively good weather, and we had pleasant New Year holidays. I went to shrines for the first visits of the year, and to ancestral graves. It was cold but sunny, perfect for the beginning of a new year.

Since January 4, the year’s first day of work, I’ve been visiting people to offer my New Year wishes. As for this blog, I intend to keep it up with vigor. I hope you will continue to visit this site in the coming year.

SUMITOMO ELECTRIC President CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto

Born in 1944 in Hyogo Prefecture, Masayoshi Matsumoto joined Sumitomo Electric in 1967. After serving as General Manager of Chubu District Office, Managing Director and Senior Managing Director, he assumed office of President and CEO in June 2004.

His leisure activities include jogging, reading and art appreciation. Also a seasoned athlete, he played baseball in junior high school and practiced judo in senior high school. In university, he threw the javelin competitively and participated in all-Japan inter-university competitions.

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