March 28, 2008,09:07 +0900(JST) Visit to Okinawa

A little while ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Okinawa prefecture.

Okinawa in early March - many people especially in business circles would immediately associate it with Daikin Orchid Ladies Gold Tournament which takes place at that time. Many top businessmen take great pleasure in going to Okinawa each year at this time and to meet many successful local people.

The tournament is sponsored by Daikin Industries, Ltd. and Ryukyu Broadcasting Corporation. It kicks off the new season’s official fixtures for the LPGA of Japan. Amid the glamour, the serious competitiveness of the professional golf players is evident in this tournament every year, making it an exciting event. This year’s result was a first-time win by Song Bo Bae, defeating Sakura Yokomine who was unable to hold onto her lead.

I am always truly impressed by the dedicated effort that the people of Okinawa put into this event. I won’t refer to the organization of the tournament itself here but in the special pre-tournament events that were held, I heard very useful explanations and comments about what is going on in Okinawa today, what course it is aiming to steer and what the future holds for it.

Okinawa tends to be regarded first and foremost as a prefecture located on the south-western tip of the Japan, a place with regional characteristics. However, I sincerely hope that it will undergo new and successful development, making effective use of its diverse resources such as scenic beauty and entertainment assets for tourism business or human ones.

I have said before that it is my belief and desire for Japan to develop not as a country that is solely focused on its capital but as a country that flourishes on the diversity of its different cities and regions. I would like Okinawa to be the standard bearer in this regard.

Getting back to the golf tournament, there is a preceding pro-am match and I took part in it as well. The lady professional that I paired up with was Ms Midori Yoneyama. She is last year’s defending champion. Not only is she a good professional golfer, she is also an admirable person. I wish her all the best this season.

Now, I’d declared before that I won’t disclose my score in my blog so I will refrain from telling you the result.

Ms Yoneyama made a slow start on the first day of the tournament, which was the day after the pro-am match. Despite her furious fight-back on the final day, she finished 18th.
…I feel a little responsible as the previous day’s partner.

March 24, 2008,15:46 +0900(JST) Watching Sumo

The Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka has just finished. This tournament was won by the yokozuna (highest ranking sumo wrestler) Asashoryu, who had not won the trophy for three consecutive tournaments. He smiled with great satisfaction as he received his trophy after such a long interval. I think it must have been quite emotional for him as much had happened in the meantime.

Everyone recognizes his outstanding ability, so I hope this will be a good fresh start for him. I hope he will make further effort and become a great yokozuna who is applauded by all. I don’t want to give a sermon but I fear some of his actions in the ring do not befit a wrestler of his ability. He still behaves very much like a naughty kid. I feel I need to make a point of speaking in this hard way.

Watching at the ringsideThe reason why I say this is that I had a direct ring-side view this time in addition to the normal sumo-watching on TV on my days off. Thanks to an invitation, I sat in a ring-side sumo box to see the bouts on the nakabi (midpoint and 8th day of the 15-day tournament).

Watching a live sumo bout is a special experience.
Giant sumo wrestlers calmly walk up the special aisles and sit in their waiting seats until their names are called out by the bout announcer (yobidashi). Then they mount the ring, stamp their feet on the ring to warm up, scatter the purifying salt, try to stare their opponents out. As this process is repeated, the blood rises in the wrestlers’ torsos and their faces look like that of ferocious gods.

As they make the initial charge (tachiai), should they start off by hitting each other with their heads, a dull thudding noise resounds throughout the gymnasium. The sharp sound of a slap or a rebuffing strike frightens you out of your wits. When the bout is finished, the combative spirit leaves the wrestlers gradually and their bodies regain their natural color. This is a thrill and enjoyment that can only be appreciated when you’ve actually been to see a sumo tournament in the flesh.

As you cheer for your favorite wrestler, laugh at the moves that popular wrestlers make, sigh at the yokozuna’s ring-entry ceremony (dohyo-iri), watch breathlessly a fiercely fought bout, in no time you reach the end of the sumo day, which finishes with the ceremonial bow dance (yumitori-shiki).

Sumo is an enjoyable spectator sport and a majestic ritual at the same time. You can get full enjoyment even by sitting in a relatively inexpensive stall. I highly recommend that you go and see a sumo tournament live.

March 14, 2008,09:05 +0900(JST) In Harmony with the Community (2)

Now, let’s look at what happened to Nissin Electric’s perimeter wall.

The new fenceCompared to the old one, I think we can call it a total makeover.

By using fencing made of stainless steel pipes, the oppressive feeling has been removed. Passers-by can walk along here with spirits uplifted. I think it’s wonderful that the company can now communicate itself to the outside world through its appearance, sound, wind and even smell.

One of the reasons why I’m fond of this new see-through fence is, in addition to the excellent atmosphere created by it - one reason is that I really like the planting of the grounds.

View of plants through the fence from the sidewalkCan you tell from these two photographs? The plants that are planted in the grounds are labeled so that you can find out what they are from the inside of the fence as well as the outside of the fence. There are two labels. I’d be very happy if visitors to the company and people who walk along the outside of the fence would stop to look at the trees or plants, find out what they are called and feel pleased. It’s only a small act of consideration for others. Still, when one contemplates the partnership between the company and its many stakeholders, such attention to detail is truly important.

Apart from this, I’ve been told that the company cooperated with the Arashiyama Park-and-Ride Scheme run by Kyoto City and opened its headquarters car park to the public at the weekends in mid-November last year. (This area of Kyoto is famous for autumn colors and many visitors come to the area at this time of year.) This was a great contribution to boosting the image of Kyoto as a tourist destination.

The title of this blog entry is “In Harmony with the Community” – it may sound high and mighty, but there is no doubting that a company should give thought to how it can live harmoniously with the community in far more diverse ways and dimensions.

Every single attempt at doing something to make local people happy is a meaningful act. Just as I wrote before with reference to our Group’s activities in Hokkaido, I think we can highly appraise Nissin Electric’s approach, its aim to become a more “open” company for the local people with the renewal of the company fence. This is why I wanted to tell you about Nissin Electric, which is a member of Sumitomo Electric Group.

March 11, 2008,10:10 +0900(JST) In Harmony with the Community (1)

It may sound like a grand statement but I think that corporations of the future will not survive unless they try to exist in harmony with the local community. The word CSR crops up a great deal nowadays and we are urged to contemplate the importance of partnerships between companies and their various stakeholders. Such concern and connection with the community are a natural part of any company that has survived historical turmoil and prospered over many generations.

This can be said of us, the Sumitomo Group. I believe we engage in business management that pays heed to contribution in diverse phases – be it to the country, community or individual: we always consider what our mission is as a company and execute our business with a commitment to serving others.

Let me digress a little. As a way of making social contribution, there is this concept of carrying out acts of charity in secret. This applies to both public and private acts. As you practice this over the years and your acts accumulate, an invisible hand will reward you in the form of prosperity down to your posterity. This is a totally irrational concept. However, if we cast our thoughts to an organization that manages to flourish over many centuries, this concept may not be a totally incredulous one.

To get back to my theme, what does the phrase “harmony with the community” bring to your mind? As a typical example, I’d like to tell you a good anecdote about Nissin Electric Co., Ltd, which is one of our affiliates and core companies in the Sumitomo Electric Group’s energy sector operations.

Nissin Electric was founded in 1917. It is a company with a long history. Especially noteworthy is the fact that it set up headquarters and main plant in Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City in 1937. Ever since, it has developed steadily and successfully as a blue chip company based in Kyoto. It is a company of world renown, delivering distinctive technology and unique products in the energy sector, including power capacitors, substation facilities, control systems, and beam-oriented/vacuum equipment. I told you before that we made a TOB and made this company our consolidated subsidiary so that we may achieve further growth. (Click here for more details.)

Old perimeter wallThe project that Nissin Electric undertook was the renewal of the perimeter wall around its headquarters and main plant. The company decided to remove the old concrete wall that had surrounded its headquarters and main plant and to replace it with stainless steel fencing. It decided to get rid of the “shielding wall” whose sole intention was security. The new fence shows consideration for its surroundings. It is a fence that allows people to look in and to look out.

This photograph is that of the old wall. One movie company asked to use it in filming a prison scene (request denied), so you can imagine how remote it was from being in harmony with the local community.

I’ll tell you next time what happened after the renovation work.

March 7, 2008,09:15 +0900(JST) Nippon Keidanren Kansai Region Members’ Meeting

This is not a recent event but on February 6, the Kansai Region Members’ Meeting of Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) was held at the Rihga Royal Hotel in Osaka.

As you well know, Nippon Keidanren is an umbrella economic body comprising leading Japanese corporations and organizations. It aims to create an economy that is private-sector-led and autonomous. Its mission is to enhance companies’ capacity of added value creation, to encourage greater vitality of people and communities that support corporate activities and thereby to promote the development of the Japanese economy and in turn the world economy.

 The Kansai Region Members’ Meeting is one of the regular meetings organized to allow Chairman Fujio Mitarai and other executives to hold exchanges and discussions with members in different regions. The meetings are held every six months in the Kansai region. Many representatives take part from member companies and organizations and a wide range of discussions take place.

This recent meeting was attended by more than 400 participants, a very successful occasion.

The theme of the meeting was “Growth Creation – Strengthening Kansai’s Potential to Promote New Development for Japan.” After opening remarks from Chairman Mitarai and a briefing about the Keidanren policy proposal “Growth Creation: A Decade of Dynamism” published at the beginning of the year, each of the Vice Chairmen gave an activity summary. Then, discussions followed with members of the Kansai area. Five members spoke and I was one of them.

Speaking at the MeetingI will not go into detail about what I said but I gave a summary of my thoughts on the economic revitalization of regional communities. With particular reference to the stimulation of the Kansai area, I felt acutely that we have a lot to do, while I was gathering my thoughts on many issues including wider-area local government system.

Although I have no wish to dwell solely on the Kansai economy, the Sumitomo Electric Group has a large number of business establishments in the area, including our Group Head Office. Therefore, I have great expectations of the Kansai region’s growth and vitalization. By enhancing the Kansai region’s dynamism by maximizing its potential, I’d like to make it an even more appealing region to the world at large.

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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