March 27, 2009,09:37 +0900(JST) ETC and traffic congestion information

As one of the Japanese government's economy-boosting policy measures, expressway tolls will be reduced across the country, starting March 28.

Since automobiles must be equipped with an electronic toll collection (ETC) device to benefit from the toll reduction, and since governmental subsidies are available for the purchase of new ETC devices until the end of March, people are rushing to shops, and shops are running out of ETC devices stock all over Japan.

Automobiles equipped with an ETC device have been increasing in number for its driver convenience (no need for cash at tollbooths) and administrative cost-cutting effect. At present, about 30% of all registered automobiles and 77% of expressway users, or 22.96 million vehicles, have an ETC aboard. The toll reduction is expected to popularize the ETC device even more.

Ahead of the rest of the country, the Tokyo Bay Aqua Line and the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway introduced reduced tolls on March 20. Accordingly, the toll for the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, which I often use to go back to my hometown on Awaji Island, has also been reduced. It used to cost 3,650 yen to drive from Kobe West Interchange to Sumoto Interchange, and 5,450 yen to Naruto; now it's only 1,000 yen. On March 20, it was reported that roads and parking areas were crowded all around the country, thanks to the reduced tolls, coupled with the fine May-like weather.

From now on, more people will probably use expressways to benefit from the reduced tolls on weekends and public holidays; crowded roads and parking areas will then become matters of serious concern.

Unfortunately, Sumitomo Electric does not manufacture ETC systems. However, we do develop and sell system software for ETC that calculates tolls, which are often revised within a short period of time, changing complexly depending on the day of the week and the time zone. This software is important in assisting driving planning. Sumitomo Electric also contributes to society through such ingenious products as our traffic counters (traffic volume measuring devices), which inspect road traffic congestion conditions, and our parking availability information systems, which provide information on service and parking area congestion.

Some have expressed concern over expressway toll reduction as an economy booster, since this can lead to excessively crowded roads and parking areas, and could adversely affect the business of ferryboat companies, which compete with expressways for customers. I sincerely hope that it will lead to substantial revitalization at regional and eventually nationwide levels, commensurate with the policy’s 500 billion yen financial scale.

March 26, 2009,09:58 +0900(JST) New train line's opening

On Saturday, March 20, the Hanshin Namba Line was opened between Amagasaki and Osaka Namba, with three new stations - Sakuragawa, Dome-mae and Kujo - built along the 3.8-km distance between Kintetsu Railway's Namba Station and Hanshin Railway's Nishi-Kujo Station. The Hanshin and Kintetsu Railways now form one large network, thanks to a mutual-entry system, adding greater convenience to travel between Kobe, Osaka and Nara.

Sumitomo Electric has supplied trolley wires to the Hanshin Namba Line. Trolley wires are contact electric wires that feed electric power to moving vehicles via pantographs. They are used in a wide range of fields, including transportation (Shinkansen and local trains, subways, monorails and new transportation systems) and factory cranes.

The characteristics of trolley wires include, naturally, low electric resistance, as well as great strength, abrasion resistance, heat resistance and corrosion resistance, all necessary for contact with pantographs. As for materials, while trolley wires for Hanshin Namba Lines are made of a copper alloy to which 0.3% tin is added for extra strength, pure-copper trolley wires are used on many railways. Subway trains use rigid trolley lines, which allow for only limited clearance below the ceiling.

Sumitomo Electric developed trolley wires in 1914, delivering the first products to Tokyo City (present Tokyo Metropolitan Government). Since then we have been supplying trolley wires to various railway networks, both in Japan (most recently Keihan Railway's new Nakanoshima Line and Tokyo's Nippori-Toneri Liner) and abroad (Taiwan High Speed Rail or Taiwan Shinkansen).

Coming back to the new Hanshin Namba Line, this line is particularly convenient for going to Kyocera Dome Osaka and Hanshin Koshien Stadium, and is sure to be appreciated by baseball fans. I imagine that many people have already travelled on the Hanshin Namba Line to go watch the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament, which started on Saturday, March 21 at the renovated Hanshin Koshien Stadium.

The National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament is the first event to be held at the renovated Koshien Stadium. The renovation had been carried out since last year starting with the renovation of infield stands, followed by outfield benches along the "Alps" stands, the silver-colored roof over the infield and the illuminating towers this year. The third game on the first day of the tournament was held at night, using an efficiently functioning illuminating tower that, for your information, employed Sumitomo Electric 6600-v power cables.

I'm hoping that the newly renovated Koshien Stadium will help reinvigorate the Kansai area's economy.

March 25, 2009,13:34 +0900(JST) Japan's second consecutive victory in WBC

The Japanese team, nicknamed "Samurai Japan," won for the second consecutive time in the World Baseball Classic (WBC). Since Japan and Korea met in the finals with equal points (two wins and two losses), it would be no exaggeration to say that the entire nation's attention was focused on the game on that day, as reflected by the game’s average TV viewing rate of 36%, despite the fact that it was broadcast during the daytime on a weekday. (As for me, unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch it in real time.)

I would like to send my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the players on both the Korean and Japanese teams for their great effort and excellent performance; the players on both sides must have been feeling the tremendous amount of enthusiastic support and expectations of their compatriots. I think that both teams were able to fully demonstrate their comparable abilities and strength in the finals, which went into extra innings.

As Japan defeated the Cuban team, the best amateur baseball team in the world, and the US team (featuring Major Leaguers), on its way to the finals, the Japanese team demonstrated to the rest of the world all the strengths of precise and speedy Japanese baseball.

As I often write in this blog, I love sports, both as spectator and player. As for baseball, I used to play myself, largely influenced by the victory of Sumoto High School from my hometown in the National High School Baseball Tournament when I was an elementary school boy. I was a pitcher in my junior high school's baseball club.

I think Samurai Japan's victory was due to the efforts of every team member, including Manager Hara, who provided the leadership, and not only such Major League stars as Ichiro, who made the winning point, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched in three winning games, but also Hisashi Iwakuma, who was excellent every time he took the mound, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Masahiro Tanaka from Itami City, where our Itami Works are located, and others … In fact, victory through full-member participation corresponds to what many Japanese companies wish to achieve. Watching this baseball team play was truly touching and inspirational for us. Thank you very much, Samurai Japan!

March 12, 2009,10:53 +0900(JST) Hitotsubashi University Kansai Academia

Contrary to the weather conditions that improve day by day and make us feel that spring is approaching, the world economic situation is becoming increasingly grave. To reflect on this situation, on Saturday, March 7, I went to listen to an open forum "From Financial Crisis to Economic Crisis – Economic Prospects and Policy Measures" held at the Phoenix Hall in Nishi Temma, Osaka. The open forum was organized by Hitotsubashi University, in the framework of its Kansai Academia program, which the university inaugurated last year as part of its contribution to society and which consists of symposia and lectures, mainly in the Kansai area. The forum I attended, the third in the series, was co-sponsored by Hitotsubashi and Osaka Universities and featured as commentators and panelists experts from the two universities' economic research institutes, and Mr. Wataru Takahashi, Director-General of the Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies of the Bank of Japan.

The forum focused on the true nature of the current, so-called ‘once-in-a-century’ financial crisis, and examined the relationships between recession and macroeconomic policy, employment problems and policy challenges, and global policy coordination in the face of the current economic crisis, subjects that penetrate deeply into the core of the problems we are facing today. I listened to the participants with great interest as they expounded on these highly significant subjects.

To sum up the content of the forum, future prospects are quite grim: the financial crisis triggered by the US subprime loan crisis occurred as an inevitable event; Japan's negative growth rates in 2008 and 2009 were also inevitable, given the enormous impact of the crisis on a country whose dependence on foreign demand was growing; the European economy, which has not yet bottomed out, is even more seriously damaged, as a result of its major speculations in the North American financial market. At the same time, opportunities for Japan that are hidden in the current crisis were also suggested, including the opportunity for expansion through M&A using the stronger yen as security, and the greater benefits of truly significant training and investment in preparation for future recovery.

In the current situation there is a consensus regarding the necessity for solid international policy coordination, and great expectations are mounting with regard to financial and monetary policy measures by governments. As to what policy measures should be applied, and how, the panelists and experts did not quite agree with one another; heated debates took place, some arguing for urgently needed governmental spending and others criticizing the uselessness and ineffectiveness of governmental spending in times like these. In any case, they arrived at the conclusion that the key to recovery was not in simply distributing governmental funds, but in implementing policy measures that are waste-free and truly beneficial for society, and that stimulate demand.

The discussion also covered problems relating to employment in the worsening business environment, which cannot be resolved through regulatory reinforcement, and the difficulty of work sharing, which many countries have tried in an attempt to overcome the severe employment situation.

All in all, the forum was academic in nature, centering on policy issues from a macroeconomic perspective. At the same time, I found that some points emphasized there - for example, about the importance of thoroughly reducing waste and promoting training and investment in preparation for future recovery - perfectly resonated with Sumitomo Electric Group's ongoing three business management principles, "keeping our organization appropriate to our abilities and reconstructing our cost system," "broader and deeper internal solidification" and "educational rearmament." Attending the forum was a great learning experience for me, in that it enabled me to reconfirm the vital necessity of our group's making a united effort in accordance with these management principles.

March 6, 2009,08:51 +0900(JST) Visiting Sumiden Friend, Ltd.

"Konnichiwa (hello)!" "Konnichiwa!" … cheerful and energetic voices greeted me as I entered Sumiden Friend, Ltd., situated on the premises of Sumitomo Electric's Itami Works. Sumiden Friend, Ltd. was established in July 2008 to promote the employment of handicapped persons. In October 2008, the company hired five mentally handicapped persons to commence its operation.

Sumiden Friend employees at workSumiden Friend's main activities are planting, including the maintenance of potted plants and flowerbeds at Sumitomo Electric and Sumitomo Electric Group companies, and the bagging of shock-absorbent packaging materials for our products. During my visit, I learned that the employees had memorized the sections they are respectively in charge of - scattered all around the sites - for the weekly regular watering of plants, which they are carrying out smoothly. I also learned that they're all very serious and motivated, never missing the daily morning exercise. They've never been absent from work either, despite the continued cold weather, obviously taking good care of themselves physically as well. At the time of Sumiden Friend's establishment, some expressed concern that the employees might feel lost or uncertain as they start their first employment. Yet, when I heard their cheerful greetings and saw their bright smiles, I really felt that founding the company was the right thing to do.

Thanks to many people's support and cooperation, Sumiden Friend has been officially recognized as a special subsidiary (*1) under the Law for Employment Promotion etc. of the Disabled.

Sumitomo Electric has been constantly working to promote the employment of physically handicapped persons, its ratio of disabled employees registering 2.0% in March 2008, above the statutory ratio of 1.8%. In the future, we intend to promote the employment of handicapped people even more on a group-wide basis, using Sumiden Friend and the corporate group application system (*2).

Mr. Dairaku, President of Sumiden Friend, Ltd.The photo shows Mr. Dairaku, who took charge of the preparations for Sumiden Friend's foundation and who has assumed, in accordance with his personal wish, the post of president. I hope that President Dairaku and the instructors will continue to pursue their work with a sense of mission, despite the many difficulties they must encounter in relation to the daily work-related instructions.

The business environment that surrounds us remains very challenging amid the worldwide recession, with declining demand and sluggish operation. Nevertheless, I hope that Sumitomo Electric Group will continue to make progress regarding the number of handicapped employees, strongly adhering to the group's basic social contribution policy adopted two years ago, and always keeping in mind the goal of sustainability by supporting handicapped employees individually in their workplace familiarization and in gradually expanding the sphere of their activities.

(*1) Special subsidiary: subsidiary a company establishes for the purpose of hiring handicapped persons under the Law for Employment Promotion etc. of the Disabled; permission from the national government is required.
(*2) Corporate group application system: system in which handicapped employees of a special subsidiary are considered to be the parent company's (or corporate group's) employees when calculating the percentage of handicapped employees

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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