March 20, 2014,10:00 +0900(JST) Three Years Has Passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake

On March 11, 2011, I came back to Osaka from a business trip to Tokyo, and then arrived at my office in the afternoon after a meeting held outside our company. All of a sudden, I heard creaking sounds in the room and immediately after felt the floor shake for a long time. When I hurriedly turned on the television, I saw a caption that said: “A large earthquake has hit the Tohoku region.” Immediately I tried to know the situation of our customers and affiliates in eastern Japan, but I couldn’t find out in detail. Meanwhile, I saw the raging tsunami broadcast live on TV, and I was really at a loss for words.

Three years has passed since then. As many as 270,000 people are still forced to live as evacuees. We realize how much destruction was left behind from the unprecedented national tragedy when we see various challenges still being reported such as redevelopment and regional promotion projects that have not made good progress, difficulty in taking appropriate disaster prevention measures, and the handling of the ongoing nuclear accident, all casting a shadow of uncertainty.

However, on the other hand, there are also media reports saying that residents around the disaster-stricken area, as well as the national and local governments, companies and many others involved, have continued struggling to overcome a huge number of such challenges. On the 3rd anniversary of the quake, I am reminded that our memory of the disaster tends to fade over time and become buried in a sea of information; however, each and every person in Japan should continue doing what they can in their own way to help recover from the disaster, while keeping in mind what they experienced that day and what they have learned since then.

March 14, 2014,17:55 +0900(JST) Spring is Still Far Away at “Lake Biwa”

On March 2, the 69th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon was held. Following last year, Sumitomo Electric supported the event, which heralds an early arrival of spring at Lake Biwa every year, as the main sponsor.

Many competitive athletes from home and abroad participated in the race again this year. The most prominent athlete was Yuki Kawauchi, “the strongest citizen runner,” from the Saitama Prefectural Government. In all the national races in which he competed recently, he finished in first place or other high position, and consistently demonstrated excellent performance. Before the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, he said that he would aim to finish the race in under 2 hours 8 minutes. At an event held the night before to encourage guest runners, he looked very confident.

Shaking hands with Mr. Kawauchi to encourage guest runners

On the day of the event, while many staff members of Sumitomo Electric rooted for runners on the sidelines along the course, I stayed around the finish line preparing to attend the award ceremony. After seeing runners make their starts, I watched the race on a TV monitor in a staff room.

Although rain was expected, the weather turned out fine and a blue sky was sometimes visible, making the day perfect for cheering up runners. However, it seemed to be a bit too hot for the runners. At first, Noritaka Fujiyama and Yukio Fujimura from our athletics club were running in the lead pack, but they began lagging behind the group at around the 15 km point. Mr. Fujiyama finished the race in 29th place, with a much slower time than his best record. Mr. Fujimura, who participated in a marathon race for the first time, did his best, but ended up in 30th place.

Mr. Fujiyama (left) and Mr. Fujimura competing with each other before the finish line

After hitting the halfway point, Mr. Kawauchi, the go-to guy in Japanese marathon society, also began lagging behind the lead group. Around the 30 km point, where the lead pack consisting of three runners, Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) broke away from the pack, and won the race. Once again, no Japanese runner has won the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon since the 57th competition. In addition, the times marked by athletes were generally mediocre. This made me feel that, regrettably, any “spring” among Japanese men’s marathon society is still far away. However, Satoru Sasaki overtook the runner in front of him before the finish line, and finished the race in second place. Also, although falling behind many places during the race, Mr. Kawauchi regained his power and finished the race in fourth place. I was very impressed with their perseverance.

Praising the hard work by Mr. Fujiyama (left) and Mr. Fujimura (middle)

After the race, Mr. Fujiyama and Mr. Fujimura from our athletics club told me they felt displeased with their results. As Ms. Akemi Masuda mentioned the other day, mistakes are an opportunity to learn. I hope that they will use their feeling of vexation as an incentive to try harder, and achieve further growth.

Anyway, I’m happy that the event ended successfully again this year. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all those who cheered on the runners, as well as staff and all other people who worked hard to make the event successful.

March 10, 2014,15:25 +0900(JST) Ceremony to Present Donations to University Research Projects

On February 26, the SEI Group CSR Foundation held a ceremony to present donations to a number of university research projects. As I have mentioned here before, this foundation promotes social contribution activities in an independent and sustainable manner, by contributing toward the development of human resources and promoting academic activities in various fields both in Japan and overseas.

This time, we have decided to donate to the following projects: 1) a project at Saga University promoting research on terminal care for elderly patients with chronic heart disease, 2) courses of the Plant Bioengineering for Bioenergy Laboratory at Osaka University, and 3) a project at Tohoku University conducting research on neuro imaging. As for 1), they are aiming to develop a system to support home care for patients with chronic heart disease by connecting their homes to their medical institutions through a network. Regarding 2), they are conducting research on a fuel crop, the production of which will not compete with food production. Concerning 3), they are developing materials that could be used for diagnosis of Alzheimer disease. While this is the first time for us to donate to 1), we already contribute to 2) and 3), and will continue to do so.

With ceremony attendees

After presenting the donation lists, the representatives from the universities explained their research objectives and progress. They said that unlike public subsidies, which have many restrictions regarding how to use the money, donations such as those from our foundation help them promote research more flexibly. I felt very happy to hear that our donations contribute to acceleration of their research.

Listening to an explanation of a research project

After the ceremony, I had lunch with the representatives and senior members of the foundation. Partly because two of the projects are related to medical care, and partly because of our age, the atmosphere began to be relaxed and friendly after a while, and the focus of the topic shifted to health management. The lunch ended up as something like a health consultation meeting.

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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