October 19, 2012,10:25 +0900(JST)

Osaka Marathon 2012 Warm Up Fun Run!

On September 8 I attended the Osaka Marathon 2012 Warm Up Fun Run! held at Nagai Stadium in Osaka City, as chairperson of the Osaka Marathon organizing committee. This is a preliminary event held to give wide publicity to the 2nd Osaka Marathon scheduled for November 25.

After I delivered opening remarks, about 800 men and women of all ages worked up a good sweat by running Nagai Stadium’s long distance track (approx. 2.8 km) in about 20 minutes. Runners enjoyed the event in their own styles, some with family members, some with co-workers, and others in wheelchairs. The event was blessed with fine weather and people seemed to take pleasure in running together. I think the event also provided a taste of the real marathon to come.

I served as starter of the Fun Run

After the Fun Run, one of the event’s charity supporters Mr. Norihiro Akahoshi (former Hanshin Tigers player) gave a talk. Also held was a prize drawing, drawn by Mr. Akahoshi and me for participants, with one of the winners receiving an entitlement to take part in the Osaka Marathon proper, which generated much excitement.

The course of the Osaka Marathon starts at Osaka Castle Park and takes in many famous Osaka neighborhoods and landmarks, such as Midosuji, Nakanoshima, Namba and Tsutenkaku. More than one million spectators and numerous volunteer staff members are expected to line the streets to cheer the 30,000 expected runners. Runners will be entering from over 40 countries and regions, indicating the heightened international attention the event is receiving.
We hope the marathon, Osaka’s new festival supported jointly by citizens and the community, will invigorate Osaka and the Kansai region, and look forward to your warm support.

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April 20, 2012,13:50 +0900(JST)

Graduation Ceremony

This year, I again attended graduation ceremonies held by Hitotsubashi University, my alma mater, and the Kansai University of Nursing and Health Sciences, for which I have been serving as chairperson of the support association. It is a great honor for me to be given an opportunity to deliver a speech at such ceremonies. As a senior in the working world, I made a somewhat presumptuous speech. Here is the gist of what I said.

Your bright, hopeful faces remind me of how I felt 45 years ago. I hope you will try hard to reach your full potential. Don’t be afraid of failure, but be meticulously careful and take full precautions. Never seek the easy way out. By handling a given task in a fair, sincere and conscientious manner, you will eventually win others’ trust and confidence.

Let me cite the Sumitomo Spirit of “Banji-nissei,” which means: do your sincere best, not only in business, but also in every aspect of your life. I understand it is very difficult to put this philosophy into practice, but I hope you will make your utmost efforts not only in your work, but also in your community, in society, and at home.

In closing, to celebrate the graduates’ new start, I recited part of one of my favorite poems: the third stanza of “A Psalm of Life,” written by Longfellow.

I hope they will do their sincere best in their respective workplaces and positions, as the Japanese saying goes: “People who illuminate a small corner of society are national treasures.” It is also my hope that they will eventually become leaders in their respective fields in society.

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July 27, 2011,08:43 +0900(JST)

Smile Relay

While this blog has entered its fifth year, as I wrote in the previous entry, it now has a sister blog, "Sumitomo Electric Group Citizenship Activity: Smile Relay," which started in May 2011.

The new blog features entries posted by Sumitomo Electric Group companies or their individual employees around the world, who report on their local community or CSR activities from the standpoint of organizers of or participants in such activities.

Sumitomo Electric Group companies have for some time been carrying out various community and corporate citizen activities around the world. However, there have been few opportunities to introduce those activities to the general public; some have remained completely unknown, even within the Group. The "Smile Relay" blog is expected to change this.

At the moment, there are only a handful of posts on the blog, but Sumitomo Electric Group companies in the respective countries and regions will soon be actively taking turns, introducing their activities and relaying smiles. I hope you will start visiting and enjoying the new blog as much as this one.

Related link: Smile Relay http://global-sei.com/smile/

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April 20, 2011,09:27 +0900(JST)

It's Still There! (My Yew Table)

Someone at our London office contacted me in a hurry about the office furniture that was made of yew. He says that it is probably still there.

Posted in London since February, he had recently gone through the ledger of company assets and discovered that the office furniture from those days, too large to be used in the current office, were stored in a warehouse. He had thought about selling the furniture to an antique shop, and planned to take a look at the actual items.

I asked him to arrange to have my old table shipped to Japan. I'm happy to learn that something from my London years has survived, even after closure of the original office.

They're not using it in London, so I can have it here-- but where should I put it? This is a fun question to work on for a while.

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January 20, 2010,13:09 +0900(JST)

The World’s First Commercial Production of AZ91 Magnesium Alloy Sheet

Solid sheetWhen you were a student, did you use mnemonics for the periodic table, which contains H, He, Li, Be, B, C, N, O, F, Ne, Na, Mg, Al, Si, P, S and others? The 12th element, magnesium (Mg), whose specific gravity is about 2/3 that of the 13th element, or aluminum (Al), and 1/4 that of iron (Fe), is the lightest among structural metals. Magnesium, which is abundant in nature, is known to be virtually inexhaustible. The bittern used in preparing tofu is also a magnesium compound. Magnesium is recyclable through a low energy process, and has therefore been the focus of attention as an environmentally friendly, lightweight material.

AZ91 alloy is a magnesium alloy to which are added approx. 9% of aluminum and 1% of zinc, in order to improve corrosion resistance. No sheet of this alloy existed due to the difficulty of rolling and forming. Sumitomo Electric developed its own original casting and rolling method on the basis of technology developed through wire production, and has succeeded in mass producing AZ91 magnesium alloy sheet for the first time in the world.

In terms of strength and corrosion resistance, this new alloy sheet surpasses AZ31 sheet (Mg with 3% Al and 1% Zn), which is already in use. It has a smooth surface due to its fine crystal structure. AZ91 sheet exhibits substantially higher elongation and strength than AZ91 cast material. It is suitable for press working, aesthetically pleasing coatings, and surface treatment, making optimal use of its beautiful metallic texture. This alloy sheet has superb vibration and shock absorption, and dent resistance in the event of dropping or other impact and is expected to find widespread applications, such as in portable devices and in-vehicle components.

Prototypes (card and media cases)I will show you some prototype card and media cases fabricated in-house for public relations purposes.

You cannot experience the sensation of lightness or the actual luster via my blog, but these cases are surprisingly light in the hand. Magnesium is a beautiful metal, as indicated by the Chinese character for magnesium, which consists of the symbols for “metal” and “beauty.” The prototypes truly demonstrate the metal’s bright beauty. Incidentally, I like the nearest elegant tortoiseshell colored case.

This success was brought about through years of effort by our researchers. Their efforts will be wasted unless the products are put into commercial use. The AZ91 alloy sheet appeared on the front page of the Nikkei Business Daily dated January 14. We will promote the sales of this novel material, so that you will be able to see the product firsthand on an early occasion. Your support would be most appreciated.

■ Press Release:
The World’s First Commercial Production of AZ91 Magnesium Alloy Sheet

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November 20, 2009,13:23 +0900(JST)

Theory of Social Practices

I had never thought of teaching at a university, but it so happened that I had such an opportunity when I was asked by my old school to give a talk on the theory of social practices. So, in front of some 100 students, I talked for eighty minutes on the theme of “Globalization and Captains of Industry,” occasionally including some of my personal experiences for reference.

At the classroomAs soon as I entered the classroom, I sensed how it has changed with the times; it seemed that now most students preferred to sit at the back of the room with front seats empty, and there were a greater number of female students. During my talk, some students were enthusiastically listening and taking notes; unfortunately, some others were nodding off. If I had been giving the talk at my company, I would have exploded in anger at those who were dozing off. However, this time I concentrated on speaking to those listening earnestly, sympathizing with my past teachers’ efforts in keeping their students attention.

After briefly introducing my background, I tried my best to give a speech that would be of some benefit for the students. The main areas I discussed were: lessons from my school days, the basic spirit of business models (my personal note about company management, upon assuming the position of president), some remarks for new recruits, the meaning of “Captains of Industry,” desired qualities in employees, and so on.

The lessons from my schools days are as follows: (1) discipline, self-restraint and cooperation are vital qualities for a member of society, which can be cultivated through varsity team and other club activities, (2) educating oneself through study of the classics is important for developing a well-rounded character, just like a strong foundation is indispensable for supporting a large structure, and (3) apart from knowledge, physical and mental strength obtained through sports is also pivotal, as in the long journey of life there will be many difficulties that can not be simply solved by an equation.

At the classroomI believe the university’s education philosophy of “Captains of Industry” is an eternal spirit, even nowadays in the increasingly globalized society.
The eighty minutes seemed to fly by, and I wondered if my message had reached the audience. After my talk, some enthusiastic students approached me with some questions. I advised them to take action first rather than worrying too much about this or that and also not to take the easy path but to constantly try and challenge themselves.

While it is said that there is an increasing number of people who don’t have dreams these days, the energy and power of our youth are crucial for the development of society and organizations. So in conclusion, I would like to say to everyone that I hope they will try to challenge themselves in their studies, sports and life in general, so that they will throw off this sense of stagnation and strive to become a non-conformist with a solid backbone.

Lastly, I am looking forward to reading everyone’s reports on my recommended book.

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October 29, 2009,11:22 +0900(JST)

“S-E-Q-C-D-D” Activity – Perseverance leads to success.

Chanting a safety slogan in unisonThe other day I attended a semi-annual company-wide conference on safe environment, product quality and clerical work quality. Group representatives gathered at Itami Works, and regional hub representatives participated through a video conference system. The all-day conference included reports on activities during the first half of the year and in-depth discussions, which enabled the whole company to share information including future directions and plans. From reports by the respective groups, we can learn directly how staff members in the field are struggling or exercising their ingenuity to improve operations. Since I assumed the office of President, this semi-annual conference has been one of the things that I have been looking forward to.
All the activities reported in the presentations employed the “scientific approach,” which has been handed down through the company’s long history. Perseverance leads to success.
Today, I will write about activities chosen from the reports on environmental and clerical work quality activities.

Potted foliage plant given as a presentAs for environmental activities, a report was given regarding energy conservation achieved by minimizing air resistance of rotating bodies using computer-aided engineering (CAE), a technique which has been nurtured through product development. Further energy saving may be achieved by expanding applications.
Regarding Eco-Life Activities, a program launched in 2008 for promoting energy conservation at employees’ homes, the number of participants increased to 4,416 families. In a best-practice case reported, all members of one family actively participated in this effort. They came up with ways to save energy, such as frequently switching lights off, curtailed use of televisions and air conditioners and lowering preset temperature of hot water supply, then carried out these actions and quantified the effects of the respective measures. I offered a letter of appreciation to the family. To families who achieved the goal of CO2 emissions reduction of one kilogram per person per day, the company presents potted foliage plants grown by Sumiden Friend, Ltd., a special subsidiary of Sumitomo Electric. A first step toward resolving environmental problems is to change the state of consciousness of each and every person. I hope these energy-saving activities will spread among many more families.

As for clerical work quality, a report was given regarding an effort to improve and rationalize operations using a unique tool. A diagram based on a golf course map was put up at the workplace so that everyone could track the progress of their activities at a glance. By sharing and visualizing tasks, this tool helped raise a sense of participation among staff members and further activate the campaign. With some touches of humor, this presentation was very impressive and easy to understand. It provided a typical example of the way even a low-key, steady activity can be carried out with pleasure, without becoming a merely rote effort, by employing an ingenious device.

The SWITCH Campaign was launched in 2008 with the aim of adopting an efficient mode of working, so as to improve the quality of both working and private lives. This year, the second year of the Campaign, our efforts focus on operational efficiency improvement in the office sector. I expect the next target will be operational improvement in terms of IT and enhancement of clerical work reliability.

Presenters and I at the partyAfter the report session, a party was given in appreciation of the presenters’ services at GENKI Club, an employees’ clubhouse. It was inspiring to hear their stories of struggle and success. They also talked about the sense of satisfaction they had when things turned out well. As alcoholic drink serves as a lubricant, we can come up with good ideas.

We at the Sumitomo Electric Group continue to promote reinforcement of the “S-E-Q-C-D-D (safety, environment, quality, cost, delivery and development)” aspects of our operations as all-participatory campaigns, aiming to turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.

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October 16, 2009,10:49 +0900(JST)

A Beautiful Autumn Day in Kyoto

Sumitomo Electric is a 25% shareholder of Sumitomo 3M Ltd., where Mr. Jesse Singh was appointed President almost two years ago.

Mr. Singh was dispatched to Japan from the innovative and vigorous 3M headquarters in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Seeing that both Mr. Singh and his family had become quite accustomed to life in Japan, I invited them to Kyoto, a place closely associated with the Sumitomo Family.

Kyoto greeted us with a crisp early-autumn breeze. Our tour included a former residence in Shishigatani of the main branch of the Sumitomo family, and its garden, called Yuhoen, as well as Sen-oku Hakuko Kan, a museum housing ancient Chinese bronzes collected by Tomoito Sumitomo, the 15th Head of the Sumitomo Family.

At Shimogamo Shrine, the Singhs experienced oharai, or purification rites. For dinner, we treated them to authentic Japanese cuisine prepared by Tankuma, at Sekison-tei, a favorite Kyoto residence of literary great Junichiro Tanizaki, through the kind offer of Nissin Electric Co., Ltd., which now owns the villa as its guest house. Here we spent an evening unique to Kyoto, in a room that opened on to a well-tended garden lit with stone lanterns, and with the clear sound of a shishi odoshi (a rocking fountain once used as a deer scarer) occasionally cutting through the silent evening.

I learned that this is the first time Mr. and Mrs. Singh were being stationed overseas, so imagined they must have had few previous chances to experience the Orient. Perhaps the day somewhat overwhelmed them with the avalanche of Japanese culture.

Spending the day with them reminded my wife and me of the culture shock we received when we were first posted overseas more than 30 years ago, though in our case it was from Japan to the U.S. On the way home from Kyoto we couldn’t stop talking to each other about those days. I couldn’t be happier if the trip to Kyoto left the Singhs with pleasant memories as well.

•	Sekison-tei, the guest house of Nissin Electric Co., Ltd.

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September 24, 2009,15:17 +0900(JST)

A Year after Lehman’s Collapse

A year has passed since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Japan’s GDP growth rate, which had once plunged to more than -10%, turned upwards to 2.3% in this April-June fiscal period. Also the Nikkei Index has recovered from its lowest value of 7,054 yen to the 10,000 yen level. Yet the situation remains uncertain, with concerns of a double-dip recession.

According to the announcement by the Cabinet Office, private capital investment in July declined by 9.3% from the previous month to the worst level ever since records had begun in 1987, showing no sign of stopping. Unemployment rates have also been historically high: 9.7% in the U.S., 9.5% in Europe and 5.7% in Japan. These figures are forecast to be even worse if the latent unemployed are included. In its monthly economic report, the government deferred the overall economic assessment for two months and added the comment that “the unemployment rate would be at a record high.” The Japanese economy is becoming increasingly unpredictable with a severe employment situation as a backdrop to sluggish consumer spending and stagnant production.

The current economic lull is resulting from fiscal stimulus by the government to compensate the decline in consumption. Japan’s self-sustaining economic recovery will largely depend on if the Japanese people have a positive outlook of the future. In this current economic state, the Hatoyama Cabinet is highly expected to perform at is best.

Going back in time a little, in his posthumous work the Japanese novelist Shuhei Fujisawa wrote about the restoration in the Yonezawa domain conducted by its ruler Harunori Uesugi (later, Yozan Uesugi, 1751-1822). Yozan was appointed as the ruler of Yonezawa, which was on the brink of financial collapse with its income depleted to 150,000 koku, with 6,000 subjects to feed (equivalent to 1.2 million koku in total). Immediately upon assuming his post, Yozan halved fiscal spending by issuing a law for frugality. At the same time, he promoted the cultivation of new fields, the plantation of three commercial plants (mulberries, Japanese lacquers and paper mulberries), local brocade fabrication and other industries. He also restored local schools to nurture human resources and public willingness so as to revitalize his moribund domain. Remaining faithful to his belief of being a “father of the local people,” Yozan devoted himself to the restoration of his domain to regain hopes for its future and lead it towards an autonomous growth cycle. As described in the novel, some parts of the restoration process were quite challenging and required a degree of struggle by Yozan to achieve success.

Reforming the whole domain involved a great deal of time, but Yozan’s selfless dedication gradually moved the hearts of the people, restored the duties of the domain and repaid all of its debts. These are the reasons for his fame and title as the best governor in the Edo period. Since then, Yozan has been affectionately called the “Father of Restoration” in his home town of Yonezawa, and has also earned esteem even from those abroad such as the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

As the times change, so too do politics and economics. Yet Japan is still facing problems, such as an increasingly aging society with fewer children and the worst budget deficit among developed countries. Not a few people must be feeling dark clouds cast over Japan’s future.

In such tumultuous times, strong leadership is called for; but at the same time, I believe that individuals should also remain courageous and determined to promote innovations on their own without shirking from change. By sharing our knowledge and wisdom together, we will find a way to a brighter future.

To this end, I have reconfirmed the necessity of remaining faithful to our original precepts of “do not act rashly or carelessly in pursuit of easy gains” with the far-reaching perspective of “long-term planning” and concerting our efforts.

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September 10, 2009,11:07 +0900(JST)

Delightful Gift from China

On the other day, I had a visit from a manager who had just returned from his business trip to China. He came to my office to report on his business trip, holding something like a large scroll under his arm. To my question, he explained that it was a gift from Mr. Wang JianYi, Chairman of Futong Group Co., Ltd. in China. He had carefully carried it with him on the plane.

pictOpening it, I found a gorgeous hanging scroll that was 2 meters long and 80 cm wide. Written on it in powerful brushstrokes was a Chinese poem that looked familiar to me. That was the poem I had presented at the signing ceremony to commemorate the establishment of our joint ventures last October. Mr. Wang had ordered a Chinese calligrapher to write it for me. It was a big surprise.

I couldn’t help bringing it back home to show my wife. Putting aside the quality of my Chinese poem, she was also very much delighted about the wonderful scroll. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough room to hang it at home, and so I will keep it at my company with care.

Even after Lehman’s collapse, the demand for optical-fiber related products has been increasing mainly in the Chinese market, and accordingly, our three venture companies that manufacture and sell optical fibers/cables have been favorably performing since their establishment last year. It seems that Mr. Wang made the hanging scroll in order to express his appreciation for the success. I never felt proud of my poem, yet I composed it in the hope that the business would flourish. I was deeply moved by thinking that Mr. Wang shared the same feeling with me. I am extremely grateful for my partner’s such thoughtfulness and attitude of valuing people-to-people links and friendships.

I immediately sent a thank-you letter to Mr. Wang. We will remain vigilant, so as to win a commanding share in the Chinese market. I am looking forward to toasting our success together next time we meet in the near feature.

[See also]
- China’s ancient capital Hangzhou and West Lake
- Joint ventures with Futong Group Co., Ltd. for optical fiber and optical cable businesses

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September 3, 2009,09:10 +0900(JST)

Received the Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award

Sumitomo Electric received the third Monodzukuri (Manufacturing) Nippon Grand Award for its high-strength Invar wire co-developed with Sanyo Special Steel Co., Ltd for ultra-high-voltage overhead transmission line. This is the first prize we have ever won in this competition.

Five Award receivers from our companyThe Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Awards are commendations from the Prime Minister to talented human resources and those who play core roles in actual manufacturing and production sites in order to support the growth of Japanese industry and culture. The awards were commenced in 2005 and have been held once every two years. This time, out of 679 applications in total, Prime Minister's Awards were given to five cases, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Awards to 21, Special Awards to 11 and Awards to 72, including five engineers form Sumitomo Electric and another five from Sanyo Special Steel.

Invar, an alloy mainly made of iron and nickel, has been widely used in clocks and other precision instruments because of its low thermal expansion coefficient. Sumitomo Electric has enhanced its durability enough to be used as the core wire of ultra-high-voltage overhead transmission line, instead of conventional steel wire. This Invar alloy wire, used in combination with a conductor incorporating specialized heat-resistant aluminum wire, inhibits heat induced slacking and aluminum deformation in high-voltage cable. Accordingly, transmission volume doubles, while line size remains the same.

Sumitomo Electric, the inventor of this Invar electric wire, developed it to a practical phase in 1980 (in the cooperation with Hitachi Cable, Ltd.) for the first time in the world. This wire is cost effective and environmental friendly in infrastructure building. Specifically, existing electric pylons are reused for the Invar wire, thereby increasing transmission volume economically. Plus, in new infrastructure, the wire, which slackens little and can utilize shorter pylons reduces construction cost and negative impact on the environment.

Since the beginning of the 2000’s, demand for this wire has been increasing in China, Taiwan and other East Asian regions. Recently, we have also been receiving more orders from Middle East and European countries.

High-strength Invar wire for ultra-high-voltage overhead transmission lineThe point of this Award lays in the development and commercialization of a novel alloy which can be processed easily into electric wire, while its toughness is enhanced. Although Sumitomo Electric’s expertise on electric-wire manufacturing served here, this Award would not be won without Sanyo Special Steel’s techniques in special alloy fabrication. I sincerely thank all involved for what they have done to stabilize product quality and mass production. This Award honors the exemplary cooperation of those who have drawn upon and complemented each others’ specialties.

By the way, for many of you, the electric wire will draw up cupper wire. However, aluminum, superior in terms of lightness, is often used for overhead transmission line and we have long been accumulated expertise on aluminum alloy technology. Award receivers this time include a raw material researcher, electric wire specialists from our Osaka Works and an engineer from Sumitomo Electric Toyama Co., Ltd., our group company operating aluminum alloy business for bicycles and automobiles. As demand for lighter vehicles increases with a concern for environmental and energy preservation, aluminum technology will have the key. Now I have high expectations for the further growth of those business sectors.

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August 24, 2009,17:00 +0900(JST)

Successfully Developed the World’s First Technology of Green Laser

Last July some Japanese newspapers, including the Nikkei, carried articles on our novel technology, announcing that Sumitomo Electric has successfully developed the world’s first pure green semiconductor laser. Have you red any news on that?

Green laserLight's three primary colors (red-green-blue) are the source of all the other colors. Since the development of red laser in 1985 and a decade later, blue laser in 1996, the last green laser technology has long been expected to arrive. As the competition increasingly heated up in gallium nitride (GaN)-based green laser development, engineers ran into a snag called “green gap,” a sharp drop in lasing efficiency at 500 to 600 nm wavelength.

At Sumitomo Electric, we have overcome this problem by developing a GaN crystal which inhibits the efficiency drop, resulting in pulse operation of a laser diode emitting in the pure-green region at 531 nm. It is the first green laser diode in the world. Furthermore, we have even realized continuous wave operation at 520 nm.

To make it simple, please refer to the video below. The LED using conventional technology (at right) drastically turns into blue as a current flows in, while the light from a newly-developed GaN-crystal LED (at left) remains green. Can you see the difference?

Generally, green laser has been generated by converting infrared laser light with some optical material. However, our developed green laser, directly emitted from a semiconductor, requires less mechanical parts, thereby enabling reduction in size and cost. These advantages make the technology promising for the use in high-end displays and other wide applications.

I have repeatedly emphasized the importance of working closely among the R&D, sales and business sections to capture the needs of markets. Also, I have advised our people to get ahead of social changes and technical trends, and then to plan tasks with an eye on the clock and the goal. We are finally feeling some positive results from these efforts.

As part of the Group’s mid-term business plan “VISION 2012,” Sumitomo Electric has scheduled to invest 400 billion yen in its research and development in the 2008 to 2012 period. This year, despite an economic slump, we have devoted 73 billion yen to our R&D activities, expecting a great outcome. With such sufficient R&D budget, we will strive to conceive new products which may account for as many as 30% of whole company sales.

■Press release: Sumitomo Electric Develops The World’s First Pure Green Semiconductor Laser

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August 20, 2009,13:23 +0900(JST)

Go on Green!

The other day, I heard news that a failure in traffic lights caused three car-accidents in Japan. They say that both sides of traffic lights turned green simultaneously for a few seconds due to a mistake of time setting for changing lights.

As to traffic control systems for traffic lights operation, Sumitomo Electric has a long and reputable standing. Back in the early 1960s, then President Kitagawa laid out a policy that innovative technologies must go with computers, which would play a key role in the future society. Drawing on this concept, Sumitomo Electric pursued the development of traffic control systems using computers. As society motorized, demand for those computer systems has surged. Thus far, our systems have been widely installed all over Japan, including Fukuoka, Hyogo, Okayama, Tokushima, Kagawa, Tottori, Shimane, Okinawa, and the world’s largest Tokyo Traffic Control Center.

In control rooms, traffic volume and other data are collected via road sensors. Based on such data, the systems control traffic lights and provide appropriate traffic information through optical beacons and information boards. In this way, the traffic control systems facilitate traffic, thereby contributing to traffic accident prevention and environmental load alleviation.

Incidentally, the supplementary budget has been earmarked for the installation of Driving Safety Support System (DSSS), about which I have once talked in my previous entry. To respond such a trend, we will serve for a safe and secure society from a new perspective.

Internationally, a traffic light consists of three colors: red, yellow and green. The aforementioned failure is called “green-green malfunction,” in which more than two lights in different directions turn green at the same time. To prevent such malefaction, our control systems come with a fail-safe function.
For a more convenient and safer society, we are willing to be an unnoticed but reliable operative behind the scenes.

Speaking of green, the current hottest topic is “green laser,” our novel technology developed for the first time in the world. I will feature it in my next entry.

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July 28, 2009,09:01 +0900(JST)

Completion of new company dormitories

At Sumitomo Electric, we approach personnel education from a long-term perspective, believing that human resources are the source of corporate competitiveness. Accordingly, we make maximum efforts towards training our young employees who will lead the company's future, including providing them with a good living environment so that they can devote themselves fully to their work with a sense of peace and security. Recently, four new dormitories for our young employees have been completed in Osaka, Itami, Takarazuka and Utsunomiya.

We had made the bold decision to have these dormitories built for the growth and development of future generations. These facilities will mainly accommodate female employees whose number is expected to increase in the future, technical employees who are indispensable for sustaining the company's manufacturing abilities and their accumulation and transmission, and trainees from outside Japan who are also expected to increase amid growing globalization. The timing was also good for this decision: existing dormitories built during the period of Japan's rapid economic growth were already in deteriorated condition and required the rebuilding. The other day I visited the brand-new dormitories in Osaka, Itami and Takarazuka. So I'd like to tell you about them here.

Cafeteria in one of the new dormitoriesThe conceptual slogans of the new dormitories are "Refreshing & Communicative," "Green & Clean," "Open & Secure" and "Diversity & Privacy." The results of all the intensive planning and hard work by those concerned were so remarkable that I even felt sorry for older employees who can't live in them. As these slogans suggest, our new dormitories feature a good balance of private and common spaces, green spots, high-level security systems, women-only areas and special arrangements in consideration of overseas trainees with different daily customs.

Personally, I find the dormitory in Itami particularly attractive. It is located next to Sumitomo Multi-purpose Sports Field, with a commanding view of Koya Pond from its windows. I recall nostalgically how I used to jog around the pond every day when I was working at Itami Works. In such an ideal living environment, I think I could live here (the people there may not like having me around, though...).

Exterior view of the dormitory in Itami with Koya PondIt was a very long time ago that I lived in the dormitory for single men. Yet, I still see my former fellow dormitory residents with whom I had meals and enjoyed drinks together. Moreover, personal ties I developed while living in the dormitory have proven useful for pursuing my work on several occasions.

Now that we have a dormitory for women, applicable female employees will live there at least during their first year at the company. I hope that living under the same roof with other Sumitomo Electric employees will enable them to interact actively with those from the same and other classes regardless of their ages, years of service and working divisions so as to expand their networks and improve their interpersonal skills.

My calligraphy The dormitory in Osaka is called Koki Ryo. The two Chinese characters for Ko and Ki are taken from the phrase "Kozen-no-ki" found in “Mencius (Meng Tzu),” the first volume of the collection of dialogues between the Chinese philosopher Mencius (372-289 B.C.) and one of his disciples, Gongsun Chou. The phrase signifies spiritual tranquility, generosity and strength undisturbed by circumstances. This name was originally conceived by Mr. Genichiro Shikata, who used to be Sumitomo Electric's human resources manager and who passed away while serving as director. This name has been given a new life after being unused for a while as the number of company dormitories has diminished. The calligraphy of the name in the photo below is mine. I do hope that living in this dormitory will somehow inspire its young residents to cultivate kozen-no-ki in themselves.

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July 6, 2009,09:01 +0900(JST)

Thanking people for their fire-prevention activities

Since olden times, the Japanese have had this famous list of the most frightening things in life: earthquake, thunder, fire and father (oyaji). Originally, the latter word on the list was oyamaji, which means typhoon. So the original list contained only natural disasters. Speaking of natural disasters, an aphorism by the scientist Torahiko Terada (1878 - 1935), well-known as a protégé of the novelist Soseki Natsume (1867 - 1916), comes to my mind: “Natural disasters occur just when we have forgotten about them.” Therefore, as you know very well, the best basic defense against natural disasters is preparedness. A natural disaster occurring to an unprepared site leads to human-caused disaster, multiplying the damage. Among human-caused disasters, fires can be particularly devastating, with damage, inconvenience and fears spreading to neighbors and surrounding areas. This is why Sumitomo Electric’s respective workplaces carry out regular fire-prevention training and activities as one of their top priorities.

Last week, our Osaka Works held a two-day firefighting skill competition as part of its fire-prevention training. Several teams represented different workplaces of Osaka Works: 11 three-person teams competed in the handling of fire extinguishers and 9 four-person teams competed in the operation of fire hydrants. In the presence of the Plant Manager and section chiefs, who came to cheer for all the contenders, the teams were graded for the exactitude of their basic movements and the time required for the firefighting they performed under their respective leader’s instructions. Victory was determined only by a narrow margin, for all the participants were determined to do well as representatives of their workplaces, and had repeatedly practiced their moves coached by the Works’ fire-prevention staff. I’m impressed by the great work demonstrated by the competing participants, and really appreciate the generous support offered by the Safety & Environment Group and the fire-prevention staff. Let me show you a bit of their performance.

As for the competition results, the Osaka Research Group won the fire extinguisher category, and the Superconducting Manufacturing Group won the fire hydrant category. The four winning and runner-up teams are expected to participate in the Konohana Ward firefighting skills competition to be held in September. I hope they will do their best to achieve victory as Sumitomo Electric representatives.

Presentation of Osaka City Fire Department letter of appreciationWhile we carry out such activities on a regular basis to raise the firefighting consciousness among our employees and improve our sites’ fire preparedness, I recently received encouraging news that one of Osaka Works staff received a letter of appreciation from the Chief of the Osaka City Fire Department for his life-saving action in a fire.

Although the person concerned asked that we not make a big deal out of this, I made arrangements so that he’d also be presented with a letter of appreciation from the General Manager of Osaka Works, on behalf of the Company. I’d like to send him my personal words of thanks for his apt and courageous action: Good job, and thank you!

I hope that all of Sumitomo Electric will continue its fire-prevention activities, with a firm determination never to cause a fire, but to try to minimize the damage in the event of fire.

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July 1, 2009,11:49 +0900(JST)


Do you know Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate? According to the latest data, it’s about 40% in terms of calories. While few Japanese need be concerned about food shortage on a daily basis, I suppose many would feel uneasy on hearing this figure.

Back in the 1970s, Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate was 60%. In those days, Mr. Kazue Kitagawa, Chairman of Sumitomo Electric, was already trying to spotlight the issue in his lectures. The company entered into agribusiness, drawing on the quality control and industrial engineering expertise it had developed in industrial production. For about 30 years, we worked on commercializing sand culture, advocated by Professor Emeritus Fukushima at Kyushu University.

In 1974, the company constructed an experimental facility of 10,000 m2 on the premises of the former Kanto Works (in Kanuma City, Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo), to begin cultivating fruits and vegetables using a method called “Sandponics,” a coinage combining “sand” and “hydroponics (soil-less culture).” In 1977, the company relocated its agribusiness base to Yokohama Works, expanding its fruit and vegetable cultivation on a scale corresponding to 10 ha in total area. This was done in collaboration with, at one point in time, some 150 contracted farming families throughout Japan. In the meanwhile, between 1982 and 1984, the company dispatched engineers to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to provide instruction in experimental cultivation on desert land, with an eye to realizing desert agriculture in anticipation of a worldwide food shortage. Unfortunately, we withdrew from this project in 2003, due to problems relating to price competitiveness and unstable output and unpredictable purchasers.

The other day I learned that some farming families are still growing fruits and vegetables by the Sandponics method and that their tomatoes were exceptionally delicious, having a distinctive flavor without being watery. I was touched by the fact that our expertise was still in active use, even though we have discontinued the project.

Food shortage is becoming a major problem for all forms of life on earth, against the backdrop of such factors as population increase, economic progress in developing countries and global climate change in recent years. In view of this situation, general interest in agriculture and related issues is growing in Japan. The Ministries of Economy, Trade and Industry, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are promoting collaboration of the country’s agricultural, commercial and industrial communities. In March 2009, Nippon Keidanren (Federation of Economic Organizations) published its proposal concerning the reinforcement of Japan’s overall food supply capabilities. The general public is becoming increasingly interested in more effective use of farmland, possible revision of the Agricultural Land Act, international collaboration based on the WTO-EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) and food safety and security.

In the face of the worldwide environmental and resource problems, some technological explorations of 100 years ago have come back to life, giving rise to development races in the auto industry, in which cutting-edge hybrid cars are already expected to be surpassed by electric cars before too long. I have heard that some of the farming families still practicing Sandponics urged Sumitomo Electric to get back into agribusiness. In fact, there have been some news stories recently of companies venturing into agribusiness. The waves of globalization are largely influencing not only industry, but also agriculture, which is undergoing major changes because of diverse technological advances. Forty years ago, Sumitomo Electric was perhaps a little too far-sighted regarding agribusiness. Today, it seems to me that it’s worth seriously considering how our group’s technological prowess can be put to effective use in agribusiness, including plants and flowers -- and this is not simply because I’m a great admirer of natural beauty.

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June 25, 2009,13:11 +0900(JST)

DSSS trial

Do you know how many people lose their lives in traffic accidents each year? In Japan, traffic casualties reached their peak in 1970, with 16,765 victims. Since then, thanks to improved safety functions of automobiles, medical advances, widespread deployment of traffic signals and other safety devices, better road conditions and regulatory efforts including compulsory use of seat belts and stricter control of drunken driving, the death toll due to traffic accidents dropped to 5,155 persons in 2008, a decrease to a one-third in 38 years. The Japanese government wishes to go further and decrease the present number of victims by half in the next ten years, by adopting various new measures. One such measure is the Driving Safety Support System (DSSS) advocated by the National Police Agency and the Universal Traffic Management Society of Japan (UTMS). The other day, I had the opportunity to try out a DSSS-equipped automobile in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture.

The DSSS, which is designed to reduce traffic accidents, relays information to automobiles from roadway infrastructure, advising drivers of nearby traffic lights or warning them of the approach of a vehicle or a pedestrian from a side road. Unlike conventional traffic services such as the Vehicle Information and Communication System (VICS), which conveys road congestion information to in-vehicle automobile navigation systems or the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system on expressways, the DSSS, which ensures traffic safety thanks to “collaboration” between roadway infrastructural equipment and automobiles, is expected to comprise a higher stage of development of the advanced Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).

Related research and development through academic-governmental-industrial collaboration have been actively carried out; the National Police Agency, automakers and electric appliance manufacturers are currently involved in developing the system. Sumitomo Electric is also playing a leading role in this process as a traffic infrastructure manufacturer.

The automobile equipped with DSSS which I rode inMy trial of a DSSS-equipped automobile was brought about by the UTMS, which promotes standardization of the system, with kind cooperation from many parties, particularly Toyota Motor Corporation, which promotes the DSSS in Aichi. I rode in the car, equipped with DSSS still in the process of development, and went through public roads equipped with experimental traffic information infrastructure, to personally experience the convenience and effectiveness of the system. Concretely, the DSSS, via visual or vocal indications from the automobile navigation system, reminded me not to ignore red lights at intersections or “stop” signs ahead, and notified me, before turning left or right, of the presence of a pedestrian crossing the road. The DSSS also informed me of the imminent change of traffic lights from red to green -- a function particularly useful in assuaging the irritation or uneasiness of drivers who cannot see the traffic light because of their location behind a large truck. Having experienced these features, I believe that much can be expected from the practical use of the DSSS. Some of these features are in fact scheduled for practical application in 2010, so you too will be able to experience them soon.

After the trial, Sumitomo Electric staff in charge of system development told me about their work, including the difficulty of developing a system of safety services in collaboration with other companies. I expect these people to keep working hard. The trial, which lasted for about an hour, was quite impressive despite its relatively short duration. I look forward to further development of the DSSS and its practical application in the near future. As for Sumitomo Electric’s role, we hope to remain a company that keeps on contributing to society through ITS development.

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June 15, 2009,08:53 +0900(JST)

Go, go, Yokohama Works, Hama Road Supporter!

Company signboardAs you may already know, Sumitomo Electric is based in the Kansai area. However, our largest facility is Yokohama Works in Sakae Ward, Yokohama City. If you take a JR Tokaido Line train for Tokyo you will see, a little after passing Ofuna Station, the signboards “SEI,” “Sumitomo Electric Industries” and “Ingenious Dynamics” from the left-hand windows.

Yokohama Works was opened in 1961. In preparation for the milestone of its 50th anniversary in 2011, Yokohama Works began “the G-UP50 Campaign” last year, to become an environment-friendly factory loved by the local community. The campaign involves various activities.

Street clean-up campaignOne of these activities is cleaning up roads around the Works. For this activity, Yokohama Works is recognized as a Hama Road Supporter by Yokohama City. This activity was first begun by a small number of volunteer employees of Yokohama Works who cleaned up the outside roads around the site in 2000. Today the clean-up, held about 15 times per year, covers a total distance of 5 km, including the street between the site and JR Ofuna Station, which Yokohama Works people use for commuting. At least once every two months the clean-up is held during Yokohama Works’ lunch break, so as to enable as many people as possible to participate. The lunch-time clean-up attracts about 100 people each time, whose “sacrifice” of their precious lunch break is rewarded with cookies hand-made by disabled people working at a nearby activity center.

Hama Road Supporters are officially registered participants in a voluntary local street clean-up campaign jointly promoted by Yokohama City and local voluntary groups. Yokohama City’s goal is to have over 10,000 people join the campaign. At the moment, about 10% of the 200 registered groups are private businesses. At Yokohama Works, we hope to further promote this activity and to continue expanding with ingenious ideas the circle of participants, without becoming contented with the current status of participation.

Yokohama Works is also very active in recycling. For four consecutive years since 2005 it has achieved its goal of zero emission rate(*). Campaigns encouraging environment-friendly lifestyles and to bring own bottles for resource conservation are also actively promoted, to raise individual employees’ “Mottainai (Japanese phrase expressing regret over wasteful use of resources)” consciousness. While pursuing such activities on our part, we are fully aware that a company cannot develop on its own, without the local community’s understanding. So the people at Yokohama Works will continue the effort to be a factory that truly deserves the verdurous and scenic environment that surrounds it.

Hama Road Supporter signboardIncidentally, the “G” in the “G-UP50 Yokohama” stands for Glorious, Growing, Green, Genki (high spirits) and Genba-ryoku (on-site ability). Activities that make up the campaign are small, but they will become a great achievement when continued with perseverance. I look forward to seeing the people at Yokohama Works actively continue working on environmental protection and interaction with the local community, so as to have a green and energetic factory truly loved by local residents.

(* Note)
Emission rate is calculated as follows:
Volume of waste processed by simple incineration or landfill / total volume of waste output X 100
The Sumitomo Electric Group aims at an emission rate below 1%.

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May 28, 2009,15:43 +0900(JST)

Automotive Engineering Exposition 2009

Automotive Engineering Exposition 2009 was held for three days from May 20, in Pacifico Yokohama Exhibition Hall, Kanagawa prefecture.

Sumitomo Electric Group boothWhen we say Japan’s auto-related exhibition, you might think of Tokyo Motor Show because it is probably the biggest and most famous show in our nation. However, while the motor show features automobiles themselves, this engineering exposition focuses on a wide range of auto technologies. This year, 320 companies participated in the expo and most of them were the manufacturers of automotive parts, materials, and testing and evaluation equipment.
Although our automotive business is still in a difficult situation due to the drop in global demand in the market since last autumn, we took part in the exposition as the Sumitomo Electric Group.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the expo myself, but the Group made the most of this opportunity mainly to display and demonstrate our products and technologies, which are expected to help tackle a great challenge for the auto industry: safety improvement and environment-friendliness.

In our booth, we displayed wiring harnesses using environmentally-friendly halogen-free cable, magnet wire for hybrid automobile motors and ZnS lenses for far-infrared ray (FIR) cameras to visualize passers-by in the dark, and demonstrated the camera. The motor of a superconducting electric car, which Sumitomo Electric prototyped last year for the first time in the world as I introduced here once before, was also displayed.

Demonstration using our superconductive technologiesDuring this event, we conducted magnetic levitation experiments on site with an induced current generated by coils of superconductive wire and liquid nitrogen to show visitors how superconductive technology works. This demonstration developed in a dialogue style between Dr. Dolittle and his assistant, who were Sumitomo Electric’s engineer and a booth girl. They explained the principle of superconducting phenomenon in a clear and comprehensible manner. Because of a great deal of interest in superconductive technologies, and also the wonderful matching of the assistant’s narrative skills and Dr. Dolittle’s unsophisticated character, this performance attracted so many spectators that the aisle in front of our booth was filled every experiment.

Letter of appreciationThis exposition was the 18th event started in 1992. We received a letter of appreciation from the event organizer, Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan, Inc., for our regular attendance for 16 consecutive times since the expo’s third year. By proactively promoting our R&D and manufacturing creative products represented by the exhibits above, we intend to contribute to the advancement of auto technologies, and thus to the further development of society.

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May 13, 2009,09:16 +0900(JST)

Our volleyball club's activities (2)

Another unique activity by Sumitomo Electric's volleyball club is the Second Volleyball Practice for Mothers, held on Saturday, May 9, after the consecutive holidays, by the Osaka Works' volleyball club as part of its community service activities.

Volleyball practiceIn the event, held for the first time in two years, the Sumitomo Electric team manager, coaches and 23 players served as instructors for about 30 participants from elementary and junior high school PTAs in Konohana Ward, Osaka City.

The practice started in the afternoon and lasted for three hours. The practice menu, arranged by the players, included a warm-up, skill-specific exercises focusing on passes, spikes and so on, and practice games, for which the participants were divided into four teams. There were some difficulties involved because, I was told, there was the gender difference, instructors' advice was not always correctly understood and some players were not very good at verbal explanations. Nevertheless, both the participants and instructors were serious, and worked hard.

Group photoA Second Practice was proposed, organized and realized proactively by the volleyball club members and the Konohana Ward PTAs, as in the first event. I hope that such opportunities will strengthen the local community's support and affection for Sumitomo Electric volleyball club, and that the participants' energetic enthusiasm will invigorate the volleyball players and further develop their leadership skills.

As a sports lover, I have been saddened by the recent news of successive temporary or permanent closures of corporate sports clubs. As for Sumitomo Electric, we intend to continue supporting our corporate sporting activities, which we hope surpass the limits of mere in-house activities and develop into local community-based sports promotion and effective community building, as in the case of the special joint training program I wrote about in the last entry, the Volleyball Practice for Mothers, and the track and field practice for junior high school students jointly organized with Itami City, with Mr. Koji Ito, Assistant Professor at Konan University, as the instructor.

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May 12, 2009,09:02 +0900(JST)

Our volleyball club's activities (1)

I'd like to tell you about the rather special activities of Sumitomo Electric's nine-man volleyball club, regarding which I've already written a few entries in this blog.

Each year, during the consecutive holidays in early May, our volleyball club takes the lead in organizing a special joint-training program, gathering top-level teams from across the country. It's been 12 years since this organizer's role was handed on from Mitsubishi Electric to Sumitomo Electric. This year, on May 3 and 4, 18 teams in total, comprising 10 teams from the Kansai Area - including the teams from Sumitomo Electric's Osaka and Itami Works - and 8 teams from the rest of Japan, participated in this program featuring reinforced training.

This training program doubles as training for umpires. This year, about 30 Class-A umpires from all over Japan participated in the training to improve their judging skills, taking advantage of practice games. The umpires, whose full-time occupations include municipal assembly member, schoolteacher and corporate employee, are all volunteers and took part in the training program voluntarily, at their own cost. I was quite impressed to learn that Japan's volleyball community is supported by such dedicated people.

Unlike official competitions, the practice games are held in a more relaxed atmosphere and provide ideal opportunities to try out new tactics and players in preparation for actual games. I was told that Sumitomo Electric's Osaka Works team, three of whose regular players of last year have retired, also tried a new formation. There seem to have been moments when slight concern arose regarding the team's new composition. I sincerely hope that the team will be able to work out rough edges in regular training toward the national championships.

The special joint training program also provides its participants with the pleasure of meeting players from other teams during and between training sessions. This year, a party was held in Sumitomo Metal Industries' facilities, where the participants enjoyed meeting friends old and new, and talking about volleyball and other topics.

Participation in this program represents some difficulties, since it takes up a substantial block of time during the precious consecutive holidays and involves not inconsiderable expenses. Despite this, I sincerely hope that those involved continue their efforts so as to preserve this fine tradition, just as volleyball players do their best to keep the ball in the air -- one major pleasure of playing volleyball.

Incidentally, Sumitomo Electric's Osaka Works volleyball team practices toward the goal of reconciling work and volleyball and improving themselves as persons under the banner of "i-kyu den-shin (heart-to-heart communication using the ball)." I look forward to seeing the continuous progress of the team and the individual team members.

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April 21, 2009,09:35 +0900(JST)

Future automobiles at this major turning point for the auto industry

Superconducting electric carWhat will the future hold for automobiles? For the auto industry, worldwide market expansion seems as though it will continue for some time, particularly in newly emerging economies such as China and India. As for automobile models, the presently widespread gasoline-fueled vehicles are likely to slowly give way to hybrid vehicles (HV), electric vehicles (EV), vehicles that run on hydrogen-powered fuel cells and other next-generation automobiles with less carbon dioxide emissions or environmental pollutants.

When automobiles first appeared, HV and EV, along with steam-run vehicles, vied with each other as representative automobiles. At the outset of the 20th century, those vehicles disappeared from the mainstream when the gasoline engine rapidly developed and became popular. Today, a century later, they're back in the spotlight as the world's global environmental consciousness has awakened and governments adopt a so-called "green new deal" policy to counter the financial crisis and the worldwide recession. The auto industry seems to be at a major turning point.

Before electric automobiles become the mainstay in our society, many obstacles remain to be overcome: cost, mileage, cell life, recharging time, recharging infrastructure development and so on. Therefore, EVs are unlikely to replace gasoline-fueled automobiles in the immediate future. Meanwhile, the number of HVs and EVs in circulation is sure to increase gradually, and environmental adjustments - including the realization of greater fuel efficiency as a result of weight reduction and the development of easier-to-recycle design and materials - are expected to accelerate, facilitating the introduction of such new vehicles.

A clear future vision of the automobile is a key to future growth and development for Sumitomo Electric Group, since our mid-term business plan VISION 2012 describes, as one of our goals, the balanced development of five business sectors: “Automotive,” “Electric Wire & Cable, Energy,” “Information & Communications,” “Electronics,” and “Industrial Materials.”

According to the results of a survey on technological tendencies in patent applications announced by Japan Patent Office, Japan accounts for 70% of patent applications in the category of "electric vehicle technology," which concerns next-generation automobile technologies such as EV and HV, a percentage overwhelmingly higher than any other country's.

Sumitomo Electric Group submits over 3,000 patent applications in Japan each year, about 40% of which relate to automobiles (our classification doesn't exactly correspond to that of the Patent Office, however). We constantly pursue active information exchange with auto makers, for mutual technological promotion and stimulation. Under the current severe economic conditions, it is particularly vital to continue research and development for future new technologies and products. That's why I encourage our R&D people to continue doing their best, so that new products that excel the products of other companies can be developed in the domain of next-generation automobiles, through the effect of synergy of the five sectors.

We're also focusing our efforts on developing superconductive technology for application to automobiles and other means of transportation. The photo shows a prototype automobile equipped with a superconducting motor we manufactured last year. It will take some time before this model can be put to practical use, so our hard work continues.

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April 9, 2009,13:19 +0900(JST)

Inari Festival at Itami Works

To mark the anniversary of Sumitomo Electric's founding, we celebrated the Inari Festival last Sunday at our three Works: Itami, Osaka and Yokohama. This year I participated in the festivities at Itami Works, where I began my life as a working adult and was stationed the longest, and to which I feel particularly attached.

Praying for safetyAt nine in the morning about 100 executives gathered at the Inari Shrine erected on the premises of Itami Works, for a Shinto ceremony. We had asked Chief Priest Kishida of the nearby Higashiten Shrine to preside over the ceremony, in which the attendants offered prayers for safety and prosperity during the New Year, amid solemn music performed on the traditional musical instruments sho, ryuteki and hichiriki, and drums.

The Inari Festival at Itami attracted about 1,600 persons in total, including Sumitomo Electric employees and their families, local residents and retired former Sumitomo Electric employees. Fully blooming cherry trees on the premises and the fine weather rendered the Inari Festival a very lively and cheerful event.

Cherry trees in full blossomThe Shinto ceremony was followed by various games and attractions on the site. We had the pleasure of listening to a performance by the Itami Municipal Nishi Junior High School brass band, which greatly energized the festive atmosphere. Then an inter-departmental softball tournament drew spirited cheers from the spectators. The research team won; I hope their victory will also have a positive impact on their work performance.

Children also had a lot of fun. Thanks to generous cooperation from Itami Fire Station, the fire engine nicknamed "119-chan" and fireproof clothing for children were displayed, and peep-through character panels were set up. The rice-pounding for children attracted over 300 participants.

A charity bazaar was also held; the sale of goods brought in by Sumitomo Electric and its employees raised about 30,000 yen, which we intend to donate to the Council of Social Welfare in Itami.

Children taking part in rice-poundingAs for myself, after the Shinto ceremony I spent some time looking at food and beverage stalls and then went straight to the party area to renew my friendship with retired former Sumitomo Electric employees. I felt truly happy to see them for the first time after a long while, and to learn that they were enjoying their post-retirement days in good health and spirits. Unfortunately, I was not able to take part in almost any of the outdoor games, but I received a gift of rice cakes flavored with sweet adzuki beans and toasted soybean flour, to take home.

The day of the Inari Festival, a precious time of prayers for good health during this year and of pleasant encounters with Sumitomo Electric employees and their families, as well with smiling local residents, re-energized me and filled me with enthusiasm for my work. I look forward to seeing them again next year.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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February 27, 2009,09:29 +0900(JST)

Happy 100th Birthday, Mr. Yorozu! (1)

I went to Hokkaido in early February to exchange New Year's greetings with local folks, as I do every year, and also to present Mr. Toshio Yorozu, former mayor of Naie Town, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year, with a letter of appreciation on behalf of Sumitomo Electric. Ever since the establishment of Hokkaido Sumiden Precision Co., Ltd. (NSS), our group's first business base in Hokkaido, Mr. Yorozu has provided generous support to our group and its business development in Hokkaido. In this entry and the subsequent one, I'd like to tell you about the ties between Mr. Yorozu and Sumitomo Electric.

According to Mr. Yorozu's autobiography “Yorozu Toshio Hyakusai no Seishun” (Toshio Yorozu 100 Years of Youth), he was born in 1909 in Naie, had a brush with death in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol (the Soviet-Japan border war, also known as the "Nomonhan Incident") in 1939, fought in the Pacific War, returned to Naie after the War and took part in establishing Agricultural Cooperatives there.

In May 1967, he was elected mayor of Naie, serving his hometown in that post for four terms, or 16 years, with noble ideals, deep insight and foresightedness, contributing greatly to the town's development. He was made Naie's Honorary Citizen in 1984 and was decorated with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette in 1985.

Today, the great man is still active as Chairman of Yoshizumi Coal Mining Co., Ltd. and President of Naie Development Co., Ltd. Broad-minded, openhearted, caring, humorous and honest, Mr. Yorozu charms everyone he meets. I also admire and look up to him whole-heartedly.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the commencement of NSS operationSumitomo Electric encountered Mr. Yorozu when, as the mayor of Naie Town, he was busily working on the town's revitalization following the closure of Sumitomo Naie Coal Mine. The President of Sumitomo Coal Mining Co., Ltd., and the Senior Managing Director of Sumitomo Electric at the time, had been classmates in junior and senior high schools and college, and it was proposed between them that the gap left by Sumitomo Coal Mining’s departure from Naie be filled by another Sumitomo Group company. Mayor Yorozu then began soliciting, emphasizing his town's advantageous features including land and water availability, transportation convenience and climatic conditions that were particularly well suited to powder alloy manufacture. Finally, Mr. Masao Kamei - then President of Sumitomo Electric - was persuaded, partly because of Mr. Yorozu's personality, and in 1972 decided to establish NSS in Naie. So our presence in Hokkaido today is largely attributable to Mr. Yorozu.

Aerial photo of NSS and HKENSS started operation in 1980, eight years later than originally scheduled, due to the impact of the oil crises. This delayed start was in fact a blessing in disguise, for it enabled the company to start one of the world's most advanced factories in the area, using technological developments that had been realized in the meantime. NSS quickly developed into a powder alloy manufacturing company of medium standing.

This later resulted in the birth of Hokkaido Electric Ind., Ltd. (HKE) in 1988. Today, NSS and HKE together employ about 500 people, as one of the largest companies in the region. We are truly grateful to Mr. Yorozu, Mr. Kita - the present mayor - and residents of Naie Town, for their warm support and understanding.

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February 18, 2009,09:30 +0900(JST)

Athletics practice in Itami City -- thank you Mr. Koji Ito!

On Saturday, February 14, I joined some junior high school students in practicing athletics in the framework of Sumitomo Electric's community service program, and had an enjoyable and invigorating workout for the first time in a long while.

As I mentioned in this blog last autumn, since November 2008 Sumitomo Electric has been holding monthly athletics practice for junior high school students in Itami City in collaboration with the city's Athletics Association. Invited as instructor was Mr. Koji Ito, the Japanese record holder in the 100-meter sprint and Associate Professor at Konan University. Last week was my second participation in the practice.

Mr.Ito, instructing the participantsThe practice was scheduled to start at ten o'clock, but I was very motivated and arrived at Sumitomo Multi-purpose Sports Field in Itami 30 minutes early. The practice ground was not practicable, due to the previous day's rain, so we met in the gym for indoor training. I believe it was a great opportunity for junior high school students hoping to become high-level competitive athletes in the future, to learn directly from Mr. Ito how to work out on rainy days.

As in my previous participation, I was with some 100 junior high school students doing the training, which I found to be quite useful and significant. We started by limbering up and learned how to move efficiently, without wasting energy, while training the core of the body and maintaining balance, in addition to other training methods that Mr. Ito has studied for many years. Since I had pushed myself a little too hard the last time, I started out carefully controlling myself. In the final interval runs, however, I put in all my strength and was able to run - I'm happy to say - in beautiful form.

Me, speaking enthusiastically in front of junior high school studentsMr. Ito said to the young participants that physical power and techniques are naturally required of those who wish to become high-level athletes, but that such factors would comprise only about 15% of what was really necessary; the other 85% or so would have to come from mental strength and determination. He said that it was therefore important to improve and maintain one's concentration through training by constant daily efforts, even to acquiring the attitude of listening to others attentively. He also said that one must be strongly determined to win in order to improve, and that it is really important to stay determined in that way.

I find certain commonalities between what is required of top-level competitive athletes and what is required of us in business management. To put a business on track and win trust from customers and partners despite severe economic conditions, strategies and expertise are naturally essential; but in the end, perseverance and determination are the keys to success. Listening to Mr. Ito, I felt newly motivated to tackle the challenges of business management, which I had temporarily put aside while working out.

Getting back to the subject of the junior high school students, I found their progress truly remarkable. People from Itami City's Athletics Association told me that one of the participants ranked fourth in the 60-meter hurdle race in the 2009 Japan Junior Indoor Track and Field Osaka Meet held in February. This was a result of his daily training, needless to say, but it was also enforced by our program. It was a very encouraging piece of news for all of us involved in the program, showing that the program’s effects were already manifesting in such excellent performance.

Our Itami Works is located in an extremely favorable environment, surrounded by residential areas and with Koyaike Park nearby. Itami Works has steadily developed, thanks to many years of local residents' support and understanding. We started the athletics practice as part of our community service program, to express our gratitude to the local community. It would be most gratifying if, through such activities, ties between local residents and Sumitomo Electric were to become stronger and closer. I also hope that these activities encourage young people, who will lead the future, to find their future dreams and advance strongly toward their goals.

After two hours of intense training, we sat down for lunch with Mr. Ito, who had kindly accepted to serve as instructor despite his busy work at the university and his speaking engagements.

Some former members of Sumitomo Electric athletic club also participated, and we renewed old friendships. Some of them had changed a bit, getting rounder around the waist or showing greater difficulty lifting their legs, but their enthusiasm for track and field was the same as when they were active athletes. Meanwhile, others were record holders in the 100 and 200-meter sprints in Osaka Prefecture's Masters Track and Field Championships, and meeting with them was a good occasion to increase my motivation. I particularly enjoyed my drink after the workout, which tasted quite different from drinks I have on business-related occasions.

While I enjoyed drinking and talking with athletes who were constantly testing their limits, another two hours quickly passed, and I ended up absorbing more drinks than the water I had perspired during the athletic practice.

The practice came to its end on this fourth meeting. I would like to again thank all the people involved for their hard efforts regarding this program.

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February 13, 2009,09:43 +0900(JST)


In my previous entry I mentioned MKP, GKP and KKP, recently established to accelerate two of the three management principles: "expanded and deeper internal solidification" and "educational rearmament." Today, I'd like to tell you more about those three acronyms, since I'm sure they sound unusual to you.

MKP, GKP and KKP are the name of practical training programs aimed at the group's constitutional reinforcement in SEQCDD, that is, Safety, Environment, Quality, Cost, Delivery and Development, and are mainly organized by the Technical Training Center (TTC), established on the premises of Itami Works in October 2009, as already indicated in this blog. The TTC, Sumitomo Electric Group's training center for manufacturing personnel, offers over 100 training programs for different ranks, functions, requirements and so on.

The official names of MKP and GKP are, respectively, Monozukuri Kakushin Pro Jissen Dojo (Manufacturing Innovation Professionals' Workshop) and Genba Kaizen Pro Jissen Dojo (On-site Improvement Professionals' Workshop). These programs are designed to train professionals in charge of manufacturing innovation and improvement, through the problem-solving process of actual SEQCDD challenges.

Manufacturing diagnosis at a factory in MKPIn MKP, about 30 participants are selected each year from among engineers who have been working in the company for about 15 years (in positions ranging from department assistant manager to section assistant manager) and are promising candidates for future factory director or manufacturing division chief positions. First they undergo three weeks of collective training, followed by individual projects (pursued in pairs) on a company-wide theme for a period ranging from six months to two years. In this workshop, a workshop not only in name, participants specifically develop their ability to act through theoretical studies and actual problem solving. In this manner the program seeks to train future leaders who will lead different divisions' overall innovations, while at the same time tackling essential SEQCDD challenges that have not been handled thus far.

Already in mid-January, MKP participants had begun working on eight themes, including long-term challenges of great importance for our group, such as efforts toward zero in-process defects in the manufacturing of wires for electronic equipment, and total cost reduction via automobile component production process review.

GKP is a made-for-production-floor-staff version of MKP. About 60 participants are selected from among line leaders, or those in equivalent posts with 15 years' service in the company (candidates for team leaders) and are divided into pairs to work on several themes for three months. In this manner, the program aims at training leaders who will promote improvement activities at manufacturing bases around the world, while having these leaders work on SEQCDD problems. GKP is expected to start in mid-February, to work on important themes presented from different factories, such as incorporating cellular production system into inspection procedures, reducing tool product manufacturing lead time, and achieving zero defects in industrial material products.

A KKP classAs for KKP, it stands for Monozukuri Kiban Kyoka Program or Manufacturing Foundation Reinforcement Program. This is a training program in which all the members of a manufacturing site participate, to improve the fundamental manufacturing ability of the entire factory. The aim of this program is to reinforce the very foundation and starting point of a manufacturing company - the factory - by making all on-site manufacturing personnel acutely aware of how their operation should be, in terms of "SEQCDD," establish or revise standards if necessary, and observe what has been agreed on.

In promoting KKP, we have in mind the idea of establishing manufacturing standards to define how a manufacturing factory should be and expand the standards horizontally group-wide on a global scale. KKP is intended for participation by all the production staff members of each manufacturing site. Participants spend the first week attending knowledge-intensive lectures, followed by one month of practice and actual improvement of their own workplace by themselves. KKP began in mid-January, first in Itami, followed in succession by factories throughout Japan, including those of group companies in Kumatori, Saga, Utsunomiya, Muroran, Okayama etc. Each month some 500 manufacturing site employees - 6000 per year - are expected to take part in the program and to actually work on improvement.

I have always encouraged you Sumitomo Electric employees to continue improving yourselves and your working performance. Meanwhile, the "SEI University" has been improved in both its tangible and intangible aspects. As I wrote in my previous entry, it is up to individual employees' ability, and how they improve it, that determines whether or not we can come out of this difficult period and make a fresh new start for greater progress. Those training programs have been initiated for this purpose, and I expect much from them.

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January 28, 2009,08:40 +0900(JST)

President Obama's inaugural address

On January 20, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Some two million people in attendance listened as the new president delivered his inaugural address. In it, he straightforwardly described the severe situation of the United States and emphasized the arrival of a new era of responsibility, in which the entire nation must tackle numerous problems to get through this difficult period. He urged the people to regain their pride in being Americans and move forward to realize their dreams. The audience's enthusiastic response was truly overwhelming.

In his address, President Obama spoke of eight values that are earnestly needed:

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths."

If I recall correctly, the former President Bush referred to four virtues in his inaugural address: civility, courage, compassion and character. Retrospectively, we rather hesitate to say whether these virtues were truly acted out under his administration.

At home, business has entered a long dark tunnel, and everyone is desperately looking for a first ray of bright light, as in the United States and elsewhere. Some say that the current enthusiasm for President Obama is like bubbles that are bound to burst and disappoint everyone. Yet, we can't help hoping that the Obama effect will somehow dissolve this once-in-a-century economic crisis, restore confidence to the financial markets and regenerate demand in the real economy.

Of course, as a business manager, I'm not simply being optimistic without squarely facing the reality. I know you can't survive in a severe market economy by just hoping for the arrival of some saviour with a miraculous cure-all. It is vital that all of us heighten our awareness and take action. Accordingly, at Sumitomo Electric, on the basis of a shared constructive and healthy sense of crisis, we have renewed our determination to further solidify our corporate constitution and conduct thorough human resource development in preparation for a future phase of growth so as to overcome this crisis, under the slogans "keeping our organization appropriate to our abilities and reconstructing our cost system," "expanded and deeper internal solidification" and "educational rearmament."

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January 27, 2009,09:20 +0900(JST)

Asashoryu's comeback in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament

I love sumo. When I was stationed in Nagoya, I used to go to Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament without fail. I'm not able to watch sumo live on TV on weekdays. Still, I manage to watch the day's major bouts in the sports news almost every evening at home.

About this year's New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, most sumo fans' attention was focused on Yokozuna (highest-ranking grand champion) Asashoryu, who had missed all or part of the previous three tournaments because of an injury to his left elbow, and whose days in the sumo world had been said to be numbered. Yet the grand champion, contrary to the general public's expectation, won 14 bouts in a row from Day 1 and had a playoff against Yokozuna Hakuho on the last day of the Tournament on January 25. I was able to watch this at home on TV.

Before the Tournament, I was not expecting Asashoryu to do this well. Given Hakuho's recent excellent performance (winner in three consecutive tournaments), I had thought that Hakuho was simply the more likely winner. Yet the question remained as to whether Hakuho could win two bouts successively against another Yokozuna. So I thought there was a fifty-fifty chance for both. On the final day of the Tournament, as expected, Hakuho won the initial bout against Asashoryu in a largely one-sided way. In the playoff, however, Asashoryu triumphed with yorikiri (frontal force-out), winning his 23rd Emperor Cup for the first time after four tournaments. The Tournament proved Asashoryu's mental strength in a critical situation.

While Asashoryu made a great demonstration of his comeback, he continues to be the sumo world's bad boy. On Day 1 of the New Year Tournament, in his bout against Komusubi (fourth highest-ranking junior champion) Kisenosato, he gave powerful yet unnecessary blows to his opponent on both sides of the face when Kisenosato was already outside the ring. On Day 11, the Yokozuna fought Ozeki (second highest-ranking champion) Kotooshu, waving around his left arm - a gesture frowned upon in sumo. The controversy over his "character" as a Yokozuna is likely to continue for some time. Nevertheless, I was in awe of the strong determination and invincible spirit he demonstrated as he won the playoff immediately after losing the initial bout in those generally unfavorable circumstances (the mass media used to say that the majority of spectators came to watch Asashoryu lose). His victory was greeted with thunderous applause and cheers, proof that the Yokozuna had won back sumo fans' hearts. The TV audience rating, which had been dropping due to a succession of scandals involving the sumo world, was over 15% throughout the 15 days of the Tournament, largely thanks to both Yokozunas' great performances. Sumo's popularity seems to have made a comeback as well.

Turning our eyes to the business world in the middle of the unprecedented economic crisis, we can't help but notice the continuously worsening situation, with the so-called "evaporation of demand." Most expect this situation to continue for some time. For our part, we at Sumitomo Electric, with our aim of becoming a Glorious Excellent Company, will use this time to further strengthen ourselves, emulating Yokozuna Asashoryu's mental strength and concentration, sticking to Sumitomo's business spirit "Virtuous ones cherish wealth. However, they choose the noble way to it," and hoping to offer excellent new technologies and products that will bring greater happiness and wealth to society at large.

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January 5, 2009,15:43 +0900(JST)

Welcoming the New Year 2009

Happy New Year to you all!

I hope you all had pleasant New Year's holidays. As for me, I was able to have an unusually long break this year, all of nine days away from work.

Holidays are often the same: they come and go very quickly. Toward the end of your holidays, you start feeling somewhat down. This year, however, I felt differently. In fact, I didn't have the mental leeway to feel down, in view of the current pessimistic socioeconomic situation we’re in. I was feeling eager to get back to work as soon as possible, to do what must be done to keep the company's performance from going bad, and so not cause trouble to our many stakeholders. The ongoing worldwide recession is unlike any recession that we active managers have ever experienced. This one is definitely having the largest, fastest-expanding impact, with no way out in sight.

Chronologically, in recent years we have experienced some major economic downturns, including the one caused by the first oil crisis from 1973 to 1975, the recession triggered in Japan by the bursting of the property speculation-related economic bubble in the early 1990s, and the much smaller recession caused by the IT bubble around 2002.

What clearly sets the current recession apart from the previous ones is the shared understanding on the part of governments around the world regarding the gravity of the situation, which understanding has resulted in concerted efforts to avoid the worst possible scenario: protectionism.

Given the way the things are at the moment, I expect that the impact of this financial crisis-triggered recession on the real economy will continue throughout 2009, and that it will take at least a year for the financial markets to regain general confidence, backed by a somewhat normalized US property market. Then it will take yet another year until general consumers, the main players in the real economy, start spending money. That means that we have to work with perseverance until the end of 2010 at the earliest, doing what must be done, putting our house in order and orienting our business correctly, so that once the period of recovery arrives, we can jumpstart with a vengeance.

In Chinese astrology as interpreted by Masahiro YASUOKA (1898 – 1983) based on WANG Yangming's neo-Confucianist teachings, 2009 is the Year of the Earth Ox (tsuchinoto-ushi), the year for clearing confusion through honest, hard work. As for us in the Sumitomo Electric Group, I'd like to see us tackle some tough challenges by engaging in new restructuring programs starting from January, to solidify our corporate constitution, always keeping in mind Sumitomo's 400-year-old business spirit (banji-nissei: do your sincere best-- not just in business, but in every aspect of your life; shinyo-kakuzitsu: place importance on integrity and sound management, and fusu-furi: do not act rashly or carelessly in pursuit of easy gains). Specifically, we shall aim at keeping our organization appropriate to our abilities, reconstructing our cost system, thoroughly working on managerial issues to which the Group has not yet been able to find optimal solutions, and conducting reinforced human resource training.

In closing, allow me to renew my sincere New Year's best wishes to you all.

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December 24, 2008,16:04 +0900(JST)

Sumitomo Electric Group Sporting Associations Meeting

Recently we held the Sumitomo Electric Group Sporting Associations Meeting, gathering together the managers of Sumitomo Electric Group’s major sporting associations. Eleven managers, representing associations of such sports as track and field, which I particularly love, baseball, volleyball, tennis and football came from Osaka, Itami, Yokohama, Tokyo and Tochigi where the Group’s main offices and works are located.

I sincerely hope that people at Sumitomo Electric make the most of the Company not only as their workplace but also as a place providing opportunities for sports and other leisure activities for their full self-realization. I believe that engaging in company-based associative activities after work can enhance interpersonal communication, which in turn leads to smoother daily work duties. I also believe that a person’s general sense of happiness and satisfaction can result in better performance at work.

The eleven managers shared with me their associations’ goals, problems they encounter in their activities, what they expected from the Company and so forth. It was a precious opportunity for me to learn firsthand what their daily circumstances were like, including those of the nine-man volleyball club, aiming to be Japan’s best, as I introduced to you in this blog; the track and field club, which had the opportunity to get coached by Mr. Koji Ito on several occasions this year and is expected to do better in the future; and other associations that actively take part in competitions despite their small membership. We were able to directly exchange opinions on their problems, such as training environment (grounds and gymnasiums), members’ reinforcement, and lack of trainers. I hope that it was as significant a meeting for the managers as it was for me.

Many Sumitomo Electric employees lead quite busy lives, juggling work, family life, community life and associative life, using up their after-hour free time and weekends. Still, I think it’s best to be able to do all you want to do in life.

I’d like to do all I can to support the associations’ activities. In return, I expect the managers and athletes to do their best, continuing to improve their skills and techniques and earnestly practicing for great results in competitions.

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December 12, 2008,09:22 +0900(JST)

Sumitomo Electric Osaka Volleyball Club’s Victory in Sakurada Cup

(From left) Mr. Kishimoto (team member), Mr. Miyake (manager), me, Mr. Azuma (team member), Mr. Ikenoue (team captain), and Mr. Goto (coach)Today I’d like to tell you about the nine-man volleyball team from Sumitomo Electric’s Osaka Works, which recently won a nationwide competition, and the visit the team’s manager (Mr. Miyake), coach (Mr. Goto), captain (Mr. Ikenoue) and two members (Mr. Azuma and Mr. Kishimoto) -- all full-time Sumitomo Electric employees -- paid me to report on their victory. As you can see in the photo, they soar high above me, some measuring well over 190 cm. So they already stand out in their workplaces. I had first wondered if they were feeling nervous about meeting me in person, but they looked confident when talking with me, and so I was assured.

Allow me to do a little bit of PR for Osaka Works’ volleyball team. The team’s latest victory took place in the 23rd Sakurada Memorial Corporate Team Tournament (Sakurada Cup), held on December 6 and 7 in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, north of Tokyo. The Sakurada Cup is one of the four major all-Japan nine-man volleyball competitions: the Corporate Team Championships in July, the National Sports Festival in October, the All-Japan General Championships in November, and the Sakurada Cup, which concludes the season in December. This was the team’s first victory in a nationwide competition since the All-Japan General Championships in 2006 and the tenth Sakurada Cup won. The happy news was indeed long awaited. I’m proud to say that Osaka Works team is among the best in Japan in nine-man volleyball. For ten years from 1997 to 2006, the team won at least one of the four major competitions each year. Last year, however, they were unable to win any title, and their glorious record had to stop. I was told that at the end of last year the team manager and the captain felt so responsible for the poor performance that the two were thinking of quitting. Then this year they renewed their resolve and engaged in strenuous training, fortifying themselves anew physically and mentally and working on their teamwork. They finally succeeded in coming out of their frustration in the year’s final competition. The team was extremely happy.

Pleasant conversation surrounding the trophyI wrote above that the Sumitomo team is among the best in Japan; in fact, it may be among the best in Asia, for after winning the Sakurada Cup three years ago, the team represented Japan and won the Japan-Korea match held in Korea in April 2006. I believe, in my own rather optimistic way, that our team would be among the best in a worldwide nine-man volleyball competition, as well.

Since team members are not professional volleyball players, they work regularly just like other employees and practice after the day’s work or on weekends. Some of them are on night shifts sometimes and start their work after practicing in the late afternoon. I feel almost awed by the great care they must be taking of their physical conditions to be able to do this. At the same time, what they do corresponds well to what is written in the Sumitomo Business Spirit, the concept of “giving your very best in all sincerity.” Sumitomo members are expected to do this at work and in daily activities. So I feel reassured that the team’s recent victory is in some way a result of their acting out the Business Spirit.

Due to the current sluggish economy, we have not had much cheerful news recently. Because I look at myself as an active athlete too, I truly appreciated the good news of the volleyball team’s achievement and enjoyed meeting with and congratulating them, all attempting to excel both in sports and in work.

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November 28, 2008,09:12 +0900(JST)

Athletics practice for junior high school students in Itami City (2)

Mr. Koji Ito instructing the participantsOur two-hour athletics practice was very rich in content. I believe that the participants - junior high school athletes and future sprinters - found it very interesting and stimulating. They had the opportunity to learn directly from a world-class athlete about how to train the whole body, to develop the ability to quickly leap into motion and how to make the best of it in competition. I hope this training will help those participants in their future physical and mental development.

Since the participants are still junior high school students, they are in varying physical formative stages. Many of them will grow taller and bigger. I’d be very pleased if they could grow remarkably as track-and-field athletes, thanks to the correct training method taught at the event. Some of the participants were already demonstrating great potential during the training. Some were making immediate progress after learning how to better use their feet, particularly their toes.

TrainingI also followed the training, rather discreetly. I’m happy to say I did quite well during the two hours, and I had to, I must add, for I have the ambition of winning in masters athletics competitions (!). I’m confident that I can still continue progressing as an athlete.

Mr. Ito told me that he was impressed with my run, which was “more powerful than anybody else’s.” Perhaps he was simply being nice. He was also kind enough to worry about my physical condition the following day and the day after that. I’d like to report here that his worry proved unfounded. I train regularly and seriously.

After the training, the participants, Mr. Ito, others and I sat down for a pleasant meal together. This was an activity I was far better at than running; I really enjoyed it. I was touched by the sincere enthusiasm for sports of the people involved in organizing this event, Sumitomo Electric athletic club members who came to help run the event and others.

Mr. Ito writes about this event in his blog. (In Japanese)

I’d like to thank all those involved for their efforts in making this event a great success.

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November 26, 2008,13:40 +0900(JST)

Athletics practice for junior high school students in Itami City (1)

On Saturday, November 22, Sumitomo Electric organized athletics practice in partnership with Itami City’s Athletics Association, for local junior high school students engaged in athletic sports.

Sumitomo Electric’s Itami Works, more than 60 years old now (opened in 1941), has had a glorious history as Itami City’s largest manufacturing facility. We have carried out various activities for the local community, and intend to continue, so as to remain a corporate citizen loved and appreciated by local people. As our community service, we organize factory visits, publish newsletters for local residents, participate in local cleaning and greening campaigns and promote various events. The athletics practice was organized to promote local sports.

Needless to say, the main players in this event were 90 track-and-field athletes from six junior high schools in Itami City. However, the spotlight was inevitably on Mr. Koji ITO, who participated in the event as coach.

With Mr. ItoMr. ITO requires no introduction. He is the current Japanese record holder in the 100-m sprint. In December 1998, he established the record of 10.00 seconds in the Asian Games, the best performance ever by an athlete of non-African origin until the record was broken last year by a Qatar athlete. When he was active, he was not only Japan’s but also Asia’s fastest sprinter, and was nicknamed “Asian Wind.”

At present, Mr. ITO works as associate professor at Konan University, instructing students and pursuing research into sports and fitness. As you can see in the photo, he was so fit and energetic-looking that one would have thought he was still actively competing. As a “running” CEO and President, I practice regularly, but in a face-to-face encounter with Mr. Ito, I must say that the difference was perhaps a bit too obvious…

As you can see, on the day of the event, we were blessed with the best possible weather of the season, with almost no wind, and we were able to make full use of the lawn section of Sumitomo Multi-purpose Sports Field for our training.

I believe that Mr. Ito’s coaching had many eye-opening elements for the participants. I can tell you this because I also participated in the training for a full two hours (I wasn’t dressed like that for nothing)! More about the training in the following entry…

Mr. Koji ITO’s web site (In Japanese)

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November 13, 2008,08:45 +0900(JST)

A Leading Company “Sumitomo Electric Industries”

A Leading Company “Sumitomo Electric Industries”The Leading Company series from the Japanese publisher, Shuppan Bunka Sha Corporation, has featured us and I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce the book. (The book is in Japanese, though.)

This series just started this year and has picked a total of 10 companies so far—five companies are covered in each half of the year. The number of companies will increase in the future. I’m happy we’ve been chosen in the early stage and appreciate the insight of the person in charge at the publisher.

The book outlines all about Sumitomo Electric and highlights the Company’s current situation by a brilliant reporter, Satoko Matsuo of the Japan Metal Bulletin and the future outlook by Atsushi Yamaguchi, one of the best analysts in the iron, steel, and nonferrous metal industries. It also features six talented experts in our group and an interview with me.

“Going global with its industry-leading technological capabilities; an enterprise evolving for 400 years and more!” The advertisement on the jacket is absolutely right. Sumitomo Electric is still developing. I hope we’ll continue evolving to be a “Glorious Excellent Company.”

They say the Leading Company series full of helpful information on job hunting and company and industry research will be enhanced into the future. The book is available at major bookstores in Japan and on Amazon.co.jp. I really hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book.

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October 28, 2008,08:50 +0900(JST)

China’s ancient capital Hangzhou and West Lake

I’ve been to China countless times, but I had never been to Hangzhou until my last trip. Hangzhou is a historic city, one of the six ancient capitals of China, whose origin can be traced back to the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC). Hangzhou prospered particularly as the capital of Wuyue Kingdom (907 – 978) and the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). Various locations in Hangzhou hint at its history, but the most prominent one, which is also the heart of the City, is Xi Hu or West Lake.

West Lake as viewed from the hotel roomThe eastern sky started to brighten just before 6 a.m. From my hotel room on the seventh floor, with a commanding view of West Lake, I admired the lake as it appeared in the morning. As the morning mist that had covered the surface of the lake quietly drifted and disappeared, small islands in the lake and old towers and arbors that dotted its shores became faintly and gradually visible. That was an unforgettable sight.

I changed quickly and went downstairs and outdoors, to make the most of the limited time I had there. Despite the early hour, there were already tourists about, speaking loudly to each other. They were probably unable to contain their emotions at the beauty of West Lake. In the park, I saw people doing t’ai chi, enjoying silent walks, breakfasting on benches. For an early Friday morning, there was a lively atmosphere around the lake.

I crossed Bai Di (Bai Causeway), constructed when the poet Bai Juyi was stationed as Governor in Hangzhou during the Tang Dynasty Zhenyuan Period (785 – 805). Bai Di was lined on both sides with peach and willow trees. In spring, the colorfully scenic site must please people’s eyes, as described in one of Bai Juyi’s poems. I also quickly crossed Su Di (Su Dike), which the poet Su Dongpo built, as did Bai Juyi, when he became Hangzhou’s Governor during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127). Both Di’s add scenic beauty to West Lake. Willow, plum, peach, fragrant olive trees and other such typically Chinese plants are found there. The lakeside promenade was clean and seemed to comfort visitors.

I suppose the beauty of West Lake is a result of many years’ fusion of Nature and Chinese wisdom. Oh, yes, I shouldn’t forget that West Lake (Xi Hu) is said to be named after Xi Shi, one of the Four Beauties of ancient China, originally from the ancient State of Yue (Zhejiang Province) of the Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 481 BC).

Now, let me close today's entry with my poor poem (quatrain with seven Chinese characters in each line).

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October 8, 2008,15:40 +0900(JST)

Two extras

Yesterday (October 7), two newspaper extras were issued, announcing at noon that the Nikkei stock average had fallen below the 10,000 yen line, and in the afternoon the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physics to two Japanese physicists Drs. Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa and a Japanese-born American physicist, Dr. Yoichiro Nambu.

I felt like crying out my joy at the latter news, because the three were the first Japanese and Japanese-born Nobel laureates in six years, following Dr. Masatoshi Koshiba (Physics, 2002) and Mr. Koichi Tanaka (Chemistry, 2002). The three scientists’ achievements that were recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee are in the field of particle physics, which can be considered, in a way, a Japanese specialty. I’d like to express my deep respect for their great work, which has further extended the glorious line of Japanese Nobel laureates that started with Drs. Hideki Yukawa and Shinichiro Tomonaga.

Information obtained from newspaper articles is not sufficient to accurately grasp the magnitude of Dr. Nambu’s discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics, but I understand that this discovery is important because it can lead to a theoretical explanation of the origin of matter. Dr. Nambu, who made his discovery several decades ago, has since remained at the frontline of research in the United States.

As for Drs. Kobayashi and Maskawa, the original authors of the Kobayashi-Maskawa matrix, they have predicted the presence of six types of quarks, thereby greatly contributing to the establishment of the “Standard Model,” which explains three fundamental forces of nature in today’s particle physics.
Quarks are basic particles that constitute matter. Until the two scientists presented their theory, four types of quarks had been predicted, with another yet to be identified. Then the Japanese physicists predicted six of them all at one time. Reading such fascinating background information, I was deeply impressed by the mental flexibility that they must have, to have worked this out.

I also read that beyond quarks, string-like objects proposed as original building blocks in Dr. Nambu’s string theory, and the superstring theory based on the string theory, are being adopted today to contemplate themes such as the very origin of the universe and the unification of the four fundamental forces of nature. They are all very difficult subjects for a lay person to understand. In any case, I look forward to further achievements by Japanese scientists.

Compared to this very inspiring piece of news, I found the subject of the other newspaper extra annoying. As a problem I’ve repeatedly called your attention to in this blog, the U.S. financial turmoil triggered by the subprime loan crisis is now having enormous negative impact on the real global economy.

As regards Japan, under normal circumstances the Japanese financial sector would not be much influenced by such a crisis, because we’ve learned our lessons from the property bubble and our mild but long-term tendency toward growth has been continuing. Most businesses have gained the leeway to deal with changes. However, unrelated to this actual state of affairs, overseas selling hedges put enormous pressure on the market, causing stock prices to plummet across the board. As a result, the Nikkei stock average yesterday fell below the 10,000 line, a level recorded five years ago, at the time of the bursting of the IT bubble, which affected Japanese corporate performance.

I was in those days, and I still am, a member of the Board, and on both occasions I felt the arrival of an extremely grave situation. History repeats itself … indeed.

Our company’s stock price has also dropped, an embarrassing situation for me as leader. Yet, there is no use getting panicked when all investors seem to be selling in panic. So I have told all the Sumitomo Electric Group members not to panic and instead concentrate on improving our corporate value via the royal road, that is, reinforcing our corporate constitution and making tangible positive results.

In Japan, we have the notion of building the nation through technological prowess. The news of the Nobel Prize has convinced me that there is still a lot of technological creativity in Japan. At Sumitomo Electric, we are also determined to improve our performance quickly, on the solid foundation of our technology.

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September 26, 2008,09:30 +0900(JST)

Shinkansen timetable and diamonds

The core of Sumitomo Electric’s business management principles is to serve our customers and the world at large through our original products, services and activities. Since its founding, Sumitomo Electric has produced numerous products founded on technologies that we can proudly show to the whole world as “ours.” One such product whose significance is visibly understandable is, in my opinion, artificial diamonds.

Diamonds are the hardest material produced on earth, with the highest thermal conductivity and the smallest thermal dilatation, which transmits sound most rapidly. At Sumitomo Electric, we are capable of manufacturing diamonds artificially and stably.

On hearing the word “diamond,” most people usually think of diamond as a jewel. Our diamond, on the other hand, is an industrial tool so may lack decorative beauty.

Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen timetableRecently, we had our diamond photographed for a promotion to advertise our cutting-edge technology. The photograph will be featured on the front and inside-front pages of the pocket timetable of Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train).

There are some common features of diamonds and shinkansen: solidness, excellent performance... I hope that you will find the pocket timetable useful.

The pocket timetable will be made available at major shinkansen stations following a timetable revision in October. Copies featuring photographs of our diamonds will be randomly distributed along with those with other companies’ advertisements. So if you come across one with yellow diamonds, I hope you will take it in your hands and see our pride.

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September 24, 2008,09:10 +0900(JST)

Visiting “Technopia”

Tokai Rubber Industries, Ltd., a Sumitomo Electric Group company, has business activities in various areas starting with anti-vibration rubber for automobiles. The company is growing thanks to its unique and quality products. In late July, Tokai Rubber Industries completed its research center “Technopia.” I recently visited the facility.

Whole view of TechnopiaTechnopia is in Komaki City, Aichi Prefecture, where the company’s head office is also situated. It’s a six-story building with a total floor area of 10,700 m2 on a site of some 5800 m2 where future advanced technologies will be developed. In other words, it’s a center of new business and new value creation. The facility is quite befitting for this role, and I could feel the company management’s high hopes for this research center.

The center’s researchers told me that the new building is ingeniously designed to facilitate their work, that they feel greatly motivated toward research activities, and that the entire workplace is invigorated thanks to this new environment. I was very pleased with these heartening words. I look forward to many great research achievements from Technopia, a name that means a utopia of new technological development.

Spiral staircaseInside the building, I went to the showroom, where a strange-looking (or I should probably say “original”) spiral staircase caught my eye. You might have guessed … yes, the staircase resembles Drs. Watson and Crick’s double helix model of DNA structure. This is one idea suggested by the researchers, who joined the project team for construction of the center. I felt they were in good spirits. I hope they’ll make great achievements here that will rival the work of the two famous molecular biologists and Nobel laureates.

Opening ceremony of the pedestrian bridgeSince Technopia is separated from the company’s head office by a major road, a pedestrian bridge was also built to facilitate access. The bridge was donated to the city of Komaki for public use.

I sincerely hope that every one of the Technopia personnel remains highly aware of his or her responsibilities and does their best in their work so that Technopia will be a facility the local community loves and takes pride in.

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September 17, 2008,14:04 +0900(JST)

Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy

Shocking news: Lehman Brothers, the No. 4 American securities firm, collapsed and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The news shocked not only the American financial sector but the entire world economy.

Founded in 1850 by the three Lehman brothers, the firm was known to have supported post-Civil War reconstruction of the U.S. economy. For such a giant company with 25,000 employees around the world and total assets worth 68 trillion yen, the end came rather abruptly.

I have repeatedly pointed to the dangerous possibility of the financial crisis triggered by the U.S. subprime loan problems resulting in major negative impacts on the real side of the economy. Signs had already been clear: some credit firms had collapsed, and personal spending, in real estate, automobiles and others, had begun to diminish. Since it has been whispered that a depression is not entirely unlikely if the current situation is poorly handled, I was surprised by the decision-making process leading to this conclusion.

Some with prying eyes suggest that the current situation is a natural outcome in the US election year, given the lame duck president and his equally lame duck key administrators unwilling to take bold steps to bail out falling individual financial institutions.

At the same time, I was impressed by the dynamic and speedy manner in which the administrators and leaders of the financial sector deliberated non-stop from September 12, when talks on a bailout started, all the way even on a Sunday to reach a conclusion by the deadline of the morning of the 15th, when US markets reopened. Those working on the bailout moved as expected as the world’s economic leaders.

It is reported that the private financial sector tenaciously insisted on a government bailout by using public funds, which the Department of Treasury and the FRB refused. Whether this conclusion and developments following this conclusion were appropriate or not will be proven by the US economy from now on. When I think of the so-called “lost decade” that Japan underwent due to the failure of economic reconstruction measures during the post-economic bubble recession, I have no hesitation to say that greater swiftness and severity will be needed in the US financial policies from now on.

As a corporate manager, I can’t simply be a spectator. The whole world is reacting to the situation in various manners, on stock and exchange markets, in oil prices, etc. In this situation, I believe that as business leaders it is our responsibility to carefully analyze the information and draw up and carry out the best possible management strategies.

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September 17, 2008,10:16 +0900(JST)

A small luxury hotel (IR meeting in the UK (2))

Dorset Square HOTELWhile I was in the UK for IR meetings, I stayed at the Dorset Square Hotel, where I had always wanted to stay.

I already wrote in this blog that I was once stationed in the UK to supervise the company’s European operations. Back then, my office was located right on Dorset Square.

Of course, the hotel was already there in those days, but I never had a need to stay there. I hadn’t forgotten about it, but I had never had the opportunity until my last UK trip, when I deliberately made the decision to stay at the Dorset Square Hotel.

Hotel roomThe photo should show you what this hotel is like: a clean facility thoroughly appointed in the style of a typical English country house. The hotel’s service was neither excessive nor scant, and it had a unique, comfortable atmosphere. I found the well-equipped modern bathroom also quite luxurious with an abundant use of marble and mahogany. You may laugh, thinking that I actually slept in that bed. Well, but it was quite relaxing, and personally I thought it rather suited me.(!?)

I learned that many business travelers regularly stay at this hotel since the room rates are quite reasonable. You can have a quality continental breakfast for only 1.5 pounds and the hotel’s modern English cuisine is very well received.

Dorset Square is a former cricket ground. Beautiful lines of trees and the serene atmosphere seem to attest to the square’s such history.

The Dorset Square Hotel is listed in the publication titled City Sanctuaries by Small Luxury Hotels of the World. I think that the hotel has its rightful place in this listing. There are many other hotels that I hope to stay at one day. I look forward to such future opportunities.

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August 7, 2008,08:58 +0900(JST)

2008 Beijing Olympic Games

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will start soon. The 29th Games of the Olympiads are the first Summer Olympics in Asia since the Seoul Olympics in 1988. I feel the excitement in the air.

The opening ceremony will commence on Friday, August 8, at 8:08 p.m. It’s said that the choice of this schedule is because the number 8 is auspicious in Chinese culture. It’s also reported, on the other hand, that it is a compromise resulting from heated negotiations between the Chinese authorities, which wanted to hold the Games much later so as not to increase power demand for air conditioning and so on, and the IOC, which wanted to hold the Games between late July and early August, during the summer holidays in most countries, when more people would be enticed to watch the Games on TV. So it seems that the timing of the Games gives us a glimpse into the energy situation in China.

As compared to past Games, media coverage of the Beijing Games in its progression thus far has caused quite a commotion, focusing on such of China’s internal problems as human rights violation and air pollution, culminating in the obstruction and excessive protection of the Olympic Torch relays. There was even the possibility of a boycott.

Now that we know the Beijing Games will be held as scheduled, I sincerely hope that it will be a great international festival where athletes can demonstrate the very best of themselves in a safe and secure environment so that the efforts exerted thus far by the athletes and others concerned can be put to maximum effect.

Fortunately, after reportedly rushed preparation, the facilities are ready and seem to be well received: the main venue, Beijing National Stadium-also known as the Bird’s Nest-has been completed and is impressive, and athletes already settled in the Olympic Village appreciate the meals and other arrangements.

For us in Japan, which has only a one-hour time difference from Beijing, it will be possible to enjoy the Games real-time on TV. At the same time, many finals are scheduled in the morning, reportedly in response to strong request from the US.
I’m not sure if it’s for that reason or not, but video recorders, particularly Blu-ray HDD recorders, which provide quality high-definition images, are selling very well at the moment as many people wish to record and enjoy the Olympic Games for their own convenience. Since prospects for Japan’s domestic spending are uncertain right now, I hope that the Beijing Olympics will somehow help stimulate the Japanese economy.

I am of course very interested in how the Japanese team will fare in Beijing, and I hope that all Japanese athletes will do their best. Needless to say, I’m particularly interested in the Javelin Throw.
On this blog I wrote and raved about the Finnish javelin thrower Tero Pitkamaki, who won in the Track and Field World Championships in Osaka in 2007. From August 8 to 18, Pitkamaki is staying in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan, with some other Finnish athletes, to train while adjusting to local time before competing in Beijing. I am enthusiastically looking forward to his performances and Gold Medal.

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July 30, 2008,08:55 +0900(JST)

Fortune Global 500

“Global 500,” an annual list of the world’s largest corporations prepared by Fortune Magazine, has been published this year as usual. Companies on the globe are ranked in order of revenue (for fiscal 2007). Although the ranking does not reflect overall corporate strength, it is worthy of attention. By inclusion on the list, a company can be recognized as having a certain scale. More importantly, changes in the rankings from the previous year tell us how the companies have grown over the last year. This is why the Global 500 list attracts wide attention every year.

On this year’s list, Sumitomo Electric was ranked No. 383, slightly down from its previous rank, unfortunately. The Company had moved up to No. 344 on last year’s list, from No. 366 the year before that. Given the Company’s generally favorable business performance for fiscal 2007, I had secretly hoped for a higher rank this year, so I am somewhat disappointed with the result.

Let me make a quick analysis. Since revenue figures are converted to U.S. dollars, foreign exchange rates seem to have a considerable impact on the rankings, as it often happens. Despite the dollar’s weakening globally, the value of the yen has not increased against dollar as much as other currencies. As a result, U.S. and Japanese corporations suffered declines in their rankings, on the whole. Admittedly, some uncertainties did exist over the economies of both countries.

By country, the U.S. and Japan ranked first and second, respectively, in the number of corporations on the Global 500 list, a clear lead over third place. However, when I look to the remarkable growth of corporations based in the euro bloc, China and other emerging economies, I ponder how I should steer the Company to future growth amid the rapid spread of globalization. I feel like sighing about the business environment surrounding us, which has become severer every year.

While Sumitomo Electric has increased its revenues by more than 9% in terms of the U.S. dollar, other world enterprises generally recorded two-digit growth. Some of them, such a Bank in India, enjoyed a growth rate of over 40%.
Unfortunately, some well-established Japanese corporations have fallen off the Global 500 list. Japanese companies, including Sumitomo Electric, should make further efforts, hopefully to display the latent power of Japanese industry.

Among the Global 500 corporations, companies whose revenues were more than tenfold that of Sumitomo Electric are the top five big businesses: Wal-Mart Stores (No. 1), Exxon Mobil (No. 2), Royal Dutch Shell (No. 3), BP (No. 4) and Toyota Motor (No. 5). (General Motors ranked fifth on last year’s list, and fell to ninth place this year.)
These comprise a group of the ‘best of the best’ corporations, which we can look up to as a lofty goal.

As I wrote on this blog last year, increasing the size of operation is one of the most important goals to pursue for sound development of the Sumitomo Electric Group, to achieve our goal of becoming a “Glorious Excellent Company.”
We are determined to continue our management efforts from a global perspective, so that we will remain on, and move up on, the Fortune Global 500 list in the future.

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July 2, 2008,08:47 +0900(JST)

First Anniversary of this Blog

When I started this blog on July 2 last year, I was not sure how long I would be able to continue writing in it. Before I knew it, however, today marked the blog’s first anniversary.

I do not know how many regular readers we have. According to statistics gathered by the staff members who administer this blog, the number of hits to the Japanese version of this blog has increased to about 50,000 per month, from 30,000 per month at first. So, it’s quite a readership. The English version constantly receives about 10,000 hits per month.

Using such a simple tool as a blog, I can convey directly to people all over the world what I think, feel, aim at etc. This is a management tool that I would hardly have thought of even a few years ago. I know we are in the information age, but this blog brought home to me the importance of making the most of information technology.
On occasion, unexpected acquaintances of mine have said to me, “I read that stuff” as a positive (or negative) response. Since I go to the trouble of writing in the blog, I try to make entries that will be talked about.

I read with interest the comments posted by readers.(most of them are Japanese, though) When I enjoy such interactive communication using web technology, I fully realize how easy it has become to gather and disseminate information, efforts in which I myself had difficulty while working abroad.

Since this is a president’s blog, my messages will be primarily addressed to Sumitomo Electric Group people and others concerned. At the same time, I’d like to actively publish on my blog information and messages that should be publicly shared. All blog administration staff is also fired up.
We are determined to continue our efforts toward the Group’s goal of becoming a “Glorious Excellent Company.” I will write about both serious and light subjects in this blog, in the hope that those messages will trace the way toward realization of our goal. I ask for your continued readership in the second year and onward.

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June 27, 2008,09:21 +0900(JST)

The Meaning of His Smile (Part II)

It is another rainy day today; indoors, we have free and lively discussions over tea in front of the fireplace.
In retrospect, Mr. Simon Payton had grasped - with amazing accuracy - the essence of Anglo-Saxon culture, which is an underlying basis of globalization. In the quiet manner befitting a knowledgeable English person, he enumerated the key words, recalling the lessons of history. He argued that “freedom,” “fairness,” “transparency,” “flexibility” and “competition” constitute the essence of Anglo-Saxon culture, and that an organization, if it is going to rank with its competitors in this culture, should be “leaner,” “tighter,” “smarter” and “faster,” and that leaders, of whom “listening,” “feeling” and “touching” are expected, have a duty to achieve results by optimally allocating human, physical and financial resources through these three actions. As I recall his argument now, when Japanese-style management is under review for improvement, I feel that many of his points are convincing. I am impressed by his penetrating insight.

When Mr. Payton visited Japan the other day, I made arrangements for a dinner meeting, since there is nothing quite so pleasant as a visit by a friend come from far away, as Confucius says. As usual, he argued with passion on economy, politics and various other issues. When the topic moved on to Anglo-Saxon and Japanese cultures as a matter of course, he suddenly became quiet, maybe recalling our discussions from a long time ago. He then smiled, filled with self-confidence, and said to me: “History repeats itself, so don’t worry.”
Will I be able to make so witty a comment as that, the next time an opportunity arises?

[ This entry is a translation from the contributed essay that appeared in the “Danron (Discussion)” section of Tekko Shimbun ("Japan Metal Daily"), January 17, 2000.]

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June 24, 2008,11:04 +0900(JST)

The Meaning of His Smile (Part I)

Noticing that my tea, which I just made, had become cold, I looked out the window to find that it had begun raining. Tea and intermittent rain instantly made me think of winter in England, with which a fireplace matches well, among other things. This association brought to mind a memorable encounter dating back to 1985.

I encountered Mr. Simon Payton, Secretary General of the International Wrought Copper Council (IWCC), at the IWCC headquarter building in London. I had just begun work as Japan’s representative to the council after arriving in London to take up a new position. That encounter enriched my seven-year expatriate life in England, and created opportunities for me to ponder deeply about Anglo-Saxon culture.
In those days, as symbolized by the book “Japan as Number One,” Japanese-style management philosophy was in the ascendant, sweeping over the United States and Europe. Management techniques based on Japanese culture were about to become what is now called the “de facto standard.”

Mr. Payton, a talented graduate from the prestigious University of St. Andrews and a controversialist in the metal processing industry, was invited to join the IWCC. As a director of an international organization, he needed to deepen his interest in and understanding of the culture of Japan, an economic power in Far East Asia. Sharing the same interest, we were like-minded persons and felt at ease with one another, partly because we are from almost the same generation. We would often meet at the headquarters after finishing the day’s work, to talk enthusiastically about culture.

[ This entry is a translation from the contributed essay that appeared in the “Danron (Discussion)” section of Tekko Shimbun ("Japan Metal Daily"), January 17, 2000.]

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June 19, 2008,10:02 +0900(JST)

Memories of Mr. Simon Payton (2) - On an airplane –

Mr. Simon Payton and I belong to almost the same generation.
He came from Birmingham to London to serve as Secretary General of the International Wrought Copper Council (IWCC). For many years, from 1984 to 2008, he successfully steered the organization by drawing on his outstanding coordinating ability and good judgment, although international organizations often lack solidarity among members. He was a de facto CEO.
Partly because he has the sense of humor typical of English gentlemen, he was well liked by other members.

Listening to His Queen’s EnglishI worked in London from 1985 to 1992 as an overseas representative of Sumitomo Electric, so I associated with him both in business and privately.

As a graduate from the University of St. Andrews, a prestigious university - and the oldest one in Scotland - he had an atmosphere created by a kind of elitism, which made me feel at first that there was a snobbish streak in him. However, as I got to know him, I found that he had a fine human quality, and I learned various things from him. Fortunately, he speaks the Queen’s English, which was easy to follow for non-native speakers of English and helped me a lot.
Since we have known each other for a long time, I can think of countless topics for talking about him.

When on this airplane I began to feel it was about time to start preparing for the IR meeting, it occurred to me that I once wrote a requested essay about Mr. Payton for the Tekko Shimbun ("Japan Metal Daily"). Fortunately, I found the draft for the article, titled “Warai no shin’i (The Meaning of His Smile)” which I contributed to the Tekko Shimbun in 2000. The next time, an English translation of the article will be posted on this blog. I hope readers will find something useful in my essay about that friendship.

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June 16, 2008,09:39 +0900(JST)

Memories of Mr. Simon Payton (1) - On an airplane -

I am writing this entry on an airplane that left Narita on June 3 for Boston via Chicago.

Once a year we visit the United States to hold information meetings for a number of large-scale investors. I explain to them in person the company’s current status and future prospects, in both qualitative and quantitative terms, and provide Q&A so that investors can hold, or purchase more of, our stock, based on convincing and satisfactory explanations.
As I mentioned more than once on this blog, holding such meetings is one of the key investor relations (IR) activities, and one of the most important duties of a company president in a capitalist society. We also visit Europe, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world to hold similar meetings on a regular basis.

I just looked over the bulky documents given to me in advance by the Investor Relations Office. I did not have enough time to review them, since miscellaneous jobs come in one after another while I am in Japan. On an airplane, however, where I have plenty of time and no one will interrupt, I can read the materials carefully and work over my ideas for presentations.

From the airplane window I only see darkness, and all I hear is jet engine sounds. Passengers around me seem to be resting in quiet, though I occasionally hear snores.

Enjoying the Danube River cruiseIn writing this entry thus far, these things came across my mind:
“Oh, yes. I was planning to report about the Danube River excursion program that I took the other day during my Vienna visit to attend the IWCC international meeting.”
“But my impressions have faded as the days have gone by. What shall I do?”
“Taking up something else, it may be a good idea to write about Mr. Simon Payton, my long-time friend, who served as a secretary general of IWCC from 1984 to 2008.”
“Fortunately, I’ve got some pictures of us enjoying the lush, verdant scenery along the Wachau valley under a cloudless sky during the Danube River cruise.”

So I’ll write next time about Mr. Simon Payton, who is a true English gentleman in my eyes.

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May 8, 2008,15:24 +0900(JST)

Photo Shoot (2008 version)

As I wrote in July last year, it is the duty of the president to have official photographs taken once a year. As occasion demands, we pass these photos to the media for their use, but more importantly, we cannot keep using the same old photograph for official documents and Sumitomo Electric Group publications.

Photo shoot in progressShortly after the start of the 2008 business year, therefore, we decided to have a photo shoot for new photographs.

The reason why I had my photos taken earlier this year compared to last year is that there had been a request for a photograph for the new business year’s house organ. As our VISION 2012 has just started, it is a fitting juncture for taking a new-look photo.

The request for the house organ photos was that a series of suitable pictures for different occasions should be available. This meant that there had to be a much larger number of shots and poses. Frankly, I found it quite tiring.

As I said at the time of the last photo shoot, professional photographers have a difficult job to do.

On my part, I tried my best to be as professional as I can as a model. I did whatever I was instructed by the photographer and all other members of the crew and posed in various ways.

I was photographed in three different sets of clothes – ordinary business suit, “cool biz” (casual summer business dress code encouraged in Japan as part of the government’s energy-saving campaign), and factory uniform.

As with last time, I had to stand, sit and take different poses with each position. I was told that the number of photos delivered to us ultimately totaled 10 data CDs containing 200 pictures.

It’s up to our staff now to decide which photos to use as the official photos.

Since we went to so much trouble, I’d love to show you several representative shots here on the blog.

As is to be expected, there were some shots that were “wild-looking,” which will regrettably be consigned this year as well to the fate of storage only.

Factory uniform Business suit Cool biz

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April 21, 2008,09:11 +0900(JST)

Inari Festival (First Sunday of April)

The House of Sumitomo has a history of over 400 years. Sumitomo Electric itself also has a long history, of 111 years. As a company that has evolved while handling mainly electric wires, an important element of Sumitomo’s copper business, Sumitomo Electric has rich tradition of which we can be proud. It is our mission, I believe, to let new flowers bloom on this solid foundation that Sumitomo Electric’s elders have laid out. I hope to move forward doing my very best toward this mission.

Inari festival siteTo depart from the introductory solemnity, I’d like to tell you about the Inari Festival (Inari is one of the Shinto gods), which we celebrate on the first Sunday of April each year. The anniversary of the company’s founding is April 1, and we hold the Inari Festival to mark this date and pray for safety.

In our day-to-day operations, and on the work sites in particular, we try to keep in mind at all times that in “SEQCDD,” safety (S) comes first, and take thorough measures to ensure safety. Yet we also know that something unexpected can occur in equipment and human behavior that compromises safety. We therefore continue doing everything we can to minimize and, if possible, eliminate safety risks; we also turn to prayers in all sincerity.

The Inari Festival is celebrated at various venues, including Sumitomo Electric Group companies. Within Sumitomo Electric, it is held at the three Works (Osaka, Itami and Yokohama). In the ceremonial part of the Festival, participants offer prayers for safety to the Inari Shrine erected on the premises of each of the Works.

Offering sprig of sacred sakaki tree in front of shrine altarEvery year I go to one of the Works, to serve as the master of ceremonies. This year, I went to Osaka Works. In a solemn atmosphere, I offered my prayer for safety to the deity Inari with a branch of a sacred tree, according to the Shinto customs.

Inari is generally considered the deity presiding over good harvests of grain and commercial success, but my prayers, which I offered to both Inari and its sacred messenger fox, were particularly for the safety of the Sumitomo Electric Group.

I’d like to write about the other half of the Festival, the celebration of Sumitomo Electric’s founding anniversary, in another entry.

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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.

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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.

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February 19, 2008,09:12 +0900(JST)

My Enjoyment of Art (2)

I was posted to London to be in charge of operations there. I bought our own business premises on a street backing onto Baker Street of Sherlock Holmes’ fame, in the northwestern part of central London.

The vendor was a businessman from Liechtenstein. The 150-year old Georgian building had five floors above ground and one basement floor. The building had formerly been the private residence of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who had to resign eventually over the Profumo Affair.

From business proper to the daily management of the workplace, I worked hard day and night in the best way I could. The office was rather bare and empty and I realized that I should pay some attention to its furnishing so as to raise employee morale. Of course, I thought carefully about it first but I did take decisive action. I took a bold leap and bought a few paintings that were on sale.

The North America” by Montague DawsonHonestly speaking, although I had properly completed the company’s purchase procedures, these paintings had cost a considerable sum in those days and I was very nervous. Fortunately, nobody complained about it to any degree and I managed to decorate the walls of the London office. Each time I looked at the pictures, I felt prompted to take up new business challenges.

Well, you may ask what kind of paintings would make one feel such an urge. I’ll tell you about just one painting here.

There is an oil painting hanging in my present office. It is The North America by Montague Dawson. The paintings by this professional maritime artist are highly popular. Our painting is a large one, measuring more than 1 meter across. It is a very impressive picture. Its current price is up to you to imagine but I think it was a good investment. I think I’d be allowed to blow my own trumpet about this one.

I bought other paintings by Dawson but this one is my personal favorite.

Our London office moved and it was difficult to hang the paintings in the new premises so we shipped them back to Japan and they are now displayed here. I think they were all well worth the purchase.

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February 15, 2008,09:46 +0900(JST)

My Enjoyment of Art (1)

I received a question the other day about my taste in art. I always find art appreciation very exciting in general because art is an area in which a man can exercise his infinite potential. As regards paintings, it isn’t that I disliked looking at them but I didn’t use to go to art galleries out of choice.

That changed dramatically. I became hugely interested in paintings during my seven-year posting in England, which started in 1985.

My stay in England was quite a memorable one, looking back through my entire working life. I can recall many unique experiences, but why did I come to enjoy art appreciation? One of the reasons is the late Sumitomo Electric President Masao Kamei, as I wrote in an earlier blog entry.

I was in charge of the local office, which meant that an important part of my job was looking after head office executives when they visited Europe. President Kamei really looked forward to touring art galleries in between his heavy work schedule. In England, he went to the British Museum and the National Gallery, in Paris, he visited the Louvre, Orsay and Orangerie Museums. He did not spare any minute, or rather, until he ran out of time, he stood in front of his favorite paintings, enjoying them.

As a young local representative with inadequate knowledge of paintings, I was completely lost for an answer, when the President first explained to me about the paintings with his semi-professional knowledge and then asked me questions. I really didn’t know what to do.

After the President went back to Japan, I wanted to be able to answer him properly and get some praise the next time he came, though I knew that I would never be able to discuss art on the same footing as he. So I visited art museums all over Europe and collected their catalogues. I tried the best I could in my own way so as to please Mr. Kamei.

Surprisingly, in my learning curve, I started to appreciate paintings and my interest grew deeper.

Being a company president is a busy business. These days, I only manage to go to art galleries when I suddenly get the urge to go and view a real painting, asking my wife to accompany me.

The famous art exhibitions that are held in Japan, whether be it Oriental or Western art, are always heaving with viewers. It’s impossible to fully savor the works of art. I sometimes wonder if there should be some way like a reservation system to allow you to take time to fully appreciate the exhibition.

I’m afraid I’m not answering the question properly. I don’t have any particular period or painter or even region that I like, but because of my stay in England, I think I feel special affinity towards post-Renaissance Western art up to the work of the Impressionists.

When I lived in England, I had to use “a discriminatory eye” – but I’ll tell you next time about that and the work of art that was the result of this discriminatory effort.

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February 1, 2008,10:34 +0900(JST)

After the Election of the Osaka Governor

The ballot box was opened straight after polling closed for the election of the Governor of Osaka Prefecture on January 27. The whole of Japan eagerly awaited the result, which was a landslide victory for Toru Hashimoto, a lawyer who had exploited his talk-show celebrity status.

Mr. Hashimoto is the youngest governor of all prefectures in Japan. What appealed to the voters was not only his youth and freshness but also his apt response to the dissatisfaction the citizens feel about the way politicians had been governing the prefecture.

I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to the new governor. I’d also like to express my hope that he will endeavor steadily and tirelessly as the head of the prefectural administration, an office that is probably going to prove much harder and tougher than he expects.

Ever since the previous governor, Ms. Ohta expressed her intention not to run for the office again, there had been many twists and turns in the course of candidate selection. The election turnout showed a recovery from the 40% plus of the previous election to nearly 49% this time, indicative of the high degree of public interest.
I have followed with great interest the various analyses being made on the overwhelming victory won by Mr. Hashimoto. From the point of view of Osaka citizens, there is a lingering distrust of the world of politics. I think the same has happened as did for the last election of the Mayor of Osaka City: the people wanted disclosure of information and transparency of public administration.

A closer look at the voting reveals that despite some variations, the support for Mr. Hashimoto is high amongst men and women of all ages living in all areas. This is telling us how clearly the government of Osaka Prefecture had hit a stalemate.

I said this when Mayor Hiramatsu was newly elected: there is no time for leisurely apprenticeship. The prefectural government is in a state of emergency. Mr. Hashimoto is not loath to make highly critical comments but he needs to win the trust of the prefectural government workers and assembly members. He needs to create a clear vision for Osaka Prefecture and to build a structure of cooperation by calling for the sharing of this vision and fortifying communication.

It is said that the City and Prefecture of Osaka work in reduplication. They are derided for being unfriendly, due to “turf battles.” Now that the Mayor and Governor come from different political blocs, there are fears that this tendency towards hostility will worsen.

As the president of a company headquartered in Osaka, I don’t find it welcome that such things should become more pronounced than is now.

With government finances continuously feeling the pinch, the City and the Prefecture must work hand in hand, clearly defining what they really need to do. I want them to try their best to support Osaka so that it can shine out as a united force, Osaka that is “only one.”

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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.

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December 28, 2007,10:03 +0900(JST)

A Happy New Year to You All

I started writing this blog in July. It has managed to survive till the end of the year. I am grateful that there seem to be quite a number of people who look forward to reading it.

According to the admin office, the hits on Sumitomo Electric’s website increased by roughly 200,000 a month during this period. Among the different reasons that may account for this increase, the blog is a powerful factor, so they say.

This is in-house talk and I have no means of verifying it. However, I have been surprised by various people saying to me, “Oh, I read your blog.” As the Information Age really takes hold, although the blog is intended mainly for our Group members, I am happy to think that it has managed to play a role in communication with those outside the company as well.

I am going on holiday from tomorrow and I start back on January 4 in the New Year. The blog will take a break during this time. Meanwhile, I hope to spend my time meaningfully over the holiday pondering about Sumitomo Electric’s Group policies and strategies and carefully prepare requests I want to make to my executives. I wish you all a very good holiday and a prosperous new year.

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December 25, 2007,13:11 +0900(JST)


MidosujiThe end of the year is fast approaching and I am sure you are all busy getting ready for the arrival of the New Year. At work, you must be taking stock of all your jobs and at home, if you’re Japanese, you must be giving your house a good clean, ready to welcome in the New Year, clean and refreshed.
Something that’s not a typically Japanese custom but a major task carried out anywhere in the world at the end of the year probably is the replacing of calendars. We are presented with a wide array of calendars at this time of year from many sources, due to the fact that we engage in a diverse portfolio of businesses with a global reach.
Hanging in the President’s Office is a calendar given to us by another company. I look at it from time to time and find that it creates a very soft and gentle atmosphere.

For many years, Sumitomo Electric has been producing calendars to distribute to customers. Our style is fairly set now in the form of an environmentally friendly eco-calendar that is in bifold format so that it is easy to use for all purposes.
Each year, we choose a Japanese painter or artist of high artistic merit. The illustrator Satoshi Fujimoto is this year’s artist. He has adopted washi (traditional Japanese paper) as a medium for his artwork. Twelve of his washi art has been selected, each suitably accompanying a particular month.

Washi lets light penetrate through it. Mr. Fujimoto uses washi paper to draw Japanese landscape. The result is a translucent effect that makes you truly aware of the presence of light. I hope you like the pictures.
Though I blow my own trumpet here, I am told that our calendars are quite highly regarded. Many people eagerly await their arrival. I am really thankful that they are so well appreciated.
The 2008 calendar employs a new technology original to Sumitomo Electric Group. Silver is turned into extremely minute particles called “nano-silver”, and this has been used to coat the calendar itself. The coating prevents the multiplication of microbes such as bacteria and viruses to a remarkable extent and with long-lasting effect.
This calendar using the antibacterial action of silver is probably the first in the world. I am delighted that we can deliver such innovative products to you. It is my sincere wish that our customers who use our products will be similarly delighted.

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December 17, 2007,10:17 +0900(JST)

Midosuji in Rain

 As December nears its end, we have to tidy up and get ready for a lot of things. The cityscape of Osaka is finally in its winter-readiness mode.
 We’ve had a run of fairly warm days for December. Perhaps due to the La Niña effect, western Japan is witnessing record low rainfall. Global warming may be making its clear mark on environmental change, but on a more superficial plane, a colder winter seems to signal better economic outcome, so I hope to see the arrival of cold weather as we enter into the coldest part of the Japanese winter.

 I may get to comment on the issue of global warming at a later date; today, I wish to tell you about the present scenery around Yodoyabashi, one of my previous blog entries.

Midosuji Leaves have fallen from the gingko trees of the grand Midosuji Boulevard, which runs through Yodoyabashi: some trees are completely bare now. There are about 800 gingko trees altogether along the boulevard. As I survey Midosuji and its trees and think back of the time when they were first conceived under the Midosuji Plan, I am filled with great admiration and awe for the remarkable future vision that the then Mayor Hajime Seki (grandfather of the previous mayor, Junichi Seki) had for Osaka. I can also feel the pride of the citizens of Osaka, who refused the trees to be requisitioned by the military during World War II.
 The road was only 6 meters wide before the Plan, which set about widening it to 44 meters. What an ambitious and demanding plan it was! What is more, below ground, the Subway Midosuji Line (between Umeda and Shinsaibashi) opened, the second subway line to start operation in Japan after the Ginza Line in Tokyo. The successful development of Osaka thereafter was only made possible thanks to the Midosuji Plan.
 I want to express my admiration for all those involved in the Plan at the time, who must have upheld their vision and tirelessly negotiated with other parties to bring the plan to fruition.

 The election for the Mayor of Osaka City is now finished. We are heading for the election for the Governor of Osaka Prefecture early next year. I look forward to both the incumbent Mayor Hiramatsu and the new Governor-to-be to draw up a robust and grand vision that would serve as the foundation for the development of Osaka.

 When this photo was taken, misty rain was falling, just as in the song Ame No Midosuji (Midosuji in Rain). This 1971 hit song sung by a Taiwanese singer Fei Fei Ou-Yang described the scene as “The boulevard’s gingko trees are shedding dead leaves and the paved sidewalk shines sadly in the rain.”

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November 21, 2007,16:08 +0900(JST)

After Osaka City’s mayoral election

Osaka City’s mayoral election was held on Sunday, November 18. Mr. Kunio Hiramatsu was elected, defeating the incumbent mayor. This is the first time in a long while that someone from the private sector, who is not the incumbent deputy mayor, has been elected to head the Osaka City administration. On this occasion, I would like to extend to Mr. Hiramatsu my heartfelt congratulations on his victory, and express my sincere hope that he will steadfastly do his best to continue the city’s political reform, a task that is expected to be extremely difficult.

I’m not an Osaka City resident, but I couldn’t remain neutral in the election because Sumitomo Electric is headquartered in Osaka City and our major factories are located there. Osaka is, so to speak, the cradle of Sumitomo.

In the election the Kansai business community, headed by the Kansai Economic Federation, supported the candidacy of former mayor Mr. Junichi Seki, as it has positively evaluated his role in the municipal political reform. During Mr. Seki’s term, however, some scandals erupted on Osaka City’s political scene, in which Mr. Seki wasn’t involved, but which in fact suggest how seriously and deeply he tackled some vital issues. I believe that Mr. Seki should be duly commended for having dared to clear up the “debts” accumulated by past political leaders. The election results indicate, however, that the public’s desire was directed toward further information disclosure and clarification.

The turnout was 44%, which wasn’t high in that more than half the electorate didn’t vote. At the same time, it was an unusually high turnout for recent elections in Japan, indicating the high expectations that uncommitted voters have of Mr. Hiramatsu.

People expect the young and energetic Mr. Hiramatsu to come up with effective solutions to break through Osaka City Council’s present blockade. Yet, he doesn’t have much time to prepare. I hope that he and his team of reliable advisers will start immediately working out a clear vision for Osaka’s future, and draw up and carry out concrete plans one by one, defining destinations, approaches and a timetable to follow. Needless to say, he’ll also need cooperation from City Council members and municipal employees, so he’ll also have to work on communication to ensure that his vision is widely shared.

I believe that there is a tacit understanding among the general public that Mr. Hiramatsu, who used to be a well-known newscaster, is capable of doing all this in an effective manner, while promoting information disclosure in a way that is acceptable to the public. In this regard, I’m sure that the bar is set very high for his expected performance.

I’m not saying that mayorship is impossible for someone with no experience in local government. Rather, I’m looking forward to seeing this person breathe new life into City Hall. As a businessman based in Osaka, I truly look forward to seeing the Hiramatsu Administration one day winning such public praises as: “Osaka really has changed, and for the better.”

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October 2, 2007,09:38 +0900(JST)

View from the President’s Office (2)

Nakanoshima Central Tower Building (right) and Asahi Shimbun’s Osaka Office Building (far left)I described to you the landscape along the Tosabori River last time. Across the river, I can see the Osaka Branch of the Bank of Japan, the Nakanoshima Central Tower Building of Sumitomo Life Insurance Company, the Festival Hall and the Asahi Shimbun Newspaper’s Osaka Office building , and in the distance, the Kansai Electric Power Company’s headquarters building. From old and historic buildings to ultra-modern skyscrapers, the cityscape here is unique and very much what one thinks of as a typical landscape of Osaka.

Nevertheless, I come to feel a tinge of sadness as I glance out, because even though splendid new buildings get built in urban redevelopment, they are only buildings housing offices for rent. There are hardly any new corporate headquarters buildings. In other words, I see under my nose the fact that the headquarters of corporations are over-concentrated in Tokyo.

News reporters often ask me, why doesn’t Sumitomo Electric relocate its head office to Tokyo, and is there any benefit from having your head office in Osaka?

I reply to them with a wry smile and say that unfortunately, there are no benefits. However, there are no disadvantages either.

Look at the U.S. It’s a big country, but the headquarters of large corporations are not all in one place. They are scattered all over different states. 3M, whose top executive I am friendly with, has its head office in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota. It is indisputably a blue-chip company by global standards.

There are 459 affiliates of the Sumitomo Electric Group in Japan and globally. Of these, 256 conduct business overseas. Both in turnover and profit, the proportion that overseas business generates is increasing year on year. This trend may accelerate but is not to abate. We must develop along with the tide of globalization.

In view of the advances of information and communications technology (ICT), it doesn’t matter where in Japan the business headquarters are located (there is no problem with it being overseas either). That being the case, I believe that the correct path for us to take is to stay in Osaka and repay it for having nurtured Sumitomo over these past four hundred odd years.

When I think like that, I become very disgruntled with the view out of my window. As is often pointed out, Osaka has very few greenery or parks, and even though rivers are improving, they are still polluted. In a corner of good scenery, you often find illegally-dumped waste…

There are initiatives in Osaka today to create a new and beautiful city. Citizen-participatory tree-planting projects are in place to plant cherry trees to create a tunnel of blossoms over a walkway in spring and also to plant one million rose bushes.

To give greater impetus to such movements, I think we need to create something like London’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park in Osaka. When I recall the various charming cities I have visited, they have many parks which offer citizens a place for leisure and relaxation. We need to make the existing parks in Osaka safer and more attractive and at the same time, create several new and large parks, if possible. It is my belief that the regeneration of this historic city will begin from here.

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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.

Site of Yodoya’s mansionThe 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.

Bank of Japan (left) and Osaka City Hall (right)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.

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September 13, 2007,11:05 +0900(JST)

Prime Minister Abe’s resignation

The other day, during a business trip, I was met with a surprising piece of news: Prime Minister Abe’s resignation. Sensational headlines and titles were seen in newspaper extras, on TV and the Internet. I was, as the people whom I was with then, quite astounded.

Why now? I’m sure all of Japan was asking the same question hearing this news. Despite the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s loss of control over the Upper House following the election, Abe was pushing forward reforms and renewal by reshuffling the Cabinet, regaining points in his approval rating. Despite the scandal leading to Agriculture Minister Takehiko Endo’s resignation and other problems, Abe was showing the people his determination to continue, at least for the time being.

“No sense of responsibility,” “causing nothing but confusion,” “incomprehensible” and “bad timing” are some of the phrases most often used by the public reacting to this news, and I can’t but agree with them. I’m quite disappointed since I had expected quite a lot from Abe a year ago when he made a fresh appearance and assumed the Prime Minister’s office. I had hoped that he would take approaches different from Koizumi’s and set forth and execute a range of effective policy measures. His predecessor Koizumi declared “I’ll destroy the LDP framework” when he’d assumed the Prime Minister’s office and carried out various reforms, and it seems as if the LDP’s election mechanism was also destroyed in the last Upper House election.

Mass media reports that the main reasons for Abe’s resignation were the complicated issue over the proposed extended validity of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law; the refusal by Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party, of a meeting; and Abe’s perception of his own lack of appeal. In any case, the Prime Minister’s general policy speech immediately followed by his declaration of resignation is a singularly unprecedented event, so much so that it’s quite natural if Abe were said to have just given up under the heavy responsibility of his post.

Some opinion leaders have voiced comments, and they are unanimous as to Abe’s detachment from the people’s point of view in his decision making on every issue.

I understand the heavy responsibility, stress and pressure that those at the top must assume. I imagine them to be by far heavier in politics, where you can find people plotting and doing evil, as well as for the prime minister at the top of that world. Nevertheless, any prime minister worth his salt is expected, and required, to be resourceful enough to endure the heavy pressure of the job. In our case, unfortunately, Abe was not able to grasp the situation quickly, plan and take action on time to obtain expected results, and then review the results and move forward with new measures. But still, Abe’s resignation leaves the impression that the country’s major problems left unresolved by generations of government finally burst out and blew him away.

Japan has a mountain of problems yet to be resolved, and there’s no room or time left for our political leaders to be absorbed in an internal power struggle, fighting over who will be Abe’s successor. I hope that a cabinet of best-qualified members will promptly be formed under the strong leadership of a new prime minister to bring the situation back to normalcy and start tackling the issues of national politics.

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September 4, 2007,09:55 +0900(JST)

Impressive World Athletics Championships

Empty seats stand out here and there at the StadiumThe 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics Osaka 2007 came to its finale. True to my passion for sports that I’ve stated in this blog, I went twice to watch the Championships at Nagai Stadium. Moreover, during the Championships, I went straight home after work, which was unusual, and spent considerable time in front of the TV watching the competitions.

It seems that the organization of the Championships wasn’t free from blunders, though. I found the disqualification of Yuki Yamazaki from the 50 km Walk due to the staff’s misguidance particularly unfortunate. Some pointed out that the inappropriate course layout was also to blame. Another unfortunate thing was the small audience for many events. The high price for admission tickets was probably a major reason for this, but empty seats seemed too conspicuous before the world’s best athletes. On the last day of the Championships, September 2, however, track and field enthusiasts and many others wishing to admire the top athletes’ performances filled the stadium to capacity.

All in all, the Championships were successful, and I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to the 6,000-some volunteers who supported the events behind the scenes, others involved in the organization, and most of all, the national delegations of athletes who impressed us with their high-level performances.

Men’s 4x100-meter relay semifinalRegrettably, Japanese athletes didn’t do very well. Nevertheless, I found Reiko Tosa’s tenacious last spurt, which won her the Bronze Medal in the Women’s Marathon, truly admirable, particularly considering the scorching heat that day, and I’m sure the effort of the Japanese team of runners, who set a new Asian record in the Men’s 400-meter Relay, gave goose bumps to many spectators as they cheered for them during those 38 seconds.

I think each one of us came away with different impressions of the Championships. What did you find most impressive? For me, since I used to be a competitive javelin thrower in university and participated in inter-university competitions, as written in the blog’s profile, I was particularly interested in the Javelin Throw and went to Nagai to watch the Javelin Throw final on the last day of the Championships.

Tero Pitkamaki of Finland won the Gold Medal, the only medal for the country in the Championships. What was particularly impressive about Pitkamaki was that he marked a record 90.33 meters for his sixth winning throw, in response to the audience’s enthusiastic cheers, when his victory was already confirmed. Pitkamaki truly embodied the ideal sportsman, demonstrating dedication, concentration and thorough execution, always doing his best, and the audience gave him a thunderous applause.

May I add a former javelin thrower’s comments here? Pitkamaki’s throwing technique is remarkable in that his javelin traces a trajectory that is visibly different from his rivals: it rises up powerfully, as if to pierce through the sky, at an angle of roughly 45 degrees, maintaining its speed, and once reaching its peak, it comes down aiming at the 90-meter line. Pitkamaki can thus throw to a height that others can’t attain. I believe that he can throw farther than anyone else because he has all the essential factors perfectly complementing each other to his advantage: the force that comes from the twist of the hips at the moment the javelin leaves the finger tips, his extraordinarily strong back muscles, an approach that is smooth and speedy until the end, etc.

Achievements by the world’s top-level athletes are simply remarkable, and the moments of witnessing their brilliant performances inevitably make us imagine their strenuous training and their strong determination. I truly enjoyed such wonderful moments at Nagai, one of which was that of Pitkamaki’s.

*The photos were taken by the Public Relations Department of Sumitomo Electric at August 31, 2007.

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August 10, 2007,13:56 +0900(JST)

Summer holidays

Next week, I’m leaving on summer holidays to recharge my batteries. I hope you will all take good care of yourselves and stay well, despite the intense heat in Japan.

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July 27, 2007,13:54 +0900(JST)

The Upper House Election

The Upper House election is approaching. The importance of this election, as that of all elections, is too obvious to explain; how the Japanese public will make their judgment on this occasion is extremely important in determining the country’s future. Even so, I have some misgivings. After every election, I can’t help feeling somewhat disappointed by the low level of interest the Japanese public takes in elections in general and, consequently, by the low turnout rates.

As to the upcoming election, it is generally said that people are seriously interested this time, with much momentum gathering toward election day; a heavy turnout is expected. Nevertheless, I can’t help recalling that even in the five most recent Upper House elections, where voting was the only direct political action most people could take to have their say, the turnout rate in some places even fell below 50%!

Those who don’t vote are often those who complain as much as they want, but refuse to take action by fulfilling their duty. Japan’s future seems rather gloomy, if such people should increase in number.

Gu Yanwu (1613-1682), Chinese thinker of the early Qing dynasty, wrote that a country’s rise and fall also depends on one lowly man, meaning that not only political leaders, but also ordinary citizens have a heavy responsibility to fulfill, in accord with their situation, in running the country. As Yanwu’s words suggest, I believe that instead of thrusting the responsibility upon the Prime Minster, the government and the ruling and opposition parties, ordinary people must carefully study each candidate’s position and fulfill their duty and exercise their important right, by going to vote.

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July 2, 2007,09:00 +0900(JST)

Starting the Blog

Hello. This is Masayoshi Matsumoto, President and CEO of Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.

Today I’m starting my blog, to write about what I think, feel, aim at-- etc., etc.

The blog is open to the whole world via the Internet, and I hope it will be viewed by many people. Still, I suppose my messages will be principally addressed to Sumitomo Electric Group people and others concerned.

What I must communicate, without fail, to the whole of the Sumitomo Electric Group Community, which comprises over 130,000 people around the world, will continue to be sent out via the Group’s official route. At the same time, I’d like to actively publish on my blog so that my messages can be publicly shared and you can access them at any time.

Though I believe the Sumitomo Electric Group is a wonderful corporate group, in which we can take pride, there is still so much we can do to improve it and, above all, develop it.

Our goal is to become a “Glorious Excellent Company,” which I’m sure all Sumitomo Electric Group people know very well.
I hope my blog will be a vehicle to carry messages that trace out the realization of such a corporate group: a group with solid business principles and a capacity for sustainable growth, which contributes to all of our stakeholders.

【Note on this blog】
The content of this blog is edited and published by the Public Relations Department of Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., based on authentic texts that Masayoshi Matsumoto communicated verbally or in writing on various occasions. While the blog content is approved, on the whole, by Mr. Matsumoto prior to uploading, the Public Relations Department of Sumitomo Electric should be held responsible for its publication.

* All posts in this blog are translations from Japanese. There may be a significant time lag between the time the original Japanese post was made and the time the English translation was posted.

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The president's photographProfile

Masayoshi Matsumoto
President & CEO
Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.

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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