Known as the "god of personnel affairs"
The Sumitomo Spirit, which has been preserved since the Edo period, aims at "nurturing superior human resources," which corresponds to Sumitomo’s traditional precept that "people make the enterprise." Yoshio Tanaka, who devoted his entire life to human resource development, consistently spoke of and acted out the principle of "people make the enterprise," even after leaving Sumitomo.
Tanaka was born in 1890 in what is today Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture. In his religious hometown, he grew up to be a pious Buddhist. After graduating from the former Fourth National High School, he entered the Faculty of Law at Tokyo Imperial University. In 1915 he joined Sumitomo and was assigned to the Head Office’s Personnel Affairs Division. He worked hard there, toward the goal of producing superior human resources and industrialists.
At the top of Sumitomo Electric
In 1937, Tanaka assumed the top post of Sumitomo Electric Wire & Cable Works, the forerunner of Sumitomo Electric. At that time, he said, “I am finally ready to face the Great King Emma (the King of Hell, who judges the dead and sends them to either Heaven or Hell, according to their deeds in life). He meant by these words that he had previously been a mere half-made business man, having spent his working life mostly at his desk, and that he could now finally go work in the field in his new post, making him a full Sumitomo man and enabling him to prove himself before Emma when his time came - an idea very likely to come from a field-oriented Sumitomo man.
One particularly important project Tanaka was responsible for was the establishment of the Itami Works. By that time the Company had become Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., in both name and organization, and completion of the new manufacturing center in Itami epitomized the Company’s bright future prospects. Yet, Tanaka was never boastful, saying that this achievement was thanks to the good reputation that the Sumitomo elders had built. Tanaka also took charge of laying the foundations of the collaborative labor-management relationship that the Company has maintained to date, and helped solidify local communities' trust in the Company.
Orator of the Sumitomo Spirit
After five years at Sumitomo Electric, Tanaka returned to the Head Office and worked as the right-hand man of Shunnosuke Furuta, Sumitomo’s last Director General, focusing on the human resource development to produce many industrial leaders in post-war Japan. In 1947, Tanaka resigned his post of Director at the Head Office. In the post-war years, he served in such positions as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sumitomo Technical High School and Chairman of the Board of Education of Osaka City, also related to human resource development. For his sincerity and dedication, Tanaka was likened to a man on a sacred mission.
Tanaka warmly watched over future generations and supported their growth with strong words of encouragement. Through his words and deeds, he promulgated the universal value of the Sumitomo Spirit. Even after his death at the age of 74 in 1964, he continues to speak quietly to us about work and life in his book.