Performing ascetic practices at Zen Buddhist temples during his student days
Kageji Washio was born in 1881, in present-day Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture. Upon graduating from Kobe Middle School in the old education system, he entered the Fifth High School in Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu. Instead of taking a room near the school, he started living in a Zen Buddhist temple as a temple boy. When he later went on to Kyoto Imperial University, he again lived in a local Zen temple, to continue his training as an ascetic monk.
The chief priest of the temple happened to be a close acquaintance of Masaya Suzuki, the third Director General of Sumitomo. In this connection, Washio joined Sumitomo as a promising newcomer with university degree. In those days, there had been major problems at the Besshi Copper Mine, disturbing workplace harmony. However, Washio volunteered to work at Besshi Kogyosho.
As soon as he was assigned, he conveyed to the then General Manager of the station his ardent desire to learn how miners were working. Washio worked in the Ikuno Mine for a short period to experience mining firsthand, before entering the Besshi Copper Mine.
Personally establishing a place for educating youths
Washio, who had experience as a trainee monk at Zen Buddhist temples and was familiar with field work in mines, became keenly aware of the importance of educating young miners. In 1912, in consultation with Masaya Suzuki, Washio opened the private school "Jikyo-sha" in the Besshi Mountain. The school was named by Suzuki after the two Chinese characters ("ji" and "kyo") contained in a verse from the ancient Chinese text “The I Ching,” meaning: The movement of heavenly bodies is accurate and sound. A man of virtue works diligently in accordance with the nature’s accurate rhythms. In line with the philosophy indicated by the school name, young students disciplined themselves, interacted with others, diligently worked and tirelessly pursued learning.
In addition to devoting himself to human resources development, Washio focused tremendous energy on improving the work environment and pursuing co-existence and co-prosperity with the local community. With his students, he engaged in volunteer labor to construct a stadium for local citizens. When the management of the Besshi Copper Mine began to falter and closure of the mine was being discussed, Washio developed and implemented infrastructure development projects to ensure, even after mine closure, the sustained prosperity of Niihama City, where the copper mine was located. These projects included the construction of roads, as well as Niihama Port.
Active as an educator after retirement
Washio left Sumitomo in 1933, and after the war moved back to Niihama City, where he devoted the latter half of his life to education. He prided himself on being a former member of Sumitomo even after his retirement. Without forgetting the Sumitomo Spirit, he concentrated his efforts on human resources development until he ended his days at the age of 99, in his beloved city.
His school, Jikyo-sha, subsequently relocated several times, produced many high-minded young persons. They have been active in local administration and corporate management. Kageji Washio was a Sumitomo man who thought hard about ways to nurture young people and live in harmony with local communities, and he implemented the ideas himself.