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Newsletter "SEI NEWS" 2010

Home > Company Information > SEI WORLD > Back number > Vol.402

[Newsletter "SEI NEWS" Vol.402]

"Continuing to illuminate a small corner of society" ? Jun Kawada and Seishi Yamaguchi, who mastered the Way of Poetry

Even after leaving Sumitomo, some people devoted their energy to brightening the world in their respective corners. This series introduces people associated with Sumitomo who continued to illuminate a small corner of society, bearing the Sumitomo spirit in mind.

Business and literature ? these seemingly directly opposing pursuits are the main pillars of some Sumitomo people's lives, as most prominently demonstrated by Jun Kawada (1882-1966), a former Sumitomo Managing Director and a tanka poet; and Seishi Yamaguchi (1901-1994), one of modern Japan's representative haiku poets. The two Sumitomo men engaged in literary creation all their lives.

Director Generals as literature lovers

Many of Sumitomo's Director Generals loved literature: Saihei Hirose was knowledgeable about Chinese classics, both poetry and prose, while Kankichi Yukawa was well versed in German literature, and Masatsune Ogura, in classical Chinese literature. Considering that literature is in fact a study of human nature, it is perhaps quite natural that business leaders, who cannot excel in their work without understanding the subtleties of human feelings, are attracted to literature.

Sumitomo has a long-established literature-loving corporate culture, with personnel actively engaging in literary creation. The Sumitomo Head Office's in-house magazine, Seika, inaugurated during the Meiji era, solicits submissions of essays, novels, tanka and haiku poems by employees of all Sumitomo companies. Jun Kawada served as a selector for the tanka section of the magazine. He joined Sumitomo in 1907, the year Japanese corporations commenced the regular recruitment of new university graduates. He assumed the post of Managing Director in 1930, after serving in various divisions including Administration and Accounting. Throughout his years at Sumitomo, he remained both a businessman and a poet.

First collection of poems published while at Sumitomo

Kawada encountered tanka poetry in the summer of his 13th year. At the age of 16, he started seriously studying tanka under the celebrated poet Nobutsuna Sasaki. He led the happy double life of corporate employee by day and poet by night, publishing his first collection of poems, titled Gigeiten, while still with Sumitomo. After leaving Sumitomo in 1936, he continued his active literary career as one of Japan's representative tanka poets, serving as the Crown Prince's instructor in tanka composition and as a selector for the New Year Poetry Reading Ceremony at the Imperial Palace. Kawada also completed major works of research into the poets Saigyo (1118-1190) and Sadaie Fujiwara (1162-1241; popularly known as Fujiwara-no-Teika). In later life he published Sumitomo Kaisoki, a memoir of his Sumitomo years, in which he vividly describes the turbulent transition from the Meiji to Showa eras.

Working at Sumitomo ? a precious experience

There is a haiku about Jun Kawada: Teika-ki ya tsutome yasumazu Kawada Jun (this is the anniversary of Teika's death, but Jun Kawada is not absent from his work). This was written by Seishi Yamaguchi, who was, like Kawada, a Sumitomo man and a poet. Yamaguchi encountered haiku during his boyhood and vigorously pursued literary creativity even after joining Sumitomo in 1926. He had a serious attitude toward his work, but he was physically fragile, having suffered from tuberculosis when younger. His immediate superior, Jun Kawada, supported him through visible and invisible means. However, the younger man's ill health persisted, and in 1942 he had to resign from Sumitomo. At that time, Kawada encouraged Seishi, saying that having known the organization called Sumitomo was a precious experience and a great advantage for him. Indeed, Sumitomo's corporate culture, with its warm regard toward literature and lovers of literature, has enabled many beautiful literary flowers to blossom.

 

Editorial supervision by Mr. Teruaki Sueoka, Assistant Curator, Sumitomo Historical Archives

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