Almost one year has passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the north-east and Pacific coast of Japan, taking a great number of precious lives. Many people still continue to endure inconvenience in their daily lives. I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy to those affected by the disaster.
Finally, the Japanese government established the Reconstruction Agency in February. I hope that the Agency will push ahead with speedy reconstruction and recovery from the disaster, responding appropriately to the needs of ravaged communities. From a city devastated by the tsunami, Ishinomaki Technical High School will go to the spring national high school baseball tournament, which will commence on March 21st. I expect that the students will demonstrate their abilities to overcome adversity. Incidentally, my old school, Sumoto High School, will also be playing in this tournament for the first time in 26 years!
At the Kansai Economic and Management Summit held in February, Professor Makoto Iokibe, who serves as Chairman of the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, delivered a speech. He emphasized that all the people of Japan should share and maintain the drive and determination to overcome any challenge. In earlier times, Viscount Kikujiro Ishii, a Japanese diplomat in the Meiji and Taisho periods (from 1866 to 1945), stated that the strength and prosperity of a nation depended on the spirit and heart of each citizen.
The same applied to a company. In my New Year messages to employees I made requests for them using rather unique expressions: "to believe in your dreams and stay cheerful, energetic and happy" for this year; "to maintain an open and supportive work environment" for last year; and "to put your heart into it" for the year before last.
The Sumitomo Electric Group has grown to be a large business group, consisting of more than 300 consolidated companies with approximately 200,000 employees worldwide. However, it is each production line or workplace that the Group depends on. And without the vigorous devotion of every employee who comprises a workplace, the workplace cannot be strong. I believe that an ideal workplace should provide a warm and supportive environment for all employees to work vigorously and intensively, and also a frank atmosphere that enables active communication regardless of age and position. In this manner, the abilities of these individuals must be oriented in the same direction toward targets set by the workplace. Each individual's devotion will ensure Sumitomo Electric Group's success: as the saying goes, “those who illuminate a small corner of society are truly a treasure of the nation.” I would also like all employees to cherish their dreams both publicly and privately, and to live energetic lives, taking care of their health.
The past few years were marked by a spate of natural and man-made calamities that severely disrupted economic and social systems worldwide, such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the flooding in Thailand.
A long time ago, a great Sumitomo Electric leader told me: "A corporate manager should not give in. As his important duties, a corporate manager must create dreams, explain to and convince the people concerned and lead all employees in the same direction to make concerted efforts toward realizing those dreams." Today, amid a severe business climate filled with uncertainty and insecurity over the future, these words carry a lot of weight.