Last month was the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. This has made me feel that time really flies.
About 25 years ago, I lived in London as president of one of our subsidiary companies in the U.K. In those days, I directly felt that the entire continent of Europe was filled with a mixture of expectation and anxiety that the perestroika promoted by Gorbachev might stimulate the democratization of East European countries, and that it would lead to something extraordinary.
In August 1989, the European Picnic took place in Hungary, which let some fresh air into the Cold War structure. Three months later, the world witnessed many citizens of Berlin climbing onto the wall and trying to break it down with hammers. The collapse of the wall naturally led to the unification of East Germany and West Germany, and spurred the democratization of other East European countries. Eventually, at the end of 1991, even the Soviet Union, a superpower nation striving to gain world supremacy at that time against the U.S., came to an end almost suddenly.
To me, being in charge of Sumitomo Electric’s European businesses, which were still in their infancy, the above events were totally beyond expectation. While feeling very anxious, I encouraged myself and realized that I was, at that very moment, experiencing a big turning point in history. Believing that “if you know you are right, you should fight against ten million opponents,” I decided to do my sincere best. Where was the world going now? What would become of the world economy? To come up with effective strategies, I carefully read newspapers every day, gathered information from business partners, had many discussions with my staff, and did simulations on a wide variety of possibilities. I still remember that I was very busy travelling throughout Europe in those days.
Certainly, there were many things that did not work so well, and frankly speaking, there were times when I was at a loss in the face of so many waves of change occurring in the world. However, I feel that our deity was watching all of us at the subsidiary, as we continued to make steady efforts based on the policy that we had decided. Our prayers were answered; we were able to enjoy positive outcomes worthy of our efforts. Feeling reluctant to leave my staff in the U.K., who had shared many of the difficulties with me, I departed from Heathrow Airport in 1992. Time flies.