Mr. Kanoi

On November 15 a memorial gathering was held for the late Mr. Nobuo Kanoi, former vice-president of Sony. More than 500 people attended. A few days later I received a letter thanking me for my attendance from the Japan Audio Society, for which Mr. Kanoi once served as chairman. The letter stated, “From the speeches given by his wife and friends, we were able once again to be aware of his character and wide-ranging network of acquaintances. We are sure that Mr. Kanoi, up in heaven, must be very pleased indeed.” I couldn’t agree more. From the speeches by his friends, I also came to know that in his junior high school and senior high school days Mr. Kanoi had played soccer and at both stages had reached the finals of national tournaments.

Mr. Kanoi passed away in August, and I had been eagerly awaiting the memorial gathering.

It was two years ago that I called Mr. Kanoi on his mobile phone, and he replied that he was in hospital and would be getting out in a week or so. I told him that we wanted to carry a long-running interview in Senka magazine to introduce the “thoughts of Mr. Kanoi.” “That sounds like a great idea,” he answered. “Let’s get in touch again when I get out of hospital.” Promising to call me later, he hung up.

I waited for his call with much anticipation, because Mr. Kanoi was, like the sun, a shining light on our industry that brought good fortune not only to me but to the industry as a whole. He really was a guiding light for us all. Come what may, I wanted to realize my proposal because I knew how hugely significant a record of his thoughts would be.

Even after several weeks had passed, though, Mr. Kanoi did not get in touch with me. When I contacted a close friend of his, I heard that he was undergoing rehabilitation after falling ill and suffering speech impairment. It was then that I realized the seriousness of Mr. Kanoi’s condition. Although I never doubted that he would eventually get better, in August he passed away forever. I felt so sad and regretted not having realized my proposal for the “thoughts of Mr. Kanoi” earlier.

Nevertheless, my own memories of Mr. Kanoi are firmly embedded in the treasure chest of my mind. He always greeted me with a smile. When we first met 32 years ago, he was with Aiwa. At that time, under Mr. Kanoi’s leadership, Aiwa products were very exciting and completely overwhelmed the likes of even Sony. The products that Mr. Kanoi turned out were always three or four steps ahead, and when other companies tried to catch up, he immediately stole the lead again. It was a complete victory for him.

The principle of “Kanoi-ism” was to make products that consumers really want, in other words, to stimulate targeted shopping. As a result, he had a great curiosity when it came to customer information and new trends, always had his antennas on full alert, and had a sound understanding of the essence of things.

In 1982 Mr. Norio Ooga was appointed president of Sony, and in 1983 Mr. Kanoi returned to that company as head of Sony’s Audio Business Group. Later he also served as head of the Video Business Group and the TV Business Group, so he really can be described as the man who built the Sony legend.

At the memorial gathering, Mr. Kanoi’s wife read the following passage from Hanasaki yama (The Mountain of Flowers) by Ryusuke Saito, which was one of Mr. Kanoi’s favorite books:

The flowers on this mountain
all blossomed in this way.
They endured difficult times,
thought more about others than themselves,
and held back their tears.
It was this gentleness and courage
that enabled the flowers to grow and blossom.

Strong and gentle like the sun, Mr. Kanoi will continue to shine his light in my mind.

Hanasaki yama (The Mountain of Flowers)
Written by Ryusuke Saito
Illustrated by Jiro Takidaira
Published by Iwasaki Shoten