People Are Important

At the time of the oil shock in 1973, I sensed that our industry was plunging into an unprecedented crisis. Remembering our company motto of “contributing to the constructive development of the industry,” I felt strongly that, above all else, I myself must fulfill my duty to save us from that outcome, so I met with a variety of people, including manufacturers, retail stores, and scholars, in my search for solutions.

In my twenties I read through the works of the business guru Konosuke Matsushita and learned that the sound development of the industry is more important than anything else. That became my own personal motto. I also conceived the idea that the “industry” includes the customer. At that time I was the editor-in-chief of this magazine, and ever since then I have promulgated this creed.

At the time of the oil shock, as publishers we suffered from the impact a year earlier than the general public. The price of printing ink skyrocketed, and it became difficult to obtain paper. We were unsure whether we would be able to continue issuing the magazine. It was an extremely gloomy time indeed, but somehow we managed to survive the year.

The conclusion of my meetings with various people was that the situation “can’t be helped.” But I felt vexed by my own powerlessness. Depressingly, I imagined a hellish world in which many companies would go bankrupt and jobs would be lost.

It was then that I decided, as the mission of our magazine, to do everything in our power, however small that might be, to put the teachings of the venerable Konosuke Matsushita into practice. I wanted to create an industry that would be the envy of other businesses.

Today we are facing an equally difficult situation, albeit one that is completely different to that of the 1970s. My message to our industry is this: “Have self-confidence!” After all, whatever the circumstances, our industry cannot be separated from the world, from humankind, and from consumer life. And we are proud of that fact.

I just cannot accept the non-regular form of employment that has spread following the Lehman Brothers collapse and reforms of the Koizumi administration. When young people become the targets of reform, I worry about the future of Japan. The rise in the number of young people who cannot get married (not “don’t get married,” but “cannot get married”) is going to acutely weaken Japan eventually, and the low birthrate and aging of the population are sure to speed up the arrival of a terrible state of affairs. I am talking about a period of just three or four decades. The oil shock in the 1970s, when I went around frantically searching for solutions, was a milestone in Japan’s period of high economic growth, but the present crisis is entirely different. It is no time to say “can’t be helped.”

As my personal philosophy, I have managed the company right down to the present day in the belief that “the essence of the company is employment.” Recently we have been facing the most serious conditions since the oil shock in the 1970s, but even so I have stuck by this philosophy as our company’s duty. Precisely because we are engaged in creative work, I have defended gender equality for more than four decades. That means equality in promotion, wage increases, and bonuses. And all of our workers are regular employees. Among them, I am happy to say, there are plenty of young people who have got married and have families.

Even when we were hit by the Lehman shock, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the overvalued yen, our company did not lay off any employees at all. Indeed, although we are only a small outfit, we have hired new regular employees during this period. This is my philosophy. And now the time has come for our excellent employees to work hard for the development of our industry. Starting from 2013, we have entered “three golden years.”