2024 President’s Message for New Employees

April 1, 2024

Congratulations on joining our team! I am pleased to welcome 155 new colleagues today: 134 members in general work position and 21 members in clerical work position.

As a regular feature of our welcoming ceremony, we have blooming cherry blossoms in the venue, and have prepared a bright red carpet for you, as we celebrate your first step as working adults. Our Chairman & CEO Mr. Okafuji, Division Company Presidents, administrative officers, and department heads and senior employees of your individual host departments are also in attendance here today. It is great to be able to have opportunities to assemble and communicate with each other face-to-face like we are now.

Taking this opportunity of your becoming employees of ITOCHU Corporation today, I would like to share two important lessons with you.

The first is ITOCHU’s Guideline of Conduct, I am One with Infinite Missions. This is one of the most important phrases that I always think about when revitalizing and improving myself. Leaning from the mindset of merchants described by Chubei Itoh, the founder of ITOCHU Corporation, they symbolize the attitude of addressing social issues and enriching people’s lives through business activities as the mission of merchants. To rephrase, each ITOCHU employee is expected to engage in their work with a great awareness that they are tasked with the mission of taking on and solving countless social issues through the fulfillment of their assignments.

Secondly, I would like to talk about the Sampo Yoshi spirit. Recently, with SDGs becoming increasingly important in corporate management, we sometimes hear people say “sampo yoshi.” This Sampo Yoshi spirit, which is based on the idea of co-existence and co-prosperity, is a situation where sellers, buyers and society are all equally satisfied. This is ITOCHU's current corporate mission and it is rooted in the management philosophy of the Omi merchants. It is not just a commercial spirit. It is also a harmony-oriented mindset that has been passed down as ITOCHU's founding spirit for over 160 years.

You may find yourself stuck or experience setbacks in the course of the development of your career as a merchant. When faced with difficulties, the Sampo Yoshi spirit and "I am One with Infinite Missions" guideline remind us of the importance of going back to the basics and energize us to overcome difficulties. Please always keep this phrase in mind.

Today, ITOCHU has grown to be a leading trading firm that attracts public attention for its unique work-style reforms, in addition to its management strategy under Chairman & CEO Mr. Okafuji’s command, “Market-oriented perspective: Profit opportunities are shifting downstream.” The ITOCHU Corporation that you know must be one of the top trading firms constantly fighting for the lead. However, I would like you to know that ITOCHU started as a non-zaibatsu (conglomerate) and has overcome many challenges in its transformation from a textile wholesaler in Osaka to a general trading firm, during the wars and postwar periods, experiencing various successes and setbacks.

What has helped us overcome the many challenges we faced was everyone’s hard work. The power of employees will help us overcome hardships and shape our future. You have joined ITOCHU today. Going forward, I hope that each of you will become strong employees and help ITOCHU to shape its future.

Starting today, you will go through an apprenticeship to become ITOCHU merchants. What we expect you to develop, other than the acquisition of knowledge, are the interpersonal skills and sensibility that are particularly valuable in the digital era. Highly polished interpersonal skills will naturally charm those whom you meet and help grow your network. Next, by honing your sensibility, you will acquire the ability to be one step ahead in your preparations and to capture the essence of what our customers are seeking. These are skills that each of you should work to improve by yourselves. They are one thing that Chat GTP cannot teach you.

I believe that you do so by placing importance on conditions on-site and going and seeing them for yourselves as a fundamental action, although it may require patient efforts. Accumulating experience by visiting sites with curiosity, seeing the conditions with your own eyes, touching them with your own hands, having dialogues with people, and closely observing everything will polish your skills and help you to become professional merchants. The operation of a business is based on trust. A business that is not based on trust will fail before long. With highly polished interpersonal skills and sensibility, you can certainly earn the trust of those around you. This trust will lead to future trust-building opportunities, creating a chain of successes. I want you to experience the challenges of reality on site and the pleasure of interacting with people. Even in this digital age, I believe that people are still moved by their hearts and minds.

I recently traveled to South Korea and China to meet with the CEOs of top companies and government officials in each country. Every time I go on an overseas business trip, I make sure to meet and dine with our staff posted overseas, and listen to their stories about local initiatives. It is a great source of energy for me to hear the real stories and enthusiasm of our staff posted in countries around the world. In particular, I am really pleased and encouraged when I see the young generation of overseas staff who will lead the next generation entering the front lines of commerce, and working enthusiastically with local people. I believe that the value of being on the real front line is not only the desire to contribute more to the company, but also the feeling of wanting to do your very best at the workplace you are in, to make customers smile, and to share an understanding of that joy with the people you work with. I would like to encourage everyone here to have such experiences in the future.

Lastly, I wonder what hopes do you all have as we welcome you here today? I, myself, joined ITOCHU Corporation forty-one years ago. I remember joining with certain expectations: that if I joined a sogo shosha—a general trading company—that I would be able to work on the world stage, that I could gain a wide range of experience in a diverse range of industries, and, most importantly, that I would be able to work with the senior staff and peers who I met during the interview process, who I found to be highly appealing. During my interview, I said, "Life is like painting a picture on a blank canvas. If that is the case, then I would like to paint a larger, more colorful picture, on the front lines with ITOCHU." I am still in the middle of my own dream, but if there is one thing I can say for certain, it is that ITOCHU Corporation is a company that will do its utmost to accept the energy and passion that you all have inside of you. Looking ahead, we look forward to fulfilling infinite missions together with you.

I would like to close this address by once again welcoming you and congratulating you on joining ITOCHU Corporation.