Interview with Kuniharu Nakamura, Chairman, Sumitomo EXPO2025 Promotion Committee

Communicating the Sumitomo Group’s aspirations for a brighter future for people and the planet

The theme of Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” Following the provisional selection of the Sumitomo Group as an exhibitor hosting a pavilion at Expo 2025, Kuniharu Nakamura (Chairman of Sumitomo Corporation), Chairman of the Sumitomo EXPO2025 Promotion Committee, shares his thoughts on the significance of the Group’s participation in Expo 2025 and our aspirations.

The Sumitomo Group has been provisionally selected as an exhibitor hosting a pavilion at Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan. Ever since Tomomochi, the second head of the House of the Sumitomo, moved the business from Kyoto to Osaka, we have been intimately involved in the culture and economy of Osaka. That is why the Sumitomo Group relishes this opportunity to contribute to the promotion and resounding success of the Expo to be held in Osaka. By choosing a memorable theme for our pavilion and exploring that theme through fascinating exhibits, we would like to create an experience embodying the Sumitomo Group’s story and our vision for the future.

From “affluence” of individuals to “happiness” for planet Earth

As we prepare for Expo 2025, I recall Expo ’70, which was held in Osaka back in 1970. Then, rapid economic growth was transforming Japan as the country pursued “affluence,” symbolized by the Income Doubling Plan. I believe the hosting of Expo ’70 was prompted by the desire to promote industry through the showcasing of Japan’s rapidly evolving technological prowess not only to a domestic audience but also to the world.

In the intervening half century, Japan and indeed the world have changed dramatically. Today, we are challenged by momentous issues such as climate change and environmental degradation, as well as by the persistence of poverty and the issue of human rights. In 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched, with the aim of protecting the Earth and ensuring everyone can enjoy peace and prosperity.

Since this is the context in which Expo 2025 will take place, I believe it will be a golden opportunity for people from Japan and around the world to think about what are the essential ingredients of “happiness” for all of us and for planet Earth. The theme of Expo 2025 is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” A bright future is a happy future woven into the fabric of society and experienced by everyone throughout the world.

Our aspirations for the future rooted in the 400-year Sumitomo story

Jiri-rita Koushi-ichinyo, meaning “Benefit self and benefit others, private and public interests are one and the same,” is the beating heart of the Sumitomo Group’s business philosophy. Jiri-rita, or “Benefit self and benefit others,” is a Buddhist expression that exhorts practitioners to “Receive the merit earned from Buddhist ascetic practices for oneself and for others.” Koushi-ichinyo, or “Private and public interests are one and the same,” succinctly expresses the notion that personal interest and public interest are not in conflict, but one and the same. Ever since its foundation, the Sumitomo Group has pursued “harmony with the public interest” and developed various businesses, considering what we can do for the benefit of people and society.

Sumitomo’s history has been shaped by a deep awareness of environmental issues and a determination to resolve them. When smoke pollution blighted the surroundings of the Besshi Copper Mines, the cornerstone of Sumitomo’s business, during the Meiji Era, Sumitomo relocated the smelter, putting people and nature first, not profit. Sumitomo continued to plant more than one million trees each year on the denuded mountains of Besshi, eventually restoring the rich natural environment.

The Group’s business philosophy also underlies our hosting of a pavilion at Expo 2025. While reaffirming the progress we have made, we hope to show as many people as possible what we have in mind and what we can do for people, society, and planet Earth, in pursuit of the bright future to which all of us aspire.

Pavilion, a venue for handing the baton to the next generation

The 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) will be a key concept at Expo 2025, as it was at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. What resources should be used in the construction of the pavilion? How should the resources be recycled once the exhibition is over? These are important questions.

It is also important to engage and encourage the interest of youngsters, the up and coming next generation on whose energy and intelligence the future depends, so that their commitment to tackling social and environmental issues grows in strength. For example, how about giving them the opportunity to plant trees at the Expo site? By keeping an eye on the growth of the trees after the Expo is over, they will come to experience an ever-closer connection with environmental issues. Another idea is to create something useful and long-lasting, such as benches made of sustainable timber resources. Children visiting Expo 2025 will grow up but every time they see the benches, their fond memories of Expo 2025 will come flooding back, reinforcing the positive values associated with them. We are still in the process of fleshing out our ideas for a pavilion that will memorably express those ideas and our intentions to the next generation.

Take part in your own way

We encourage everyone at the Sumitomo Group to take part in the Expo in whatever way they can. One way is by contributing your ideas on what kind of pavilion should be created. And, of course, we want to see you and everyone else at the Expo. The Expo is an opportunity for you to think about what energizes you in your work, the values that animate you, and what we, the Sumitomo Group, can do with an eye to the future.

In our busy lives, we tend to only see our immediate surroundings. Because of restrictions imposed over the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may feel as if your world has shrunk. So, there has never been a better time to broaden your horizons. I urge you to let some sunshine into your life, indeed into the lives of everyone, by seizing the opportunity of Expo 2025! As humans living together on the Earth, let’s use the Expo to celebrate sunshine and maximize happiness in every way we can.

(The affiliation and the title in the article are current as of March 2022, the date of publication.)

(The affiliation and the title in the article are current as of March 2022, the date of publication.)