“Put your heart into everything you do.”
“Banji Nissei”

  • # House of Sumitomo
  • # Sumitomo’s Business Philosophy
  • # Human resources development
Statue of Masatomo Sumitomo

Masatomo Sumitomo, the founder of the Sumitomo family, penned these words in his late years. They appear in the preamble of the Monjuin Shiigaki, known as the Founder’s Precepts, which he composed for the benefit of Kanjuro, a member of his family. The work offers guidance on how a merchant should conduct business. Masatomo wrote, “Do your best prudently and meticulously, not only in business, but in every aspect of your life.” He emphasizes that a person aspiring to be a merchant should first cultivate honesty and integrity.

Following these words in the Founder’s Precepts, Masatomo offers specific advice relevant to the business milieu of 17th century Japan. For example, Masatomo cautions, “If items are offered to you at prices lower than the market prices, assume they are stolen goods unless their origin is known.” “Do not put anyone up for the night or accept anyone’s request to look after their belongings.” “Do not act as a broker or provide a guarantee for anyone you do not know.” And “Do not sell or buy on credit.” He concludes the Founder’s Precepts with advice on dealing with difficult people. He writes, “Whatever the person you are dealing with says, do not become short-tempered and argumentative. Instead, provide detailed explanations repeatedly.”

Monjuin Shiigaki (Founder’s Precepts)

Masatomo owned and managed a shop selling medicine and books. But he had pursued a vocation as a Buddhist monk in his youth and continued to provide spiritual guidance to others after returning to secular life. In his writings, he stresses that honesty and integrity are prerequisites for embarking on a career as a merchant. He exhorts us to improve ourselves and cultivate a good character. Masatomo’s values and precepts are Sumitomo’s cherished inheritance, constituting the essence of Sumitomo’s Business Philosophy—eschewing easy gains, ensuring compliance, and emphasizing integrity and sound management.

Masatomo Sumitomo
Born in Maruoka in Echizen (present-day Fukui Prefecture) in 1585, Masatomo is thought to have moved to Kyoto as a lad of about 12 years of age. He became a disciple of Kugen, the patriarch of Nehan-shu (Nirvana school), and received a Buddhist name, Monjuin Kakyu. However, returning to the secular world in his mid-40s, he owned and managed a shop selling medicine and books, and was also a publisher. At the age of 63, he built a retreat near the Seiryo-ji Temple in Saga, Kyoto, and retired there. He died in 1652 at the age of 68. Even after he left the monastery for the world of commerce, people gathered around Masatomo to receive his guidance. He left a large body of writings addressed to such seekers after wisdom, including Monjuin Shiigaki (Founder’s Precepts) and Ikai (Instructions to Descendants). Masatomo’s teachings are cherished as part of the invaluable inheritance of the Sumitomo Group that has guided us down to the present and continues to illuminate our path to the future.