“I will follow the path of justice and equity, undertaking projects beneficial to the nation from a long-term perspective.”

  • # Sumitomo’s Business Philosophy
  • # Director-General
Besshi copper mine in the old days. Following landslides triggered by torrential rain, Suzuki emphasized afforestation in his far-sighted plan (photo courtesy of Sumitomo Historical Archives)

In expressing his resolve upon assuming office as the third Director-General of Sumitomo in 1904 at the age of 44, Masaya Suzuki envisioned Sumitomo not just as a commercial enterprise, but as an organ or a function of the state and expressed his determination to accomplish projects that would benefit Sumitomo and the nation from a long-term perspective. Prior to joining Sumitomo, Suzuki had served as a government official, aspiring to make Japan a leading state comparable to the developed European countries and the United States. Suzuki’s resolve expressed his unswerving commitment to making that aspiration the wellspring of practical action.

Sumitomo Fertilizer Manufacturing in Niihama (around 1930), founded by Suzuki, originally conceived as a means of overcoming smoke pollution (photo courtesy of Sumitomo Historical Archives)

True to his word, Suzuki launched and fostered various businesses in an era in which Japan’s industrialization and modernization advanced rapidly. He established Sumitomo Electric Wire & Cable Works (present-day Sumitomo Electric Industries) in 1911, Sumitomo Copper Plant in 1912, and Sumitomo Fertilizer Manufacturing (present-day Sumitomo Chemical) in 1913. In 1919, he built Osaka Hokko, or the northern port, to develop a coastal industrial zone in Osaka and founded Tosa-Yoshino River Hydro-Electric Power Company (present-day Sumitomo Joint Electric Power) to power the Besshi copper mine. He was also an energetic promoter of joint ventures with foreign partners to propel Japan’s technological development. For example, he established America Japan Sheet Glass (present-day Nippon Sheet Glass) in 1918 and invested in Nippon Electric (present-day NEC) in 1920.

Committed to Japan’s transformation into a leading industrialized trading nation, Suzuki devoted all his energy and talent to the development of Sumitomo’s business and Japan’s industry with an eye to the future. Sumitomo’s rapid expansion under Suzuki’s leadership and Japan’s extraordinary modernization were two aspects of a single process. The businesses Suzuki founded have endured and prospered to this day and his aspirations continue to inspire them.

Masaya Suzuki
Born in Takanabe in Hyuga (present-day Miyazaki Prefecture), Suzuki was the son of chief retainer of the Takanabe clan Taneyo Akizuki and subsequently inherited the headship of the House of Suzuki in 1869. Upon graduating from Tokyo Imperial University in 1887, Suzuki joined the Ministry of Home Affairs. Following his dispatch as secretary to Ehime Prefecture in 1889 and to Osaka Prefecture in 1890, Suzuki was offered the opportunity to join Sumitomo in 1896. Appointed manager of Besshi Mine in 1899, he dealt with landslides at the site, embarking on a program of afforestation and also solving the smoke pollution problem. He was appointed Director-General in 1904. Having earned the trust of Tomoito Sumitomo, the 15th head of the Sumitomo family, Suzuki led Sumitomo for 19 years until his death 1922 at the age of 62.