Sumitomo faced its most serious crisis when the Second World War ended with Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945. The General Headquarters of the Allied Forces (GHQ) pressed for dissolution of Japan’s zaibatsu, and Shunnosuke Furuta, the seventh Director-General of Sumitomo, negotiated with GHQ. To protect Sumitomo’s businesses and people, in January of the following year Furuta decided to dissolve the Sumitomo Head Office and announced the following. 1) Sumitomo would transfer the mining division to Seika Kogyo Co., Ltd. and the forestry division to Shikoku Ringyo Co., Ltd. 2) Shares of affiliated companies held by Sumitomo Head Office would be transferred to a government-designated organization. 3) The directors of Sumitomo Head Office would retire of their own volition, and the directors of affiliated companies would resign as well. 4) The affiliated companies would continue to operate as independent companies. 5) The companies would change their names and cease using “Sumitomo” in their names.
When Furuta retired as Director-General, he gathered together the presidents of the affiliated companies and the employees of Sumitomo Head Office and spoke of the relationship among the companies after dissolution of Sumitomo Head Office as follows: “It goes without saying that Sumitomo’s businesses are in a family relationship, sharing a common “parent” from which they have separated. As such, the businesses are siblings joined by an inseparable bond. Therefore, although technically the businesses may be independently managed, I want you to form a spiritual alliance so that, come what may, you never lose your sense of brotherhood.”
Furuta’s words expressed his desire that the companies share, preserve, and hand down the Sumitomo Spirit, continued from the Edo era. This spirit admonishes the people of Sumitomo to eschew the single-minded pursuit of commercial gain, to engage in fair and just business activities, and to always follow the path of honesty and honorable conduct. He urged that this corporate DNA should never be lost even if business ties were to be dissolved.
Today, the Sumitomo Group companies are able to press ahead with their businesses because they observed this teaching of Furuta and pledged to cooperate with one another in striving to rebuild Japan in the post-war period.