“If you can’t skillfully make good use of those who don’t follow your instructions, you are unworthy to be their superior.”

  • # House of Sumitomo
  • # Sumitomo’s Business Philosophy
  • # Human resources development
Irie Tomotoshi’s memorandum addressed to Jyurobee who was in charge of the Bungomachi store, in 1748. The words quoted are indicated by red lines.
Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Historical Archives

These words were written in 1748 by Irie Tomotoshi (younger full brother of Tomomasa, the fifth head of the Sumitomo family), the owner of a money changing business in Bungomachi, as a management principle for the edification of Jyurobee, who was responsible for running the business.

Tomotoshi wrote: “So many people are working for Sumitomo. Some are obedient and some are not. If some do not heed what you say, they may have compelling reasons. Malicious people can’t be tolerated, but men of conviction sometimes don’t follow their superiors. You are unworthy to be their superior if you can’t skillfully make good use of them. Superiors tend to alienate disobedient subordinates, but you should not do that. Rather, you should skillfully make good use of such men.”

Tomotoshi himself was a learned man. He pursued classical Chinese studies as a student of Goi Ranshu (Confucian scholar in Osaka in the early 18th century), waka Japanese poetry mentored by Reizei Tamemura (aristocrat and poet in the mid Edo era), and kokugaku Japanese studies and Shinto under Hara Kiyoshige (pupil of Yamazaki Ansai, Confucian scholar and Shinto scholar). Drawing on his learning, Tomotoshi authored several memoranda about Sumitomo. The house rules and regulations in these memoranda constituted the core of the Rules Governing the House of Sumitomo formulated in 1882, which served as the guiding principles of Sumitomo’s business development.

Irie Tomotoshi
Halfbrother of Tomomasa, the fifth head of the Sumitomo family. Established a cadet branch of the Sumitomo family in Bungomachi in 1743 known as the Irie family. In 1751, stipulated detailed house rules for each business operation, such as the House of Sumitomo, the Bungomachi branch, Besshi Mine, and Edo Store. He also expanded the business by opening the Edo Asakusa rice brokerage and merging Besshi Mine and Tatsukawa Mine. Furthermore, he vigorously supported the Kaitokudo academy for merchants and promoted many cultural projects. When Tomomasa passed away in 1758, Tomonori became the head of the Sumitomo family at the age of 19, but Tomotoshi, who was the foster father and guardian of Tomonori, wielded the real power in the Sumitomo family. In order to oversee the entire household, Tomotoshi established rules covering accounting, appointments, and treatment of personnel. He also organized the archives.